The beginning of 2000s was the time when interactive voice response (IVR) systems started to become popular among customer service. Companies appreciated but customers did not. Probably all of us can recall some frustrating moments when we had been advised to: “Please press one if you want to contact help desk, press two if you want to… “. Luckily this will be history soon thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI), which has got a serious boost in the previous years.
Conversational design plays a key role behind this revolution even though conversational design is currently strongly linked only to chatbots. Next natural step will be conversational design’s entry also to voice-controlled solutions and here is a list why:
Personalized user experience
Modern technology creates possibility to generate real value to end-users and people are also expecting that services provide great user experience. Unlike the old IVR systems, which purpose was mainly to generate cost savings to business, new voice-controlled systems have to serve users better. Digital services, like Amazon or YouTube, have already created a situation where most of the users expect that they will be served as individuals, not as generic customers. One example of how Amazon and YouTube do it is simply that they help users based on users previous actions, for example “Related to Items You’ve Viewed”–lists. With the help of AI, smart algorithms and self-learning systems there don’t need to be traditional “one fits for all”-systems anymore. Instead of this, systems need to be designed to meet users as individuals. Conversational design provides wisdom, which can be used so that the user feels that he or she is exclusively served.
Rise of personal assistants
Year 2016 has finally been the breakthrough and by now most of the tech giants have already introduced their own virtual assistants: Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana. If we take Google Home as an example it is easy to spot several advantages what these voice-controlled assistants deliver in comparison with pure touch user interfaces, like smartphone screens. Voice-controlled interface is more natural and primitive in certain occasions as Google Home showcases. Hands-free help is highly appreciated when clicking touch interfaces causes more hassle than actual help.
Limits of touch user interfaces
All wearables like smartwatches have built-in physical limitations and size of touch screens are limited. Typical solution to overcome this problem is to have additional interface, e.g. smartphone app, but for all situations this workaround is not applicable. As an example, construction industry is a field of business where hands-free solutions are needed also in the future. Company called DAQRI have created a smart construction helmet where augmented reality (AR) is used to help maintenance workers. Purpose of the helmet is to display virtual instructions for the user directly throughout the helmet’s safety goggles. The idea of using AR in this case is brilliant but this system could still be improved with voice-control. If the helmet would have speech recognition and voice-control system, users would have a whole new dimension to interact effectively with the entire AR system.
Support of megatrends
Global megatrends such as ageing population and globalization also supports the future demand of smarter voice-controlled systems. When getting older vision and motoric abilities typically decreases. For digital services this creates a situation where touch user interfaces become harder to use. Senior users tend to have limitations also in their mobility and therefore home usage is often appreciated. This is also a benefit for voice-controlled systems because ready platforms, such as Google Home, already exist in the market. From globalization point of view communication between people is sometimes problematic because of the missing common language. However, with translation capabilities of voice-controlled systems this is also possible to overcome.
Compared to touch interfaces it should also be acknowledged that voice-controlled interfaces have even better possibility to react user emotions. This opens up a new dimension for conversational design solutions. How we speak, what words we use and what can kind of noise is in the background gives a huge amount of information, which can be analysed and used for optimizing our user experience. Even though this is an area, which is still developing, it can be expected that this will transform heavily services in coming years.
Demand for modern voice-controlled systems is definitely growing and proper conversational design is a must have in future business. I feel that this is an area that many companies have not yet thought about. There is a huge amount of options of how your business could be improved in this field. In addition, APIs are already available for developers (e.g. Apple’s SiriKit and Google’s Conversation API), which means that prototyping can be started right away. Please use this post as a source of inspiration and don’t hesitate to try some of the ideas e.g. in the Service Jam!