Vox Populi

From the minute I got my first iProduct I completely embraced my relationship with Siri. No artifice or obfuscation, and no hidden agenda behind the question. I’d ask and she’d answer with a variety of helpful tips and information. She has a sense of humor and I’d spend a few minutes here or there on the latest “Ask Siri.” With each inquiry and data point she came to know me more and more until now it seems she anticipates me.  (she does.)

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A couple times a year I‘m privileged to house sit for friends with several big dogs, a heated pool and a completely automated house. I adore dogs, I love to swim and now I’m a convert to talking to appliances.  The minute I code myself into the house, it’s “Alexa, turn on the lights.” “Alexa, turn down the air conditioning.” and, of course, “Alexa, play me some funk music.”

There are a proliferation of voice interface tools, from Amazon’s Echo, Apple Home, Google Home, the Pod, the Max, and they grow increasingly sophisticated and more intrinsically integrated into our lives each day. As the technology continues to evolve and the apps and functionality become the norm in our lives, the standouts in the field will be those who not only engineer the product, but those who craft the voice and message these interfaces deliver.

At the very core of a voice interface are excellent communications skills.  The ability to actively listen, without judgement or anticipating a response. The qualities of friendliness and rapport, where empathy and understanding are projected as well as confidence in the response.  To be clear, specific and concise, meaning no words or phrases open to ambiguity and interpretation. To restate and confirm, making sure, when all is said and done, we’re on the same page.

Because an integral component of good communications skills are the non-verbals signals we send and these clues aren’t currently available in most  VI models (but certainly on their way) specificity and clarity are all the more important. Even then, intricacies of tone and subtleties of language still may be subject to misinterpretation. So, as with any productive and positive conversation, design to avoid defensiveness and judgement and allow for constant course corrections, i.e. reprompts, to get back on track.

But, bottom line, the brand who’ll distinguish themselves in voice (or virtual) interface will be, as is in life, the one who engages and delights us with their style, personality and approach. The one that speaks directly to “me.” Not only in responding to my questions, helping me discover the world, getting me up in the morning, playing that funky music, planning my meals and however I choose to automate and manage my life. By being the friend and companion I’m ultimately comfortable with, trust, and can't imagine living my life without. And that's a Bold! statement.