The Conversational User Experience: What It Is, Why It Matters, and What It Means for Business

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Conversational UX Design

Conversational UX design is a perfect mix of linguistics, information architecture, content, and user-centred design. With a conversational AI solution such as a chatbot, the end-user should have a great experience, and achieve his or her desired outcome and the business should meet its aims. However, if the user is unable to complete their goal, not only will they be highly frustrated, but there will be no business impact. This is where conversational UX comes into play with personalisation, privacy, security, accessibility, and inclusion throughout the design.

What is Conversational UX?

Conversational UX is a combination of linguistics, information architecture, content, and user-centred design that creates a great UX for the user and maximises the business impact.

It embraces the reality that there are human beings behind the conversation, it enables a more seamless customer interaction, and it does this without compromising the user’s privacy and security. The field of conversational UX has grown over recent years with the proliferation of chatbots, artificial intelligence, and voice-activated systems. Today’s businesses must not only understand the positives, but they must also understand the potential negatives of this technology, the role that these technologies play in a more connected world, and the publics’ areas of concern.

Why is Conversational UX Important?

The future of technology is extremely personal and consumer-centric. Today, users want an experience more than ever before, and a chatbot or voice skill is the ultimate medium for this intimate and personal experience. In a report from Wired and O’Reilly by Christian Voigt, this is explained well: We live in an era in which our private information is being sold to third parties. Our jobs and personal histories are being recorded by companies. And our online footprint – our search history, our social media posts – is constantly expanding.

What is the Role of Conversational UX in a Business Journey?

The traditional routes to customer acquisition, onboarding and support are still the starting points, but the role of UX is to create an interaction that is comfortable, seamless and emotionally satisfying. UX is the interface between the user and the online content, whether a simple web page or a complex website. UX is how the end-user interacts with the digital content and gets their desired outcome, be it engaging with content, submitting an order or conducting a survey. Creating a beautiful interface is not the key to great UX. By contrast, the user-centred design focuses on the end-user, what their expectations are, how they find content, how it is presented, and how it makes them feel.

Reducing Screentime and the Rise of Voice First

Everyone is monitoring and reducing their screentime which is bad news for marketers running adverts. However, there are over 300 million smart speakers in homes today.

Voice-first, or conversational, is the new user interface, it’s hands-free, most importantly it doesn’t require screen time. It does however require good conversational UX design and an in-depth understanding of the knowledge graph for your customers. Whilst there is room for improvement in multi-modal (phone, screen to smart speaker) it will be useful to understand how to best facilitate a voice-first experience and add device-specific visuals as required.

The key here is engagement. Voice-first assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa Echo, or Google Home Mini are designed to help users do something rather than to entertain them, and they can either help users do things or just help them find information.

Personalised audio, verbal language, and text messaging to users can add to their engagement with voice-first assistants, helping them to complete their task, or help them find the right information as they move along the Knowledge Graph as part of their customer journey.

Multiple Touchpoints for Users on their Journey

The brand/service has a complex user journey for the customer. When dealing with complex UX journeys, user satisfaction and engagement are paramount. This is because while user experience is arguably the most important aspect of UX design, this is also the one aspect that can often be overlooked.

When dealing with consumer experiences, countless touchpoints need to be considered: digital communications, social interactions, physical interactions, etc. With a multitude of user experience touchpoints, a UX designer needs to design an experience that can be familiar for the end-user and that meets their need for product and service, understanding your customer’s journey is key.

Customer Journey & Voice Tech
Customer Journey Voice and Chatbot Touchpoints

Some Critical Conversational UX Design Principles

Conversational UX is complex, and it’s not easily done, so it is important to consider and prioritise the following key design principles:

  • Acceptance is the key to making conversational UX work well for the user.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the end-user for a minute.
  • What would make you happier: having a chatbot robot write what you want, or having to type it yourself, leaving you frustrated and confused as to what you’re doing wrong?
  • Choose one or the other. A sensible compromise will be your ultimate goal.

For further discussion on this, and how to reconcile cognitive dissonance with user experience, read “Designing User Experiences Through Cognitive Dissonance.”)

Constantly ask the question,

“How do I make this experience better for the user?”

What does conversational UX look like in practice?

Many businesses are in the process of launching chatbots, or they are exploring the feasibility of using conversational AI solutions to create great user experiences. At the forefront of this has been Apple’s Siri for iOS devices, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Samsung Bixby, and Microsoft’s Cortana, all designed to help users interact with their digital services in their own unique way.

As these new features continue to roll out and more developers and companies begin to explore the possibilities of how they could be used, conversational user experiences are increasing rapidly.

Conversational UX is poised to become more prevalent over the next few years, and with this rapid evolution of consumer technology, the business that can embrace this future quickly will be the one that prevails.

Conversational UX and Chatbots

For many organisations, conversational AI is now the solution to digital transformation. Chatbots are deployed to handle questions about products, order details, appointment confirmations, and so on.

The conversational experience is better as it ties into users’ real-life habits and the devices they use. As such, in addition to being relevant to the user, the experience must be trustworthy, consistent, and frictionless.

This is how conversational UX provides value. How chatbots integrate into UX, well each client is different. But there are several ways in which we can utilise conversational technology to improve the user experience and operational efficiency in our businesses.

Conversational UX and Voice Skills

Chitika launched a new service, which it calls “Conversational Skill,” that makes it easy for businesses to integrate their own voice skills into their mobile apps.

What’s interesting is that this opens the door for custom voice experiences. We could soon see Amazon, Google and Apple start providing “skills” that make ordering a pizza, managing your finances or buying tickets to a sporting event, much like a chatbot, which would be available on the customer’s phone.

Businesses want to understand how to integrate their voice skills into the products they are selling. Amazon and Google have been working with device manufacturers to such an extent there are now over 16,000 Brands using Alexa and 1 Billion Google Assistant-powered devices.

Alexa Powered Devices

What Does All of This Mean?

Chatbots have become extremely useful, and are becoming even more accessible and adaptable to the users, which is fantastic. In the next few years, we can expect to see more work in the field of conversational UX.

Since conversational UX is technology-oriented, it will take a while to develop, and many things will change in this regard in the coming years.

However, I believe that every business should begin to consider how the user experience is influenced by the combination of these technologies.

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