Make your voice assistant discoverable
Dec 09, 2019

Make Your Voice Assistant Discoverable and Increase Adoption

This is the second in a series of blog articles designed to make adopting a voice AI strategy less daunting than planning a mission to Mars. Our first blog, “The Mission to Find Your Brand’s Voice,” discussed the critical nature of getting a voice user interface (VUI) on your product roadmap. Now, let’s talk about how to make the launch of your voice project successful.

How will you guarantee that your customers will find and adopt your voice assistant once you’ve integrated voice into your product, device, or app? The answer is simply, education, continuous improvement and visibility. In addition to normal marketing efforts, your voice-first strategy will require a plan to increase initial user adoption and encourage future engagement.

Initially, the limits of speech recognition technology forced people to talk to their voice-enabled devices in robotic, truncated phrases and add words like “comma” into their speech to make sure that texts were delivered in an understandable way. Even as voice assistants equipped with advanced Natural Language Understanding have entered the market in products like in Mercedes-Benz’s A-Class cars, people still approach their voice assistants as machines with limited capacity.

In addition, well-meaning developers and brands hoping to offer every function via voice in their products or devices have over-loaded the menu options to a point that users cannot successfully navigate through the choices easily — negating the goal of greater convenience through a voice user interface. The challenge of making sure your voice assistant is discoverable begins by making sure it is easily accessible, self-explanatory, and known by your audience.

“Many voice experiences fail at the first hurdle because they fail the ‘long menu’ problem. Remember that users have chosen voice to get to the point, not be dragged through menus, drop downs, and filters of a website.” – James Poulter, CEO, Vixen Labs

Before you launch your voice assistant, follow these guidelines to ensure your customers are aware of the existence of your voice assistant and know what to ask, how to speak, and what to do next.

Here are five key elements to making your voice assistant discoverable and engaging:

1. Voice onboarding and walkthroughs

When you first bring your voice assistant to market, your customers may not know where to start. Getting them engaged immediately by providing some means of an onboarding walkthrough will raise awareness and introduce your users to the voice interface. In addition, providing an introduction to the voice assistant increases the likelihood your users will be more comfortable interacting via voice.

When designing for user education, be sure to keep in mind the context of your consumer’s most likely use cases. For example, if your customer will be sitting in a car, you won’t want to display frequent pop-ups on the screen that risk causing a distraction.

Conversely, if your app is voice-enabled, send reminders and tooltips that can be either read and explored — or ignored. A tooltip allows you to educate your users and point out new functions or queries they have not yet explored. Curious users may choose to delve in, while the uninterested can easily dismiss them or carry on with their normal routines. Consider including further calls-to-action within a tooltip, like a “Learn more” link which could then open a walkthrough or tutorial.

If your product or device is driven solely through a voice interface, it will be important to provide vocal prompts and helpful hints at every instance where a user is not getting the full benefit of the device.

When developing user education and onboarding, make sure you carefully balance the user’s need to understand the device with their wishes for uninterrupted service.

Implementing an assistant with advanced natural language understanding (NLU) capabilities will greatly assist your user adoption and engagement as they learn to have normal conversations with your product, device, or app.

2. Helpful prompts for voice assistants

Ever felt unsure about how to start a conversation or break the ice? That same hesitancy happens when people first interact with a voice interface. Even when they have initiated the conversation using your wake word or wake phrase, they are often caught off-guard and can feel like they are being put on the spot. In fact, many first-time experiences begin with silence.

Get the conversation with your users started on the right foot by initiating the exchange after first contact has been made. A simple prompt, such as “How can I help you?” or “I’m listening” will tell the user that they can begin speaking. Continue to provide prompts that encourage timid users and inspire them to start speaking.

If a user still isn’t fully-engaging with the product, device, or app, give some specific examples of things to say or ask. Begin with simple, generic examples that could apply to a wide range of users. For instance is your voice assistant is embedded in a car, example queries could start with something like, “You can say things like, roll down the windows or navigate to work.

If possible, repeat previous search terms from the user’s history to create a quicker and more personal connection. For example, if the user has searched for weather information, you might use this as an example. Avoid confusing your customer with multiple examples. Instead, offer one example at a time.

Avoid confusing your customer with multiple examples. Instead, offer one example at a time.

Additionally, if a user still hasn’t said anything, and a silent query is run, you can transition to a series of educational prompts — either visually or spoken depending on the context — with more instructions or other examples of things they can do.

