Orion Labs: Innovating Voice Communication Technology for Improved Customer Experience in Retail and Hospitality
Posted: 4.12.18 Business Solutions

Orion Labs: Innovating Voice Communication Technology for Improved Customer Experience in Retail and Hospitality

By: Jon McDonald

The Crunch: Orion Labs saw the potential in voice technologies early on and followed its instincts to become the fastest-growing voice platform in both business and government sectors. The company’s innovative attitude spurred it to create valuable technologies for the retail industry, including real-time communicators for inventory checks and even translation. Orion also understands the adaptability most retailers require, which is why its technologies are available on most mobile devices or the company’s stylish, wearable Onyx product. With this flexibility, Orion provides retailers with the tools to tailor an effective solution for their businesses.

As Star Trek fans and former first responders, Orion Labs CEO and Founder Jesse Robbins (Firefighter) and Co-Founder Greg Albrecht (EMT) had a unique perspective on the power of radio communicators — and their underutilization in the world of business.

“We both are huge Trekkies and science fiction fans,” Jesse said, referring to himself and Greg, “and we used push-to-talk radio systems in our emergency management world.”

Photo of Orion Labs CEO and Founder Jesse Robbins

Orion Labs CEO and Founder Jesse Robbins spoke with us about the technology his company develops.

But the pair knew that this type of communication had plenty of applications beyond emergencies. “We noticed that there was both a huge market and a large technical gap between the technologies that are being used in retail today and the types of tools that are available,” Jesse said.

This gap between technology and availability was where Orion Labs saw an opportunity. So, the company began developing next-level walkie-talkie technologies for the modern retail workforce to communicate instantly — around the room or across the world.

Jesse described the benefits and capacities that Orion provides to retailers as “adding superpowers.”

The technologies also make associates more satisfied with their day-to-day work lives. “We’re excited to bring our unique backgrounds to bear on a really important set of problems that will actually make people happier doing their jobs,” Jesse said.

Voice Communication is the Next Major Technological Shift

One of the most significant technological shifts this decade is the move to voice technologies. Voice-powered bots and real-time communications with co-workers are now necessary to improve customer and employee experiences.

“We founded Orion to build a world powered by voice,” Jesse said.

Voice bots are swiftly becoming integral to the retail setting. These conversational interfaces provide moment-by-moment data and feedback that help retailers provide better service to customers.

“What’s truly happening right now is we see this shift to voice in-store,” said Jesse. “We hope to be a leader in that space. It’s a trend that’s much larger than us, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

Orion Labs offers voice-based technologies, including bots, that add real value to the retail environment. Orion Pro is a subscription service tier that provides real-time translation (The Orion Translator), inventory search (Inventory Bot), and automation on devices. With Orion’s Retail and Inventory Bots, store associates can ask the inventory system whether an item is in stock at their location. If it’s not, but is available at another store location, the bot can automate courier delivery of the item.

The Inventory Bot can also answer questions via Onyx, Orion’s wearable walkie-talkies. Associates can ask questions about particular items including sizing and in stock availability.

This technology doesn’t replace workers, but instead gives them the information they need to perform their duties effectively. It helps them find information while retaining eye contact with the customer and remaining present, Jesse said. There is even a Clock Bot that employees can use to easily clock in and out, and a Panic Bot that can send help to an associate’s location.

Ultimately, the benefits of Orion’s voice technologies go beyond logistics as Orion Pro focuses on building unity. “Your team can communicate with ease and without restrictions,” Jesse said. “We’re going to help you provide better customer service, make associates more effective, and make people happy. The more connected they are to the rest of their team, the better associates feel doing their day-to-day jobs.”

Onyx Devices Advance Customer Service with Integrated Capabilities

One of the most appealing factors of Orion’s voice technology is its adaptability. Orion designs the software, which is flexible enough to work with any device or platform, as well as integrating with third-party apps or legacy radio systems.

“We have to meet people where they are,” Jesse said.

Often, retailers have begun a backend transformation of their digital spaces, but they don’t fully know their goals. Orion begins each partnership with a retailer by asking, “How do we get your entire team to communicate well and in real time?”

The company provides software and programming interfaces for retailers to use either in their own technology or with Orion’s. That way, companies can enable, own, and manage their unique workflows.

Next comes customization of devices on which Orion Pro operates. “Some people want a bring-your-own-device solution, and they want to use their own phones,” Jesse said. “Some organizations want to issue phones and manage them or do a hybrid or a mix.”

Orion again offers options.

Orion’s App Talk can transform any iOS device into a walkie-talkie — with more operating systems on the horizon. Users can merely push a button on their screens to communicate with team members, bots, or systems.

Orion has also created its own wearable with user needs in mind. Legacy devices are often too bulky or rugged to wear on many uniforms, so Orion designed the Onyx, a sleek button-like device that users can easily attach to any style of clothing. When they need to contact co-workers or associates, users just press the device — similar to the famous communicators from Star Trek.

“The clip was designed to work on a silk blouse,” Jesse said. “Not only do we know what you’ve been through as a retail associate, but it’s at the center of the design.”

The Onyx comes in several colors, too, so it can easily blend in with an employee’s uniform.

Associates simply press the Onyx to activate it before speaking into it. Retail Bot responds to questions ranging from how many units of a product are in stock to whether an item is available in a specific color or size.

Onyx allows associates to spend more time with customers without needing to step away to answer questions about merchandise. This capability, in turn, enables quicker and more productive consumer-brand interactions.

Orion: Bringing Futuristic Technology to the Present

Voice technologies have entered the retail sector in a significant way, and Orion Labs gives businesses a head start in implementing them. “We can shorten the amount of time it takes to integrate voice technologies into their stores, often by years,” Jesse said.

Orion technologies like Onyx — straight out of an episode of Star Trek — give retailers real-time information about customers and their preferences. And the company has only scratched the surface of its products’ useful capabilities. Orion recently received $18.25 million in funding to create new app features, and are in the midst of releasing many of them.

Most significantly, Orion offers next-level capabilities that help retailers improve interactions with clients and improve team mindsets.

“We believe strongly that our customers know their businesses better than we ever will,” Jesse said. “And our job, our mission, is to make it easy for them to give their team a superpower.”