People, gather around and let me tell you why Tom Thumb delivery customer experience, although basic and non-flashy, completely kicks butt.

I’ll confess I have an ulterior motive. I’ve been telling everybody I know about how f — — g awesome Tom Thumb grocery delivery is, because I don’t want it to go away.

Why? Because I am the ultimate lazy delivery customer. I noticed the other day on my Amazon profile that I have been a customer since 1998. (Whaaaat!? Say, do I get a 20-year anniversary present next year? 20 years is platinum, Jeff. Just sayin.’)

I have tried Amazon PrimeNow grocery delivery, I tried Peapod back when it existed, and I’ve investigated every grocery delivery service out there as it comes online. Because deliveries, in general, are awesome. Who doesn’t want someone to carry the cat litter up the front walk? …

So I saw an ad on Facebook for this new Kickstarter. It’s called Car Wink. The concept’s pretty cool. It’s basically a tiny LED screen to hang on the back of your car. The idea is to facilitate communication with other motorists. It’s got various emojis you can display, along with words. The device is controlled with your voice, so you can use it while driving.

The use case is pretty clever. You’re on the road and construction up ahead is blocking your lane. A nice driver behind you gives you a space and lets you merge. You want to thank the driver, so you give Car Wink a voice command. Something like: “Car Wink. Thank you.” …

Disclaimer: This opinion is personal and in no way represents my employer. :)

So I haven’t written much lately because, well, busy. However. I have been trying to keep tabs on the Amazon vs. Google voice-based personal assistant contest. (Alexa in this corner, OK Google in that corner, GO!) You can read all about my efforts to order a pizza via voice assistant in my most recent Big Design Conference presentation on my Slideshare … let’s just say it was entertaining.

I don’t have a horse in this race (not working for either Amazon or Google), but since I do work in the voice interface field, I’m very interested in the future of voice. Who will be “the winner?” I go back and forth pretty regularly as I look at the two companies and their approach. So of course, when I saw that Amazon had announced a new product for Echo, the Echo Look, on their page, I was intrigued. …

Let’s say you’re already doing all of those great things we discussed in parts 1 and 2. You’ve considered the context of the caller and the mindset. You’ve implemented ways to keep your caller’s experience seamless- you’ve got automated payments and other behind-the-scenes processes in place to keep things humming along and proactive notifications are already handing common patterns in your customer interactions. But, there comes the day when your customer is going to have a question or issue, and they’re going to check out your website and/or call you. Possibly both.

Reality check: your customer is not 100% focused on what they are doing as they call you or use your website. Most likely, interacting with your company is just one of a dozen or even a hundred things they’re working on that day. …

In part 1 we talked about understanding customer mindset in a self-service customer care setting and how considering mindset can lead to specific features and offerings which will enhance customer experience (and your revenue).

But going beyond features and offerings, how else might understanding your customer’s mindset change your user experience?

Here’s one sweeping generalization you may not have thought of: (entertainment businesses aside,) your customer would probably prefer not to interact with you.


Nobody wakes up in the morning and says,

Hey, I’m really looking forward to paying the water bill, doing a little troubleshooting on my internet connection, and after that I’m up for an exciting round of “Let’s call the insurance company!” …

(Apologies for the Buzzfeed-like title.)

Let’s jump right in and give away the secret, because there really is no secret. The one great thing you must do for your VUI to make it relevant, fabulous, interesting, and usable is this:

Understand your customer.

It’s incredibly simple to make that statement, but (of course) it’s much harder to implement. If it were easy to do, everyone would be doing it. What does understanding your user mean and how might it play out?

A lot of times, user-centered design focuses around demographics:

Our typical user is male, lives in the midwest, has an average income of $X, and is aged 25–30.” …

In everyday usage, a persona is a character played by an actor. When we bring this term into the UX world, the most common meaning is a fictional character who represents a customer. This fictional person is based on demographic and psychological characteristics which drive customers in the real world. For example, consider the following two personas:

“Molly” is a 72 year old woman who is a frequent visitor of “Happy Crafter” Store. Her primary hobby is scrapbooking, but she is also interested in floral arrangement, organizing parties, and home décor. She visits “Happy Crafter” at least once a month, sometimes more often. She uses Facebook and Email to connect with her friends and family, but otherwise does not use online media. She calls the store often with questions about sales and inventory. …

Text-to-speech is everywhere these days, for example, the iPhone’s Siri, or Amazon’s Echo. Yet, many voice-response (IVR) systems still rely on a human voice talent to actually sit down in a studio and read your prompts into a microphone. Why haven’t more enterprises dumped the human and gone full-on Text-to-Speech in their call center implementations?

For a couple of reasons.

First, fidelity. Edward Tufte once said that the IVR phone interface is the lowest-possible resolution interface there is. (I don’t have a citation on this, because I heard him say it in person, but he did say it.) And he’s right. All we have is the spoken word, an interaction which by necessity occurs over a period of time. Now, TTS has gotten pretty good, but it’s still pretty easy to tell the difference between it and a real human voice. Furthermore, callers are already dealing with things like static-y cell phone connections. …


Crispin Reedy

Veni, Vidi, VUI. (Voice User Interface Design, y'all.) Also: Voice Usability, CX, Service Design. Homepage at

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