Amazon-owned Audible now offers a unique form of access to Alexa: voice-controlled customer support. The audiobook subscription service, which Amazon purchased more than a decade ago, says that starting today, users will be able to say, “Alexa, call Audible,” and be put in touch with a human being from Audible’s customer support team. From there, you’ll be able to ask for help with a technical issue and receive book recommendations, among other standard troubleshooting queries. The service goes live today and Audible says it will run nonstop, every day, from here on out.
To our knowledge, this is the first ever Alexa-powered customer support system. It’s not Alexa supplanting the entire customer support platform, but it is the first time that Alexa will be linked up to an existing help center, granted one operated by an Amazon-owned company. In that way, it’s the first step for Amazon’s voice assistant in replicating Google’s competing vision for its not-yet-public automated voice service Duplex, although Amazon isn’t going so far as having the artificial intelligence take on the full role of a human — not yet, at least.
With Duplex, you can use Google Assistant to make phone calls on your behalf for setting up appointments, getting restaurant reservations, and other over-the-phone requests typically reserved for human-to-human conversation. In this case, you’re just using Alexa as a way to connect with an existing platform.
Yet Audible claims this isn’t the same as just calling the customer support phone number. The company says it’s worked closely with the Alexa team to build a unique internal tool specifically for Echo-owning Audible subscribers. It’s not clear right now what this kind of special treatment entails, but Audible is referring to it as a “new experience” that “ushers in a new era of customer service.” The feature joins existing Alexa-powered Audible features, including the ability to control your audiobook playback via voice command and to ask for updates on free audiobook titles available on Audible’s storefront.