Amazon Adds Voice Ratings for Alexa Skills
Amazon is rolling out a new Voice Ratings feature that offers Alexa skill users the opportunity to submit a star rating by voice after they finish using a select number of skills. Today, the only way to submit a star rating for most skills is to go into the Alexa skill store in the mobile app or online, search for the skill and then manually enter the star rating and comments. This process is incongruous with the way most people utilize smart speakers and their Alexa skills.
Voice Ratings are an attempt to reduce the friction of submitting skill feedback. They have not previously been announced and are only in a limited trial at the moment. An Amazon spokesperson responded to a Voicebot inquiry saying:
Voice ratings is a new feature that prompts customers to rate Alexa skills with just their voice. We’re rolling out voice ratings globally to select skills, and hope to expand the number of skills that the feature supports. We’re excited with the response we’ve seen so far and will continue to listen to customer and developer feedback.
I was able to capture the Voice Ratings features in action on my Echo Show and it had both the audio asking if I’d like to rate the skill Tricky Genie and displayed a short message on the screen.
Voice Ratings Lead to Immediate Surge in Total Skill Ratings
Voicebot reached out to Tellables founder Amy Stapleton, the developer of Tricky Genie, to ask her what she thought about the new feature and how it was impacting her skill if at all. She was among the first people to notice the Voice Ratings feature after testing her skill yesterday. That prompted Stapleton to look at her Alexa skill dashboard to understand if the number of ratings for Tricky Genie had changed. She was surprised at how quickly the number had increased.
In fact, a review of data using Dashbot.io that shows the number of ratings by individual skills over time reveals that Tricky Genie consistently had a total 47 Alexa skill ratings between July 3, 2018 and October 8, 2018. By October 9th, the skill added six new user ratings and by October 15th, there were 89. That total jumped again to 181 on October 23rd. Voice ratings appear to be adding about nine new user ratings per day. It is a new feature so this will likely tail off as users have recorded their ratings but overall it has lead to a 285% rise in just two weeks.
Stapleton said the ratings rise had not generated a noticeable rise in users. However, the ratings probably would not have a big immediate impact because they are left by existing users. The accumulation of more ratings is more likely to have an impact over time as Alexa’s algorithm begins to recommend Alexa skills with a combination of high users sessions, average ratings and total number of ratings. Despite the lack of noticable impact, Stapleton was pleased that the feature aligns the skill rating process more closely with the user experience. Stapleton commented:
Most Alexa Skills Have No Ratings – Voice Ratings May Fix That
Voicebot reported last month that 61% of the more than 40,000 Alexa skills available in the U.S. had zero ratings and only 5% had more than 10 ratings. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these skills are lightly used. Although that could be true, the bigger issue is that people interact with Alexa skills by voice primarily through a smart speaker while reviews historically could only be entered manually through a smartphone app or online. It takes a committed user to go through those extra steps that include changing the device. Some skills such as Ambient Sounds: Thunderstorm Sounds by Invoked Apps seem to have mastered this process of persuading users. It has accumulated over 14,000 user reviews. But, that skill is among only a handful with over 1,000 reviews.
The issue for Amazon is that ratings are useful in at least two ways that represent an incentive to determine how to get more Alexa users participating in the review process. First, reviews can serve as an important signal for users. Amazon.com has long seen reviews and product ratings as a competitive advantage over other retailers because it offered consumers more information about actual user experience. Second, Alexa is now recommending skills. How should Alexa determine which are the skills that are most likely to lead to consumer delight? Ratings can be a useful signal of quality. However, the use of ratings as a signal of quality is risky if there are not a statistically significant number of user submissions. Reducing the friction inherent in submitting user ratings could help increase the value for algorithmic analysis and provide some skills a much-needed boost in visibility.