A MITI team effort
Chatting to Siri might be convenient for you, but for a person with a disability voice assistance can provide access to internet content not available to them before. Working with an all-female team of data engineers as part of MITI, we’re helping Transurban deliver an improved experience for all their customers.
Transurban and Monash University have partnered to deliver the Monash Industry Team Initiative (MITI) for the past five years, and it turns out even a pandemic couldn’t stop the program going ahead! The execution looked a little different in 2020, but the outcomes are just as exciting.
As a UX and Design researcher, I applied for the MITI program to test out the theories of my course in the real world. I moved to Australia from South Korea in 2020 (good timing right!) to undertake a PhD program at the Mobility Design Lab at Monash University.
Making digital experiences more inclusive
My research is about mobility user experience for people who are digitally excluded. Internet accessibility remains mixed at best, despite web accessibility policy frameworks and initiatives. But we know that if we shape our technology for people who experience digital exclusion — a very diverse group in itself — then we make it more possible that the internet can be used by all.
People are using voice assistants to do more and more things. Alexa can add items to your shopping list, Siri can tell you how many inches are in a metre, and a simple ‘hey Google’ can get a message to your friends when you need to go hands free. So, applying voice capability when it comes to roads and driving made a lot of sense.
Partnering with experts in the field, our project looked at voice engagement and aimed to innovate on the traditional mobility user experience. And to say I was excited to be a part of this journey was an understatement!
Voice assistance interest high for younger customers
The use cases we tested as part of the project included checking and topping up an account balance using voice. We also leveraged Trip Compare in the Linkt app to find the best route, giving drivers a comparison of cost, time savings and fuel consumption when using toll vs non-toll roads.
To test if this was something our customers were interested in, we ran a panel with 300 customers — 100 from Queensland, NSW and Victoria — and asked how they currently use voice assistance.
More than half showed intent to use Linkt voice assistant if it’s launched and customers under 35 show high interest and intent to use it. Even those who didn’t currently use a voice assistant showed a high intent to use it for road focused features like traffic updates and journey route planning.
Female teamwork makes the dream work
I didn’t expect to be on a team with three other women who were all studying completely different courses — but it was a very pleasant surprise.
The project kicked off in December and we had nine weeks to deliver so we didn’t waste any time. Anubha and Bhavya came from technical backgrounds so got stuck into the nuts and bolts straight away. Evelyn and I came from design and research backgrounds so were keen to spend some time learning more about what our customers wanted and designing a solution for them.
Our mentors from Transurban’s Customer and Technology team gave us a snapshot of the business context. It was then up to us to figure out how to solve the problem. The work was completely virtual, so we had weekly meetings and a daily stand up to keep the momentum going.
Thriving with a customer focus, despite our COVID environment
Transurban is so customer focused. As a road user myself, I had never considered the ways I could engage with a company that operates a toll road, so this was a surprising learning experience for me.
I was also surprised by how quickly we hit our stride as a team. Despite working almost entirely online, our personal and professional relationships developed quickly. Our cultural and academic differences were an opportunity to learn from each other and expand our own professional skills. Anubha, who had done a previous internship at Accenture, was always using words we had never heard so she almost became our corporate jargon dictionary!
We presented to Transurban’s CEO Scott Charlton at the end of February and although we were all so nervous, it was a culmination of how far we had come as a team and as individuals. After nine weeks, we had talked to customers, tested the technology and left Transurban with a strategic roadmap to roll it out — we were all pretty proud of that.
Now I have experienced firsthand how important Transurban customers are to the business, I know that this voice assistant project has the potential to make that relationship even better.
And we are so grateful we got to play our part.