The Voice Experience
It’s no secret that voice interaction is challenging the meaning of user experience (UX). ‘The voice’ is emerging as an alternative or even complete replacement to traditional visual interfaces.
So let’s dive in.
Voice interaction is the ability to converse with your devices in your natural language and receive responses and solutions. It means your devices can respond to your queries, provide you with information, and call you by a nickname your real friends and family would refuse. Chatbots are voice-activated assistants that can be taught different skills (but more on that later).
This interaction between people and devices carves profound new turf in communication. Let’s compare it to learning a foreign language. We learn languages through practice and regular immersion, so the invention and adoption of conversation with our devices is likely to be enhanced by similar participation.
Right now the immersive environment is primarily within the realms of personal and home use. But we foresee that as people get more and more accustomed to it, they will expect it in business and commercial settings. (For anyone who’s ever struggled with a projector screen or phone settings, imagine just saying “show me my screen” or “start the meeting”).
Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are smart home speakers that thrive on voice interaction. These devices offer absolutely no visual display and relies on audio for both input and output (with the exception of a few flashing lights).
Thanks to big improvements in voice-recognition accuracy, smart speakers allow true hands-free operation. These products prove that the increase in flexibility and efficiency is enough to make them desirable even to users who already own a voice-enabled smartphone.
We mean business
So with all this in mind, let’s look at what voice interaction means as the new customer experience. The voice can be seen as the latest tool and toy in communicating brand values. (Cue for traditional marketing disciplines to walk the plank.) The ability for a company to directly communicate to its consumer, and vice-versa, means brand experience and interactions will become radically more valuable and intuitive.
The voice medium can facilitate unique campaign possibilities and experiences. Voices, as we know, convey a wealth of meta-information to the listener – in pitch, tone, inflection, accent, and pace. So imagine brands leveraging the voice as a facet of their personalities. It’s like custom tailoring your brand ambassador. The voice of the chatbot can be utilised as a service so we can use bots as personalised 1-on-1 service at scale.
In a content marketing setting, bots can use a strong brand voice in conversation and deliver stories, exclusive content, games, and campaigns through messaging platforms like Facebook, or Kik.
Chatbots can be taught particular skills with intent to better connect the customer and brand/service.
Amazon’s Alexa can be paired with Uber and get you wherever you need to go. A more novelty example is the latest move by spirits brand, Patrón Tequila, – they recently partnered with Amazon’s Alexa to bring its ‘Cocktail Lab’ recipe library to consumers via voice activation. Patrón additionally also introduced its ‘Bot-Tender,’ an AI-enabled chatbot that suggests cocktail ideas to customers on Twitter Direct Message, Facebook Messenger, and website. It’s this kind of content and innovation that will allow brands to build richer relationships.
We anticipate that in future, brands will know their customer through conversational experiences, anticipate their needs and provide satisfying solutions. The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots, voice-activated assistants and messaging apps are just mere trends driving the future of customer experience, a future that’s much closer than you think. According to a report by Gartner, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2020.
We remember when touchscreens turned web design on its head and our smartphones into gaming devices. ‘The voice’ hints a similar rapid shift. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), speech recognition and natural language processing have led us to the threshold of an era where frictionless voice interaction becomes reality.
With almost a third of the global population carrying a microphone on them daily, it’s a clear sign the interface is the most user-friendly, right? Well as designers we must adapt to the very different set of affordances the voice has to offer.
If consumers are going to respond and be understood by their products, we must learn to apply design principles that work best to these interactions with a new interface. This means developing a big library of commonly understood and intuitive cues and responses for the user to interact.
The most central design element of the web – the ‘click’ is perhaps lost in the future standard of interface design.
This is huge.
Voice interaction carves a new innovative territory, hybridising speed, efficiency, and personality into tech. The rapid proliferation of voice interaction capabilities in our individual digital ecosystems raises critical questions for any designer whose work plays a role in the customer experience.
Ultimately, voice interaction means our digital experiences can be more meaningful. Conversational interfaces adopting personality is the new user experience. The magic of voice interaction comes alive in crafting experiences through conversations and providing valuable unique understandings.
Change and innovation inertia, your worst enemy.
Naturally, humans are apprehensive when it comes to the subject of change. We fear the unknown and are generally reluctant to take risks.
This is how we as a species, have been wired and programmed. It’s been our little red warning light since our existence and it has served us well.
If the hunter has used the same trail all his life and never had the problem of coming home empty handed, why try a different route off the beaten path and risk being eaten by a sabretooth tiger? It is somewhat of a survival instinct and we still carry it to this day.
Especially when it comes to the topic of innovating in enterprises.
But, Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest. Or from the words of Einstein, “Nothing happens until something moves”. Quite straightforward and obvious statements but both really bring to light the topic of this post. Innovation Inertia.
The definition of inertia is “a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged”. Therefore, innovation inertia is when a person, group or enterprise is resistant or unwilling to innovate and bring forth change.
Reasons for such resistance can be attributed to a number of reasons such as
- Fear of failure.
- Why try to fix something that isn’t broken?
- Resistance to change and the unknown.
- Simple laziness towards exploring new ideas and concepts.
Don’t aim to survive, aim to thrive.
These are words I live by and they have been a catalyst for the all the positive change in my life.
Let’s go back to the hunter scenario and the basic survival instinct of avoiding risk in order to survive.
The route off the beaten path that the hunter had been avoiding and resistant to taking all his life, what if it led to a whole new opportunity? Bigger game, new and exotic fruits, never seen before materials and resources?
Meanwhile, other hunters and gatherers who dared to risks found the opportunity to innovate.
The “how it’s always been done” hunter has been left behind and realises he is merely surviving while the others are thriving.
This holds true in the current world for enterprises who are resistant to change and innovation. A world where the success of modern day businesses and powerhouses we all know such as Tesla, Amazon, Netflix and Facebook were all attributed to the very thing most are scared of, change and innovation.
The late, great Steve Jobs put it perfectly when he said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”.
I will admit I left out another reason resistance to change and innovation exists.
Sometimes, people just don’t know where to start and need guidance on how they can stop surviving in the past and thriving in the future.