In this opinion piece, Michael Buckley (pictured above), managing director of Accenture Interactive in Australia and New Zealand, discusses consumers’ growing appetite for voice user interfaces, and why brands should use them to build the ultimate digital spokesperson.
The progression of natural language processing. Deep learning algorithms and significantly improved microphones means we are developing digital interfaces that can understand and accommodate natural human conversations. This creates opportunities for positive customer interactions and business outcomes.
According to research carried out by Accenture, we have become accustomed to adapting our behaviour to satisfy the demands of user interfaces (UI), but we are now at a point where our technology is adapting to our behaviour. Language-driven technologies are taking on a more sophisticated role, with Voice UIs able to understand, accommodate and mimic the structure of human conversation, efficiently completing the tasks we request – and we want more of it.
The opportunity is now there for organisations to embrace the power of a voice UI, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and use it to create great customer experiences. However, using this interface can come with its own set of challenges. It is important that organisations recognise that this interface essentially becomes a representation of the company with the potential to create positive and negative experiences. Organisations therefore need to fully understand how the best results can be achieved. Fjord has developed a set of principles for designing voice for UI, with some of the key takeaways outlined below.
The digital spokesperson
Voice UIs are an exciting technological advancement that will produce countless new avenues of engagement for both consumers and organisations. They are making every interaction both simple and smart, setting a high bar for how all future interactions will work. These UIs are already becoming the face of a company’s digital brand, and are creating key differentiators from competitors. As consumers are exposed to more of this style of interface, they are going to begin to expect it from every organisation they interact with.
These new company representatives have the potential to leave a lasting impression as they interact with an infinite number of people. This is an unprecedented level of control by businesses over the customer experience, creating both efficiencies and new opportunities. Voice UI interactions are helping to solve an accessibility gap and enabling organisations to make all of their services accessible to everyone.
While the majority of people think of voice UI in the context of popular devices manufactured by Apple, Amazon and Google, this new generation of digital tools can also complement screens and take digital interactions to a whole new level. Language-driven technologies like Alexa are becoming digital spokespeople that are as recognisable as the parent company. People inevitably build relationships or connections with products and brands, so reflecting the attributes of positive human interactions can ensure our digital relationships are strong.
It takes two
While AI and UI aims to create and maintain a powerful, 100 per cent consistent brand experience through every interaction, the promise of steering with simple spoken commands, and giving and receiving information without a screen, requires us to look at what we expect from conversations and how we design for relationships. Just like conversations in real life are not one-sided, a voice interface must abide by the same set of rules.
When interacting with a voice UI, users do not have a way to view a menu or scan their options, and if the system is not easily navigable, the probability of user fatigue and frustration increases. Anyone implementing a voice UI needs to consider that voice may not always be the ultimate solution and design for alternatives.
Conversational or voice UI is not purely about information exchange – there is also a social relationship to navigate and negotiate. Equipping a voice UI with distinctive personality traits is essential to establish a social power dynamic and a connection between humans and machines. Building empathy is a big part of designing for language interface – not only in how easily information is shared, but how easily users react to a language interface.