Is voice the new UI in the enterprise? 

What’s the quickest way to grow your user base? You might argue it’s by offering the most emergent interface to your consumers: voice. AWIP’s newly launched Boston chapter hosted their second event at Amazon and aimed to answer questions including What are the key use cases where a voice user interface can provide value? and How will a voice UI affect various aspects of product development? Steering the discussion was Joti Balani, Managing Director at Freshriver.ai, who challenged panelists to pinpoint why there is so much momentum around voice UI compared to some more traditional user interfaces we see today.

A voice interface starts as a less intrusive way to interact with customers. In doing so, it is essential that voice UI has a certain level of emotional intelligence to succeed. Especially, as Joti pointed out, real life user interactions do not always follow the happy path. In fact, a successful interaction, as Trishala Pillai (Partnerships Manager at MyPlanet) argues, should involve a multi-modal approach at its core. To ensure quality interactions are happening, there should be focus not only on downloads and launches, but active users overtime to demonstrate how robust and helpful the interactions actually are.

Early adopters of voice UI wanted to see what could be done with the interface and test out the various possibilities. Voice UI was initially a box to check off on your brand awareness efforts, explains Nancy Broden, Staff Interaction Designer at Google. Now, businesses are realizing the importance of fulfilling direct user needs and making sure voice UI fits in with their product vision. If this is not at the core of an enterprise’s voice interface development, they run the risk of delivering a failed approach and turning off existing users in the long run.

A frictionless user experience was another theme that kept surfacing throughout the event. Bill Rogers, CEO of Orbita, Inc., commented on the friction that exists today in more traditional interfaces. When a user navigates from screen to screen, they have to learn each new visual interface as they interact with it. With voice UI, it’s innately more intuitive and decreases that onboarding time to create a frictionless user experience. Additionally, it offers an alternative to users who may prefer listening to learn rather than reading.

So what use cases does a voice UI actually apply to? Now that early adopters have experimented with what can be done with voice, it’s time to improve upon this technology and make it work for a business. As with any product development, the key is being able to pinpoint the problem where a voice UI would provide the most frictionless user experience. This is an essential foundation to creating an interface that can withstand the ever-increasing competitive space of voice UI. Kristin Simonini, VP of Product Management at Applause, stresses companies need support from the top down when diving into a voice UI for the first time. Investing fully into the development of the product is key to getting user adoption in the long run. Product should leverage other disciplines, especially since voice is such a language-focused interface and this skill set may not be part of your immediate team.

As voice and AI continue to become more robust and expand our options for what we can do, we need to start thinking about the ethical question, What should we do? While it’s tempting to latch onto emerging technologies and try to fit a solution into your business, it becomes more important than ever that product teams are experts on their users and their needs, far more than voice UI or AI specifically. If the focus remains on user pain points and use cases, and voice is determined to be a natural fit, the user experience has a much higher probability of being a success.

Credits: Thanks to the Advancing Women in Product Boston Team, Bindu TuliKate HurdPrathiba DyavegowdaAnjali MunjalDivya Bhasin, Malavika Andavilli