In the era of Siri and Alexa, is it important to keep up with trends by enabling voice-activated options for your users or should your efforts be directed elsewhere?
With the mass popularity of Amazon's, Google's and Apple's virtual assistants, the demand for systems that allow users to interact with an interface through voice commands is skyrocketing. In fact, the global number of installed smart speakers is expected to rise to 225 million units in just two years.
While the potential of this technology may seem an opportunity too good to miss, leaders need to consider all sides of this use case before jumping on the bandwagon. Primarily, voice-enabled technology or voice interfaces need to truly align with your user's needs and lifestyle. An active, often busy user may appreciate the option of interacting with an application through voice commands or finding information instantly with the help of an assistant, but a different user may find it cumbersome, inefficient and even unsafe.
First, let's do a quick review of voice-enabled technologies, and how they apply to businesses:
Pinning down an exact definition for voice-enabled technology can be tricky. There's so much that's being done with voice recognition that it's easy to lose track. Tech Target defines voice or speaker recognition as, "the ability of a machine or program to receive and interpret dictation or to understand and carry out spoken commands." Essentially, it allows users to interact with systems by simply speaking to them.
The different uses for voice recognition may vary from product to product, but some of the more popular functions are:
- Transcribing voice to text
- Setting up reminders
- Searching the internet
- Performing tasks like: playing music, providing weather or traffic information, controlling home elements (lights, temperature, etc.), and even making purchases.
Today, companies use voice-enabled technology in the following spaces:
The customer service industry is leveraging speech recognition systems to lower costs and handle greater amounts of calls, as well as give users immediate responses to their queries. These applications can range from call centers to healthcare services. In the latter, users can use integrations with smart speakers to look into ailments or symptoms by themselves.
Using a cellphone while driving is among the most dangerous activities a person can do. In fact, up to 1.6 million crashes happen every year due to cell phone use while driving (National Safety Council). Voice-activated technology allows drivers to do any number of tasks safely while driving, and Forbes expects, "nearly 90% of all new vehicles will have [voice recognition] onboard by 2022."
Management can become difficult when there's a mountain of documentation that goes with it. Speech recognition technology can help organizations automate administrative tasks, such as taking notes, updating to-do lists and managing schedules. In healthcare, for instance, doctors save valuable patient care time when they're able to dictate their observations and diagnoses through speech-to-text technology rather than having to write it all out.
How do I determine if voice-enabled interface is right for my application?
The decision of whether your application needs a voice-enabled option should only be undertaken after you have completed a comprehensive analysis of your users' behaviors, preferences, and needs. It's not enough to assume users will enjoy new capabilities. You must first understand how they're currently interacting with your application and how that may be helped or hindered by a voice user interface. Consider doing the following:
- Map out your customers' journey
Go through a user's process from opening your app to finalizing a transaction. This will give you an idea of which parts could be improved through voice-activated tech and which might generate friction. It's best to support these maps with user testing, which gives real insight into what users prefer and what they want to get out of the system.
Looking at what the competition is doing is always a good idea. By analyzing how competitors are using voice interactions, a company can gain insights into how competitors are implementing the technology, what kinds of applications are they using, and how it's being received by their customers.
- Understand the requirements
Above all, a voice-enabled system needs to respond to a real need from the user. User testing and interviews can provide a wealth of insight into what a user is really interested in seeing from the system. With the requirements in hand, a company can develop different features or aspects that answer these needs and wants directly.
Choose the right tech for your user
As exciting as voice-activated technology sounds, if your user still prefers using a screen or feels safer or better understood through text, it's best to avoid pushing unnecessary change and instead try to improve existing options. Sleeker, more intuitive web or app interfaces can go a long way in making users feel more at ease with your product. In this case, customer interactions can be managed smoothly through a similar text-based, solution: chatbots. Whichever solution you decide on, be sure to keep your customers' interests at the forefront, and break ground in areas that will ultimately result in business value.
In our next installment, we'll take a closer look at the questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on voice-enabled technology and what other options could help you adjust to your users' needs and preferences.
Ready to implement your own voice user interface? Let's chat.