Infusing personality into your voice user interface
Nov 17, 2021
7 MIN READ

The Art of Infusing Personality Into Your Voice User Interface

We rely on speech to evaluate people on a multitude of levels — from honesty and trustworthiness to overall intelligence and education status. As such, it is essential that companies keep this in mind when designing their voice user interfaces. Users will naturally anthropomorphize, or assign human characteristics or behavior, to your voice assistant, so it’s best to put in the time and effort to craft a personality that resonates with your brand and users’ expectations. 

From the very beginning, it’s important to consider the personality of a voice user interface and design well-written voice assistant responses that include small talk, empathy, and a level of emotional intelligence that allows them to be relatable. Creating a persona that meets your audience’s needs and doesn’t sound robotic while also properly representing the brand is one of the biggest challenges voice AI designers face. Conversely, delivering unique voice experiences is one of the most important elements for differentiating your voice assistant from a growing population of voice interfaces across industries.

Various aspects of personality—such as functional intelligence, emotional intelligence, sincerity, creativity, and sociability—are all elements to consider carefully when determining what to incorporate into your voice assistant. A voice assistant that is very intelligent but not sincere could come off as too robotic and dissuade users. Whereas, a voice assistant that is too social might not be appropriate for certain settings. 

Determining the appropriate personality for your voice assistant can begin with your own internal branding, mission, and corporate values, but designing a voice experience that will delight your users requires really understanding your audience and fine-tuning your voice assistant through user testing at every stage of development.

Here are some important aspects to consider when designing your voice assistant’s personality:

  • Branding
  • Dialog
  • Intelligence
  • Empathy

Choose the right voice AI personality to represent your brand

When deciding how you want your voice assistant to properly represent your brand, a possible starting point is with your mission statement. By carefully identifying the values you wish to express, you can incorporate those values into your voice assistant’s personality. 

By carefully identifying the values you wish to express, you can incorporate those values into your voice assistant’s personality. 

Once deployed, a voice assistant equipped with the right tone, personality, and carefully crafted responses becomes the voice of the company or even its model employee. Thinking of how you would want an employee to interact with your customers is a good place to start when designing its personality. Before you begin, ask yourself these questions:

  • How should that employee sound? 
  • How do they carry themselves? 
  • How do they interact with others professionally? 

Once you’ve answered these questions, you may be wondering about the specific aspects that contribute to a voice assistant’s personality. Brands will want to choose the appropriate gender, voice, and tone for their voice user interface. Based on their brand’s values and users’ needs, a male, female, or non-binary voice could be appropriate. When choosing a gender, it’s important to ensure that no inherent biases make their way into the decision-making process. 

It’s essential to get the sound and tone of voice right from the early stages. This is where extensive user testing and research are essential. Whether your customers prefer higher pitches, lower pitches, a deeper, or a softer voice, your users will make many judgments on how much they like and relate to your voice assistant based on the sound of the voice. 

Write dialog with small talk and humor

At the very core of a voice user interface design is the way your voice assistant speaks and responds to the user. Before deciding on a dialog or level of humor, consider the voice assistant’s industry, audience, and device.

A voice assistant designed for the healthcare industry will have a much different personality than one for a children’s toy. A music streaming app might include more casual language, while smart home technology can potentially sound more matter-of-fact.

Before deciding on a dialog or level of humor, consider the voice assistant’s industry, audience, and device.

Small talk and humor are wonderful ways to create a deeper bond with your users, but only if it’s in appropriate situations. Voice assistants that are designed for healthcare, manufacturing, bankingtransportation, employment, or education might not want to have as much small talk and humor. It could distract the users from achieving their goals. However, industries like entertainment can find great opportunities to delight their users with jokes and conversational dialog. 

Even with more serious audiences, brands could find opportunities to incorporate dialog that is conversational and empathetic. Doing so will create a connection, form lasting impressions, and make the user more forgiving if the voice assistant has any errors or doesn’t understand them. 

Hearing additional words, such as “Thanks,” “Got it,” You’re all set,” or “No problem,” can add an additional layer of humanity and naturalness to the voice assistant. The user might even start considering the voice interface to be more like a friend. 

Adapt to the user with human-like intelligence and context

While it’s important for a voice assistant to be approachable from the very beginning of its onboarding process, avoiding repetition is just as important. Providing your voice assistant with the ability to anticipate moments and keep a conversation going during the interaction flow will create a better user experience. Adding variety to its language and making it context-aware through Natural Language Understanding is also essential in order to constantly adapt to the user’s requests.

Adding variety to a voice AI’s language and making it context-aware is essential in order to constantly adapt to the user’s requests.

Voice assistants can also be programmed to anticipate users’ needs and provide helpful suggestions or information based on user history, relevance, and context. For instance, if the user asks for the weather or news nearly every day, have your voice assistant suggest those domains more frequently when prompted. Through this design, you can establish a proper relationship between your interface and the user. The voice assistant understands what the user wants and is able to adapt to those desires, creating a shared hub of memory and conversations.

However, it’s vital to note that while intelligence is important, focusing on the user and considering the appropriate level of intelligence will lead to better voice interface design and ultimately, better user experiences and long-term engagement.

For instance, some users may not be comfortable interacting with an AI that is smarter than they are, while others might be impressed by the speed and accuracy of calculations. Once again, user testing and research are the keys to understanding the appropriate level of apparent intelligence to give your voice assistant. 

Build empathy between your voice assistant and customers

As we are all aware, when creating friendships or simply interacting with the other people in our lives, empathy and kindness are essential to civility and getting along. If you want your customers to create an attachment to your voice assistant and to enjoy their interactions, consider the importance of empathy and tone. 

A general tone of positivity and affirmation goes a long way in keeping users engaged. If your customers have developed a positive bond with your voice assistant, they are more likely to be patient and forgiving if it makes a mistake.

A general tone of positivity and affirmation goes a long way in keeping users engaged even when the voice assistant makes a mistake.

For instance, if your voice assistant is unable to fulfill a user’s request, taking full ownership for the lack of understanding and then following up with corrective suggestions will demonstrate the ability to learn over time and build confidence and trust with the user—encouraging additional interactions and queries.

In the future, it’s possible that voice AI technology could evolve to detect emotion in users’ tones and respond accordingly. Currently, voice assistants can be designed to respond to specific words, such as “shut up” or inappropriate suggestions. Being able to detect emotions like frustration or anger could be especially helpful in customer service applications, such as call centershospitality, or QSRs. Corrective measures could be taken to please the customer if the voice assistant can detect when they’re unhappy or frustrated.

Don’t underestimate the value of a carefully crafted personality for your voice assistant. Reaching a natural point of interaction is what pushes increased use, purchases, and engagement. As the world moves toward more voice-enabled devices, it’s imperative for brands to have a voice-first strategy. 

Read our in-depth best practice guide for more expert advice on creating truly engaging and helpful voice user interactions.

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore our independent voice AI platform at Houndify.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

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