Q&A: Strategizing Customer Experiences for Speech

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Crispin Reedy is a Voice User Experience designer and usability professional at Versay Solutions. She has over 15 years of experience on the front lines of the speech industry, in the design, usability, and tuning disciplines. She is presenting the SpeechTEK University course “Strategizing Customer Experiences for Speech” on Wednesday April 11 at SpeechTEK 2018. SpeechTEK co-chair, James Larson, talked to Reedy in advance of her conference session.

Q: What are the characteristics of a good voice strategy for your organization?

A: A good voice strategy should be a natural outgrowth of your overall technology and customer engagement strategies for your organization. It should be multifaceted and comprehensive as well. For example, Alexa and Google Home are getting all the press these days, but there may be other ways of using voice that are more interesting and intelligent for your organization.

Q: Should your organization’s voice strategy include IVR, intelligent agents such as Alexa Skills or Google Actions, and/or voice-enabled web pages?

A: I’m going to be a designer here and say, “Yes, maybe!” A good voice strategy should approach this question from both ends. First, from a general awareness of the new voice technologies that are available – which is changing on an almost daily basis. What kinds of things can these technologies do and how might you apply it? Second, I’d also work it from the other end, and consider a true design-thinking standpoint. What problems are your customers having today and how might you solve them? There may be things you can do to improve your overall customer experience that don’t even involve technology.

Q: What’s involved in a voice-enabled design, and what are companies doing today?

A: That question covers a lot of territory--everything from dipping your toe in the water to going all-out with major efforts. We’re seeing a lot of interest in Alexa Skills and Google Actions coming out of the marketing and branding world. In some ways, this is a new “gold rush.” People are hurrying to develop these voice apps because they feel like this is the new internet and they need to stake their claim, but then they’re disappointed with the user base. Or, some companies are voice-enabling their existing iOS or Android apps both for use with Siri or the Android Assistant or for straight-up voice-to-text. And then we have companies who are doing more traditional IVR, which is not going away. There are new developments in the area, which come out on an almost daily basis, which has made developing this workshop an interesting challenge.

Q: Why should your strategy be based on a user-centered view of the world?

A: You want your products and services to fit the people who are going to use them. People have plenty of choices today. If your product is hard to use, or your organization is difficult to deal with, your customer will simply move on down the road. Getting real front-line experience, continually observing and talking to your customers and users, is the best way to ensure that your customer experience will be good.

Q: What does search engine optimization look like in a world without “results” pages?

A: There are very specific ways you can optimize your website in order to produce results that are more likely to return on the “featured snippets” on Google Home, which will increase the likelihood of your website being “heard” by the searcher. Searches also change on mobile versus at home. For example, 88% of all “near me” searches are done on mobile phones. And, the way that these platforms work means that some voice search queries are going to act very differently. When you enter the query “Buy potato chips” in a browser you get a page of Google search results. When you say that to Alexa (depending on your settings) she’s going to go off and order it for you. All of this is going to play into SEO in the future, and marketers are going to have to think about all the different ways that they’re going to be affected.       

Q: How should your “brand” sound?

A: Audio branding is nothing new, but should be revisited in light of the new technologies. Things like radio spots or your YouTube channel are working today to convey the “sound and feel” of your brand. Things like “Young and hip?” Or “Calm and secure?” Music snippets, your choice of voice talent, the scripts–all of those things play into the way your brand is sonically conveyed and should be chosen accordingly. Also, brands may want to consider engaging someone to develop an audio logo. There are all kinds of experts in that field, and great sources of inspiration like the NBC chimes, or the THX “zoom.” There are a lot of neat possibilities in this area, which companies can play with.

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