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Speech is the next UX

“We’ve seen more progress in this technology in the last 30 months than we saw in the last 30 years. Ultimately vocal computing is replacing the traditional graphical user interface.” -Shawn DuBravac

Interface design enables humans to experience and interact with technology. Interestingly, Voice User Interface (VUI), is the ability to speak to devices and its capability, in turn, to understand and act upon users’ commands. 

Voice user interface: the next-gen of UX

Augmenting human intelligence is a lot more daunting than it looks. The difficulty of mimicking human cognition with software is showing Artificial Intelligence researchers that there’s more than one way to be “intelligent”. The rise of voice can be mainly credited to the evolution of AI and cloud computing capabilities. With machine learning and natural language processing, technology now has the ability to interpret human speech more accurately and in real-time, while also taking note of individual users’ speech tendencies.

This sans-hands method of interaction is rapidly gaining traction. With an approach that is more convenient and human-like, VUI is becoming the next generation of human-computer interaction. From asking Siri to book your appointment with the doc next Monday to asking Alexa to play your favourite show on Amazon Prime; the act of using voice commands has become increasingly natural for users.

At the Google I/O 2018 event, CEO Sundar Pichai demoed Google Duplex: A.I. Assistant calling a local business to make an appointment. The eerily lifelike phone call triggered a wave of intrigue and laughter in the 7,000-strong audience. 





Designing a Voice User Interface

Accurate natural language processing has until now existed only in the realm of science fiction. Voice represents the new pinnacle of intuitive interfaces that democratize the use of technology. However tech is still in its nascent stages and not the ultimate incarnation of the medium, but yet it’s currently a strong favourite.

For web and application designers, voice interaction, perhaps, is the biggest UX challenge since the dawn of the touchscreen age. Every voice recognition platform has a unique set of technological constraints. It is essential that you embrace these constraints when architecting a voice interaction UX.

The basic voice UX flow

Speech is the next UX the basic UX flow.

UX was always designed to make interactions as similar to the real world as can be and voice has the potential to make that a reality. UX designers must make sure they’re asking the right questions to elicit the appropriate verbal responses from users. Gender, age, inflexion, tone, accent, cadence and pace are all elements that can be used by UX designers seeking to craft a particular customer experience with their brand.

Below is the sample flow demonstrating the process of speech recognition

A more viable approach could be to prioritize and summarize the information based on known user preferences, prior to delivering an answer – in other words, doing what a normal person would naturally do in a conversation

More complex queries, at times, fall further off the cliff. Risking unpleasant interactions is something brands can rarely afford. Keeping this in mind, error messages could be crafted in a way that’s not only less annoying but also gets users back on track while presenting additional options.

Can we expect a ‘humane’ VUI?

In this age of expected instant gratification, it’s hard to imagine an average user patiently listening to their AI assistant as it narrates a laundry list of all continental restaurants one by one. We want our voice interactions to be as immediate as human alternatives.

VUI’s are extremely complex, multifaceted, and often hybrid amalgams of interaction. Voice interaction may not have garnered the same fanfare just yet. However, for the time being, the creation of a multi-model interface can ignite the furnace for an all-voice controlled interface. 

Will VUIs eventually become our primary means of interaction?

Let us know your views by commenting.

Fun fact

Celebrities are likely to find a brand new income stream from licensing not just their voices, but entire personalities as AI assistants. Sounds ridiculous? It does, but you can already pay about $10 to make your TomTom GPS nav unit speak like Snoop Dogg. Go for it!

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Retention playbook for Insurance firms in the backdrop of financial crises

4 minutes read

Belonging to one of the oldest industries in the world, Insurance companies have weathered multiple calamities over the years and have proven themselves to be resilient entities that can truly stand the test of time. Today, however, the industry faces some of its toughest trials yet. Technology has fundamentally changed what it means to be an insurer and the cumulative effects of the pandemic coupled with a weak global economic output have impacted the industry in ways both good and bad.

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Source: Deloitte Services LP Economic Analysis

For instance, the U.S market recorded a sharp dip in GDP in the wake of the pandemic and it was expected that the economy would bounce back bringing with it a resurgent demand for all products (including insurance) across the board. It must be noted that the outlook toward insurance products changed as a result of the pandemic. Life insurance products were no longer an afterthought, although profitability in this segment declined over the years. Property-and-Casualty (P&C) insurance, especially motor insurance, continued to be a strong driver, while health insurance proved to be the fastest-growing segment with robust demand from different geographies

Simultaneously, the insurance industry finds itself on the cusp of an industry-wide shift as technology is starting to play a greater role in core operations. In particular, technologies such as AI, AR, and VR are being deployed extensively to retain customers amidst this technological and economic upheaval.

Double down on digital

For insurance firms, IT budgets were almost exclusively dedicated to maintaining legacy systems, but with the rise of InsurTech, it is imperative that firms start dedicating more of their budgets towards developing advanced capabilities such as predictive analytics, AI-driven offerings, etc. Insurance has long been an industry that makes extensive use of complex statistical and mathematical models to guide pricing and product development strategies. By incorporating the latest technological advances with the rich data they have accumulated over the years, insurance firms are poised to emerge stronger and more competitive than ever.

Using AI to curate a bespoke customer experience

Insurance has always been a low-margin affair and success in the business is primarily a function of selling the right products to the right people and reducing churn as much as possible. This is particularly important as customer retention is normally conceived as an afterthought in most industries, as evidenced in the following chart.

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        Source: econconusltancy.com

AI-powered tools (even with narrow capabilities) can do wonders for the insurance industry at large. When architected in the right manner, they can be used to automate a bulk of the standardized and automated processes that insurance companies have. AI can be used to automate and accelerate claims, assess homeowner policies via drones, and facilitate richer customer experiences through sophisticated chatbots. Such advances have a domino effect of increasing CSAT scores, boosting retention rates, reducing CACs, and ultimately improving profitability by as much as 95%.

Crafting immersive products through AR/VR

Customer retention is largely a function of how good a product is, and how effective it is in solving the customers’ pain points. In the face of increasing commodification, insurance companies that go the extra mile to make the buying process more immersive and engaging can gain a definite edge over competitors.

Globally, companies are flocking to implement AR/VR into their customer engagement strategies as it allows them to better several aspects of the customer journey in one fell swoop. Relationship building, product visualization, and highly personalized products are some of the benefits that AR/VR confers to its wielders.  

By honoring the customer sentiments of today and applying a slick AR/VR-powered veneer over its existing product layer, insurance companies can cater to a younger audience (Gen Z) by educating them about insurance products and tailoring digital delivery experiences. This could pay off in the long run by building a large customer base that could be retained and served for a much longer period.

The way forward

The Insurance industry is undergoing a shift of tectonic proportions as an older generation makes way for a new and younger one that has little to no perceptions about the industry. By investing in next-generation technologies such as AR/VR, firms can build new products to capture this new market and catapult themselves to leadership positions simply by way of keeping up with the times.

We have already seen how AR is a potential game-changer for the insurance industry. It is only a matter of time before it becomes commonplace.

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