Getting Started With Voice Design

Bill Konrad Co-CEO

Over the next decade, voice experiences are expected to revolutionize the way we interact with technology, fueled by the rapid advancement within AI and Cloud Computing that has made processing speech more accurate and nuanced than ever before – unlocking a colossal new market opportunity for both B2B and B2C companies.

Are you prepared to leverage the potential of voice?

Let’s start by looking at how it works.

Understanding the Three Layers of Voice Interaction

To enable voice interactions, three layers have to work together in a matter of seconds to bring the experience to life.

  • The Device can be a specific voice-driven device such as Amazon Echo or Google Home but they can also be a smartphone, tablet, computer or remote.
  • The Artificial Intelligence Platform such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri or Microsoft Cortana.
  • The App can be native to the device such as Apple News or can be a third-party app such as Spotify for Alexa Skills.

To enable voice interactions, three layers have to work together in a matter of seconds to bring the experience to life.

Let’s Look at a Basic Voice Design Example

Let’s take a look at how this might work for someone who is interacting with a banking app. For the purposes of this illustration, we are looking at a voice-only interaction.

  1. The device is activated either through a wake word such as “Hey Siri” or through pressing or clicking buttons.
  2. The AI platform receives the audio command from the device and uses automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU) to analyze the intent of the command “what is my credit card balance” and sends it to the voice app.
  3. The app responds to the platform through text with a response, “$2,100”.
  4. The platform converts the text “$2,100” into voice and it is amplified through the device.

This would clearly be a fantastic and yet simple hands-free experience for a consumer: no logins, no ancillary screens, no navigation – just productivity and the information you want.

But what about advanced scenarios? Can we take this further?

Enter the world of Conversational Design.

Now imagine if there was a follow up response to the credit card balance. Your bank could inform you that you qualify for a $2,100 personal line of credit that would lower your interest rate from 19.75% to 9.50% and could be available to you within 24 hours.

We are still not there when it comes to conversational design, but when integrated with internal systems, we are seeing some exciting B2B use cases.

Spotlight on B2B Voice Interactions

Perhaps though where voice interactions can have the biggest impact is in the B2B space, specifically for real-time reports such as inventory, revenue and promotional data.

A B2B example of voice interaction comes from Uri Minkoff, CEO of Rebecca Minkoff. He uses Alexa to see “How are online sales performing” and “What’s selling well in Los Angeles?”

It is not hard to see how voice could become integral to enterprise applications in the very near future as companies look for ways to streamline communications and data both internally and externally with partners and stakeholders.

The Current State of Voice Interactions

It is natural to get enamored with the promise of voice and want to dive into the new market. But it is critical to understand the current state of voice interactions.

WHO is using voice?

By 2019, nearly one-third of US internet users will use voice interactions.

People ages 25 to 34 make up the largest percentage of users but almost 30% are 45+.

WHAT industries are exploring voice?

Healthcare, Travel & Transportation, Entertainment, Financial Services, Retail, Personal Productivity

WHY do people use voice interfaces?

People currently use voice interfaces because of the benefits of hands-free interaction, the speed of completion and the simplicity of the commands.

WHERE do people use voice controls?

Voice experiences typically take place at home or in the car, as voice expands into public and corporate settings, new challenges will have to be considered.

WHEN do people turn to voice interactions?

Younger users tend to use voice interactions for shopping, turning on music, and scheduling.

Older users use voice to check the weather and get answers to questions.

“We expect voice to work from many different contexts. We are thinking about it across phones, homes, TVs, cars and trying to drive the ecosystem that way, and we want it to be there for users when they need it.”

– Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google

Does My Company Need a Voice Experience?

87% of businesses believe voice will play a significant role in marketing and operations by 2021, but is it right for your specific needs?

The key to a successful voice experience is to identify high-priority user needs that are simplified or more convenient through a voice interaction. If you are able to identify voice features that would benefit your audience, you should continue to explore voice design.

Simply put, does the introduction of voice interactions add tangible value for my audience?

Some features are core to the business such as:

  • Price comparisons.
  • Searching for a branch location.

While some features offer ancillary value related to the company:

  • A grocery store that offers recipes.
  • A laundry detergent that gives you tips on getting out stains.

Getting Started

The good news is once you’ve uncovered a need for voice products, you aren’t going to have to start from scratch and reinvent design methods and principles.

You’ll still need a deep understanding of the goals of your audience, the possibilities (and limitations) offered by technology and the business requirements necessary to achieve your goals. Research, persona creation, rapid prototyping, user flows, usability testing and iterative design are all still critical in creating beautiful and intuitive voice interactions.

Here are some familiar questions to help you get started.

  1. Who is our audience?
  2. What features does our audience use most often?
  3. Where can we provide the most value with voice interactions?
  4. What do we want to achieve by introducing voice interactions?
  5. Do our competitors already have voice features? If yes, what can we learn from them?
  6. Can voice interactions help strengthen our relationship with our audience?
  7. Can voice successfully bring out our brand personality? Can it enhance it?
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