Over 200 million Alexa-enabled devices are in customers’ hands worldwide in 2020, doubling last year’s number of 100 million in just one year1. Like the internet was in the 1990s and mobile devices in the 2000s, voice is poised to be the next big technology movement. And it’s not just revolutionary for everyday people. Rather, voice user interface design will serve an important role in how organizations create meaningful customer experiences – as they’ll be expected to meet consumer needs in this evolving space.
Finding the Value in Voice
It’s not likely that voice user interface (VUI) will completely replace graphical user interfaces (GUI) but rather serve as an ever increasing complement to creating omni-channel customer experiences. Our society promotes multi-tasking, and consumers will continue to embrace technology that allows them to get more done within the context of their normal routines. In many cases, VUI meets these needs better than GUI. For example, using Alexa to set an alarm, ask about the weather, check your banking account balances or in healthcare – learn urgent care wait times (ask us about our recent development project) – can offer great value without interrupting one’s daily routine. That said, GUI still wins in some use cases. Actions such as comparison shopping need the graphic, or visual component to be most effective. As designers begin to develop strategy for integrating VUI, it’s helpful to first understand the key differences between voice and graphical interfaces, and where voice will be most effective and offer the greatest return.
Why the Adoption?
- It’s a primitive and natural way of interaction. Parents marvel at the sound of their child’s first words. Then they spend the rest of our lives using speech as a way to communicate needs and wants. People associate voice technology with communication. Ultimately, this will transform brands into more life-like, interactive presences with their own voice and identity2.
- There’s a more natural learning curve. Websites and mobile aplications vary widely and require users to understand a technology – from differences in operating systems to understanding navigational elements for websites. While voice will have an adoption period and it’s own set of challenges (by not having clear navigational elements), it’s a more natural interaction.
- It saves time, and convenience rules. The voice interface allows users to multi-task, while in a car, or at home. Consider this: Your cooking and realize you ran out of salt. “Alexa, order salt.”. That’s pretty convenient.
- Accessibility for the visually-impaired or aging (as well as physically dexterity) by untethering from the phone. Those who have more inherent or growing difficulty with computer screens and keyboards can use voice technology to achieve similar online goals.
A few key differences between VUI and GUI?
- Even more simplistic. Because voice interfaces are invisible, they must demand the most simple cognitive action by the user. That’s why tasks are often prime use cases for voice, whereas actions requiring more extensive research (comparison shopping, in-depth research) are more still more suited to traditional digital channels like websites..
- Navigation. Without the typical navigational elements people have grown accustomed to on websites, designers have the challenge of incorporating flow-like, sequential conversations with the user separate from the commands (back button, home icon, error logs and online help) that are conventional for traditional digital users. Due to these differences, voice designers will need to focus on prioritizing information and an anticipatory, contextually-driven flow of information/conversation.
Opportunities and Current Use Cases
|Policy Account Management||Geico: Interact with your GEICO policy to request roadside assistance, check claim status, account balance, make payments, request ID cards, total premium, and more.|
|Insurance Education||Farmers: [Find answers to] frequently asked questions about insurance terminology, policy coverages, deductibles, and limits.|
|Get Quotes or Manage Existing Enrollments||Nationwide: Learn more about auto insurance products; Learn more about products, with simple insurance definitions, information about SmartRide® (with personalized driving feedback), and contact details to get a quote.|
|Start a Claim||Safeco Insurance: [Get] auto policy estimates and advice on home and auto issues; start your home insurance claim by answering a few simple questions.|
|Basic Banking Needs||Ally Bank: Ask about your balance, make a transfer, hear recent transactions or deposits and more.|
|Loan Repayment||Capital One: Ask Capital One about your credit card, checking, savings, and auto loan accounts.|
|Credit Card Management||AMEX: Make a payment, get Amex Offers, check your balance, and more.|
|Investment Portfolio Management||TD Ameritrade: TD Ameritrade is the first company ever to create an Alexa Skill where you can place trades with just your voice. Get updates on balances, positions, and quotes for all U.S.-traded stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and major U.S. indices, which amounts to over 75,000 securities.|
|Preoperative Care||Massachusetts General Hospital: Researching how text-to-speech technology can be useful in helping surgeons comply with surgical safety checklists in the operating room3.|
|Routine Self-Care||Mayo Clinic, First Aid: Provides quick, hands-free self-care instructions or answers everyday situations from a trusted source. (treat baby’s fever, help for a burn, treat a cut, etc.)|
|Emergency Preparation & Response||The American Heart Association: Ask Alexa the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke and get step by step CPR instructions if needed.|
|Disease & Care Management||One Drop: Lets diabetes patients track their blood sugar information by telling it to Alexa.Boston Children’s Hospital, KidsMD: Developed an Alexa app known as KidsMD, which dispenses important information to parents, including how to avoid medication dosing errors, helps parents to feel at ease, beside facilitating better communication between parents and healthcare providers.|
Potential future healthcare opportunities:
- Health monitoring: By reading into vocal tone, AI platforms could perhaps detect depression, or potentially even underlying chronic conditions such as heart disease.
- Hospital Efficiencies and Quality Control: Voice-enabled virtual assistants can help clinicians access notes or let surgeons see safety checklists.
- Provider Assistance (e.g. Transcription): Doctors are spending up to two-thirds of their day on busywork, namely clicking fields in their electronic health record system3. Alexa could help with that by transcribing notes and documenting patient interactions on the doctor’s behalf.
Full Voice Design Blog Series:
- Voice Design Blog Series, Part 1: Preparing for Voice as a Channel
- Voice Design Blog Series, Part 2: VUI 101 – Technology, Key Concepts & Nomenclature
- Voice Design Blog Series, Part 3: Alexa, Can You Help Me Answer the Question of ROI?
- Voice Design Blog Series, Part 4: Four Critical Steps to Bring an Alexa Skill to Market
Interested in learning about how to integrate Alexa into your marketing plan? Let’s chat.
- Rubin, Ben. (2020). Amazon sees Alexa devices more than double in just one year. https://www.cnet.com/news/amazon-sees-alexa-devices-more-than-double-in-just-one-year/
- Babich, Nick. (2018). How conversational interfaces will change our lives. https://theblog.adobe.com/how-conversational-user-interfaces-will-change-our-lives/.
- Farr, Christina. (2017). Hospitals are looking for the killer Amazon app. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/18/hospitals-are-looking-for-the-killer-amazon-alexa-app.html.