Business Voice-First Strategy: 7 Parameters for a Rational Decision-Making

Background

As the hype for Voice-First solutions moves from the strictly personal and domestic environment to the enterprise arena, an increasing number of businesses start to consider adding some sort of conversational user interface to their overall corporate communicational infrastructure.

As of now, we have seen businesses addressing the Voice First goals essentially with two different approaches:

  • As a “me-too” marketing tactic
  • As part of a creative marketing strategy

Although not always clearly expressed, the “me-too” approach, warmly supported by marketers, has largely dominated the decision makings. Such motivation is totally legit but it is not the centerpiece of my presentation here.

The core of the voice user experience is to make sure users find actual value in what is offered them.

I assume, therefore, that you are not thinking of a voice app for your business only as a “me-too” action item. If that is not the case then you do not need to read further. But in case you want to follow a creative and original marketing strategy in this field then I suggest you ponder the following 7 criteria before you make a decision in regards to one or more voice apps as part of your business marketing, customer service, and overall communications assets.

The Core of Voice UX

The core of the voice user experience is to make sure users find actual value in what is offered them. Based on an adaptation of the renowned Peter Morville’s User UX Honeycomb model, that I previously discussed here and here, I have established a voice app decision making metrics framework as follows:

Utility

Ask yourself whether you are able to offer your customers one or more voice apps that are actually useful for them.

Obviously here the emphasis is on the utilitarian aspects of a possible Voice First artifact. This question should help you establish whether you can actually provide an original service including fresh content, to satisfy one or more of your customer’s genuine needs. In other words, your voice app concept should truly present some innovation in functionality versus other comparable solutions. It should enable the user to achieve practical goals in a better way compared to what the other existing solutions would allow including your current non-voice communication channels.

Usability

A second question you should ask yourself is whether you could offer a voice app that is actually usable by your customers.

Here you need to decide whether you can design and offer a voice-app sufficiently easy to use for your average or selected customer segment based on their known demographic profile. We obviously assume that a voice app should work anyway as claimed, without malfunctions.

Appeal

A third question to ask is whether you could actually offer a voice app able to add some level of enjoyment to your customer’s experience.

This question relates to those properties of a design concept that are deemed to trigger positive emotions and delight in all or segments of your customer base. In other words, a user should like the way a given voice app works in comparison to other existing solutions.

Clarity

The fourth question is about your ability to offer a voice app that allows navigating easily a provided service including the content that you deliver to your customers.

This is all about being intuitive and natural, that is, as much as possible close to the customer’s spontaneous conversational expectations. You need to ponder whether your specific service/content could allow being articulated and expressed via a natural dialog flow that can be immediately understandable for your audiences.

Accessibility

The fifth question is whether you could offer a voice app that is also accessible by the people with disability.

This is indeed a crucial aspect of a voice app. It is about a design that increments all the other qualities without making steeper the learning curve for people with some level of physical and/or cognitive challenge. You need to decide based on a careful consideration of your customer base demographics.

Credibility

The sixth question relates to your ability to offer a voice app that your customers regard as sufficiently credible.

This question pertains to both which service/content a given voice app offers and the way it is presented to the user. Credibility becomes of enormous relevance particularly when a voice app is used to support decision making in a number of critical domains such as health, diet, finances, legal issues, e-commerce, etc.

Maintainability

The last question is about your actual capability to offer one or more voice apps that you can easily maintain over time.

This aspect could be called also flexibility. A voice app should have the capability for updates to be installed and changes to be integrated without causing any critical disruption of the overall feel and natural conversational flow.

To conclude, I would strongly suggest summarizing your response to any of the aforementioned 7 questions with a numeric score. For all the 7 evaluation criteria, I propose to adopt a standard rating scale from 1 (minimum) to 10 (maximum). Such a wide scale might appear to complicate the overall evaluation processes. However, I think that it is worth the effort because it allows to better capture nuances that originate from your internal brainstorming sessions, which may down the road generate unexpected dynamics.

Based on my Voice-First consulting and private brainstorming sessions with a number of businesses operating in a variety of domains (financial, legal, e-commerce, public utilities, local government officials, etc.), I have arrived at the following decision-making metrics:

Only if your assigned response to each and all questions scores at least 5 out of 10 then it would be worth the time and money to contact a professional voice app provider. You may use the same questionnaire for your RFP/RFI. Once you receive the written responses with numeric scores, you can compare them to your own internally prepared evaluation document to establish your way forward.

In case you need further consulting assistance you can contact me using the following email address: consultants@voicierge.com

Together with my Voice First Consultancy Team at Voicierge Consultants, we will be glad to assist your business in all the phases of decision making and review including the final sign off.