Providing a more detailed educational moment allows your consumer to take a break from attempting to use the product and take a few moments to become more familiar with the capabilities of the voice assistant. Remember to provide a call-to-action, such as “Are you ready?” or “Let’s get started” to re-engage reticent users to quickly get back to interacting with your voice assistant.

3. Ongoing education to inspire engagement

According to a recent study by PwC, “Consumers are hesitant to try advanced capabilities with voice assistants. A primary reason is an overall lack of trust in their devices to accurately understand and complete the most basic of tasks.”

“If my voice assistant says: “I don’t know the answer to that” for every other question I ask, how can I expect it to help me plan and book my vacation, which is costing me a lot of money.” — Respondent in PwC study: Prepare for the voice revolution

Powering your voice user interface with the fastest, most accurate, and most reliable voice AI technology is the first step to solving the problem of lost engagement. The second is to use your customer data to improve your voice assistant through regularly-timed iterations. The third step is to frequently engage and re-engage your users through opportunities for continuing education.

Powering your voice user interface with the fastest, most accurate, and most reliable voice AI technology is the first step to solving the problem of lost engagement.

User education can happen as your customers are engaging with the product — providing examples as they move through their queries. Help users take their voice interactions to the next level with follow-up tips after a request has been made — providing relevant and in-the-moment information that will help them be even more successful in future interactions.

Most users of voice assistants are attempting to complete a task or get a specific piece of information that will help move them along to the next step in whatever they are engaged in at the moment. When you can, educate users on additional use cases for voice interactions within the context of when and how they are using the product, device, or app.

When possible, design user education to be personalized and based on how the consumer is currently using the product. Encourage ongoing user engagement by providing gentle guidance that helps your customers complete the next, most logical step in their individual journeys with your voice assistant.

4. Get marketing involved

Your customers won’t interact with something they don’t know exists. Whether a voice interface is a new feature of an existing product, or a new hardware and software solution, you need to get the word out.

Marketing your voice-enabled solution shouldn’t exist as a separate entity outside your legacy marketing efforts. In fact, a key element to a successful introduction of voice involves a synchronized effort between existing marketing tactics and the push to get the word out about your voice offering.

In 2019, Mercedes-Benz created excitement and anticipation for their voice assistant and their wake phrase, “Hey, Mercedes,” in multiple ads including this Super Bowl ad.

While not all brands are able to go to these lengths to promote a voice assistant, you’ll want to be sure to capitalize on your investment in voice and drive prospects to your product through marketing.

Get your marketing teams involved in the early stages of developing a voice assistant. They will be instrumental in helping to determine how the voice interface can help represent the brand and contribute to user brand awareness. In addition, they can be both internal and external champions of your voice strategy.

Without the expertise, guidance, and support of the marketing team, your product may remain in the shadows — failing to deliver on its promise of greater market share and delightful user experiences.

5. Be personal, relevant, and branded

As humans, we naturally create relationships through conversations with others. As voice AI becomes part of the user experience in a variety of ways, people will begin establishing opinions of that virtual assistant. In fact, it’s already beginning. According to research conducted by Google, 41% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say that using it feels like talking to a friend.

Creating a personalized experience ensures that relationships extend to positive brand associations. Begin with a customized, branded wake word to form a bond between users and your product, device, or app. Including the functions and domains most closely associated with the context in which your customer will be using your products ensures relevancy and helpfulness.

Perhaps the most important aspect of using a customized voice AI platform is the ability to maintain your customer connections and control their data. Forming a relationship with your customers requires understanding their preferences and the types of queries they’re using with your product.

Deploying a voice assistant in your product or device, without the ability to own and control your data, is akin to launching a rocket without a guidance system.

Data retention gives you a window into the success of your voice assistant, the frequency of certain queries, and the times when your users are becoming frustrated. The adage “Knowledge is power,” is true for brands that own their voice-enabled device or app’s user data. Your customers will appreciate the continued iterations of your voice assistant that make their experiences better over time, solving for the challenges they encounter, and answering the questions and providing the functions most important to them.

If embarking on a voice-first strategy feels as daunting as planning a mission to Mars, we’ve written a flight plan to help you overcome the biggest hurdles in implementing voice AI into your products, devices, and apps. Read in-depth advice from the 15+ experts and early adopters in our guide: Overcoming the Top 3 Challenges of Voice AI Adoption.

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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