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  5. Conversation Designer Wanted, Alive Preferred [Conversation Design 101 Series]

Conversation Designer, VUI Designer, Voice Designer – the position we’re going to talk about goes under many names. The best sign it’s been around for a relatively short time. However, as the popularity of voice user interfaces grows, so will the demand for conversation designers.

The first part of our Conversation Designer 101 series was devoted to the growing recognition of the importance of voice in brand communication. In this one, we’re going to discover more details about VUIs and the people designing them.

The Prominence of e-Commerce

Even before the 2020 pandemic, the e-Commerce share of the market was steadily growing. The unprecedented events of lockdown and following restrictions have only fueled up the phenomenon that was already gaining prominence.

All forecasts agree that this trend is not going to disappear. People who were forced to try shopping online in 2020 appreciated the convenience. They will probably come back to their favorite brick and mortar stores, but will no longer treat them as the only option.

Mobile Shopping

Global E-commerce growth is accompanied by an interesting sub-phenomenon: shopping with the use of mobile devices. The figures here are even more impressive. Mobile sales grow roughly by 25% year to year. It’s definitely something to have in mind.

Why do people turn to their mobile devices for shopping? 76% of customers claim it saves time.

Looking at e-Commerce from this angle, it’s pretty intuitive that offering an even more convenient way of shopping should enable organizations to have a bigger slice of this growing cake.

The Preference for Self Service

The term self-service from this headline can be interpreted in two ways. And, actually, both of them are connected with the e-Commerce trend we’ve discussed in the previous paragraph.

In the primary, common sense understanding, it refers to the very essence of the e-Commerce experience: making independent shopping decisions without the need for interaction with another person. This can be viewed as an ultimate manifestation of self-reliance as the judgment is not interrupted by anyone’s opinion.

However, there is also a second interpretation of this term that’s less straightforward. In this case, “self-service” references the ability of the customer to solve any arising issue without having to contact the support. It commonly refers to manuals, FAQs, and sometimes even accurate product descriptions. Generally, the more customers can learn by themselves, the more self-service friendly the page is.

Research shows that self-service in e-Commerce may be a critical success factor. More and more customers prefer to solve problems without talking to another human. Interestingly enough, they don’t mind interacting with a voice bot.

Voice Bot as an Ultimate Self Service Solution

Customers are convinced that self-service is the fastest and most efficient way of finding a solution to their issue. They don’t feel like explaining it to another person or, what’s even worse, waiting for the answer. They want their problems solved as fast as possible or, in a more professional manner, they appreciate first-contact resolution.

What does it mean for companies? It’s simple. You need a well-written FAQ section. You may include a chatbot for additional assistance. And last but not least, you can implement a voice bot. In fact, if you know that your customers need to contact you for repetitive tasks (say, making reservations, booking hotels, getting information about delivery status, etc.), implementing a voice bot lets you kill two birds with one stone. It provides immediate assistance to your users, and it’s incredibly cost-effective compared to a traditional call center.

However, bear in mind that it’s not about having ANY voice bot. An unresponsive machine voice is likely to scare your customers away. What you need is a well-designed and implemented helpful voice bot with a personality matching your brand.

From General Message to Personal Communication

If there is one trend in customer experience that’s more important than the self-service preference – it’s personalization. Customers no longer see it as something extra; they treat it as an inherent part of shopping on the internet. Surely, no one demands the website copy or ads to be heavily personalized. In fact, such ads could be even seen as intrusive and somewhat scary. The conversation is a completely different story, though.

There is a vast difference between the broadcast to the general audience (often despised, especially among Gen Z) and a conversation. A conversation is an intimate act. Even if it’s just an interaction between a salesperson and a client, it’s still private. Voice user interfaces have to recreate this impression.

Brand communication and advertising might be spotless, but if the final interaction lacks the spark, it’s all for nothing. The brand image is damaged for good.

Who is responsible for avoiding such pitfalls? Conversation designers. They make sure voice bots have the same personality as the brands they represent. Conversation designers handle the switch from broadcasting to a general audience to a more intimate experience of a conversation.

Conversation Designer – The Brand Ambassador

Given the above, conversation designers can be viewed as brand ambassadors. They are UX designers and salespeople trainers combined. They are behind the voice of the brand—both literally and figuratively.

Conversation designers sculpt the experience users have when having direct and intimate contact with the brand. They need to understand customers’ needs and problems and be able to design a conversation that resonates with them. With the surge in e-commerce and digital transformation in place, voice bots (and chatbots) are no longer merely a replacement for support assistants outside of office hours. They are a full-fledged communication channel and a vital part of a brand’s experience.
Their performance is not only judged by their usefulness but also on their personality and the overall impression they make on the user. No wonder more and more companies are seeing the need for hiring a professional conversation designer.

Natural as a Language

In the era of brand personalities, conversation with a voice bot must feel like a conversation with the brand’s persona. Alignment to the users’ expectations is vital. And in a natural and spontaneous act like a conversation, glitches are much more evident and disturbing than in a traditional graphical user interface (GUI).

It takes an excellent specialist to translate algorithms into a real conversation. A good conversation designer must possess a unique blend of qualifications that are rare on the market. With the growing demand and the challenging nature of this job, it’s very likely that conversation designers are going to be very sought on the market.

Unique Blend of Technical and not Technical

Although we devoted the final piece of our Conversation Designer 101 Series to the description of the nature of the conversation designer work, we think it’s a good place to highlight the skill set needed for this position.

Conversation designer is an interesting case of a job that works at the intersection of technical and non-technical. Usually, we think of those two fields as opposites, but with technology penetrating our daily lives, it’s changing as we speak.

Conversation designers work with:

  • the technical team responsible for AI training and bot implementation
  • marketing team responsible for user personas and brand’s voice and tone
  • their own talent to write conversations that sound natural and at the same time respond to the user’s needs.

This means they need to get along with technical people, understand marketing, and preferably have some linguistic background to gracefully handle conversations.

Simpler Solutions Are Needed

The profession of a conversation designer is in the process of being recognized by the general public. The shift towards voice interfaces and the growing market for voice-operated devices only speeds up this process. Yet, the demand for conversation designers will probably for some time exceed the number of trained specialists.

Another issue is that most organizations can benefit from implementing voice-based solutions, but not all of them need to hire a conversation designer of their own.

Having the above in mind, the market needs solutions that will allow companies of any size to implement voice-based solutions without the need for a significant investment. Out-of-the-box easily configurable and manageable voice AI software is bound to take the market by storm, allowing smaller entities to participate in the shift towards voice customer service.

Summary

It’s evident that the market for voice-based solutions is growing. With the 2020 pandemic, the boom of e-commerce, and the preference for self-service – voice bots are the first candidates to bridge the gap between face-to-face contact and the modern personalized customer experience. Larger companies need to hire conversation designers to translate their brand personality to the bot experience. Other players require simpler solutions that will allow them to participate in the anticipated shift towards voice-based solutions.

In the last part of our Conversation Designer 101 series, we will discuss both of those approaches. We will talk about the work of conversation designers, but we will also touch upon the services we offer and the ways we create them to best match our client’s clients’ needs.


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