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  5. Shift Gears: From Graphical to Voice Interfaces [Conversation Design 101 Series]

In just two years, between 2018 and 2020, the percentage of US-based customers who used voice assistants for shopping almost doubled. Voice is taking the world of customer experience by storm. Data from 2019 show that nearly everybody was convinced that in 2024 they’ll be able to rely on voice for most of their shopping activities. Two years later, in 2021, it’s estimated that 23,5 million Americans bought something with the use of a smart speaker. Apparently, a shift from graphical to voice user interfaces (VUI) is very much anticipated by the users.

And what’s a better way to provide the best user experience than to give users exactly what they want? From this article, you’ll learn how VUI can boost the customer experience and possibly attract new ones.

Digital Transformation Is Here

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, new technologies are penetrating every area of our daily lives. Processes that started years ago as modest attempts to digitalize some aspects of mundane routines are about to reach maturity.

This phenomenon is called Digital Transformation. Unlike what one might think, it is not about incorporating technology into every possible activity. Quite on the contrary, Digital Transformation strives to put the customer in the center of the organization and build all the processes around user experience and satisfaction. Technologies are only treated as a help to achieve this ambitious goal; it’s a human that matters.

Having said that, it’s important to stress that joining the group of companies open to this transformation does not have to entail the revolution. Even minor corrections to the ways things are done can yield spectacular results leaving the company more open to taking further steps along this road.

The trend that’s dominating in recent years is the growing adoption of AI, especially when it comes to delivering exceptional customer experience. After all, we all love to be appreciated. Vendors, that seem to know exactly what we want, isn’t that a dream?

AI as a Foundation

As we mentioned in the intro to this series, Artificial Intelligence does not belong to the future anymore. It’s being widely adopted across many industries. Algorithms help discover patterns in users’ behavior. Those findings are later used to refine interfaces to achieve ultimate customer satisfaction.

But the above is not the only use case for AI. Voice assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Amazon Echo all use conversational AI to understand the users, predict their questions, and serve them with accurate answers.

Chatbots embedded on the website can provide assistance 24/7. They never get tired or annoyed. And due to AI, they grow to be more and more human.

Still, chatbots rely on text. In recent years we witnessed the growing popularity of a more advanced solution – voice bots. They reduce the waiting time and are increasingly helpful for managing simple, repeatable actions like hotel booking, restaurant reservations, or the first line of IT support.

But that’s the theory. Practically speaking, one of our clients reported that implementing our voice bot for customer support led to a 30% increase in orders without the need for new hires. Another client trusted our bot to be the first contact when scheduling a hairdresser appointment. They can now have their service available 24/7 that perfectly fits the busy schedule of their target audience.

AI in the Customer-Centered Design

Digital Transformation has put the customer or the user in the center of any business. But what do customers want? What makes a great user experience?

Modern psychology is trying to find answers to those questions by examining the factors that impact the way people interact with brands and services. Those studies are based on huge amounts of data gathered from real interactions.

AI is used as a tool in this research, but it also benefits from it. Artificial intelligence-based algorithms help to parse the data and look for patterns. The findings are then used to enhance customer service.

UX designers are people responsible for making practical use of those findings, thus bridging the gap between science and business. It’s their job to put users at the center of the organization’s operations, focusing on delivering the best experience. They are essential in every project. Yet with the prevalence of GUIs, not all of them realize the potential of adding voice-based solutions to their portfolio. Looking at the data we quoted at the beginning; it’s going to change fast very soon.

Creating Coherent Customer Experience

One of the fundamentals of a good user experience is coherence. It is strongly connected to the fact that nowadays, users interact with brands using different mediums. Moreover, those “multichannel” customers tend to spend significantly more when they decide to make a purchase. But first, they need to arrive at this decision.

Back in 2012, Google research showed that 90% of Americans switched screens during the day. The growing number of mobile devices likely made this number go up. What does it mean for customer experience?

It means that your user is very likely to come across your brand via multiple different channels. It’s crucial that all their impressions match the image of the brand you want to create. There is even a special kind of software called Digital Experience Platform which job is to ensure the coherence of communication across multiple mediums.

Still, even within DXPs, voice user interfaces seem to be underrepresented. But with the development of NLP and voice recognition, this is bound to change.

Voice Technologies as a User-Friendly Innovation

The PWC report on the adoption of voice-based technologies reveals interesting demographical data. Unlike other new technologies, voice assistants are most used by people between 25-49 years old. Usually, people in this age group are less likely to adopt new solutions than those from the younger generation.

Why is it different in this case? Our intuition would be that as the voice is the most natural way of communication, they find VUI a perfect fit for their busy schedule leaving their hands free to tend to other duties.

In the study conducted by Google, one of the baby boomers referred to his voice-activated speaker as an “e-lative” that stood for an electronic relative. Clearly, devices with voice users interfaces are seen by users as more human. Thus, they are more naturally incorporated into daily routines, even in the age groups that typically are not very open to innovation.

Although the same study shows that voice assistants are mainly used for simple tasks like searching for basic information, checking the weather, or ordering takeout, the sheer convenience of voice-based solutions should convince customers to use them for more complex tasks as well. Organizations that see this opportunity will surely benefit from being pioneers in the field.

Voice as a Means of Attracting New Customers

Adding voice interfaces to the organization’s communication channels can not only position it as an innovator. What cannot be left out from this discussion is that the use of VUIs increases accessibility. It opens the company for the new customer groups:

  • The elderly who are accustomed to getting things done in person. With VUI, digital services can feel much more natural to them.
  • People with impaired vision. They now need to rely on screen readers. VUIs are a massive improvement for them.
  • People who need their hands and eyes free for a different reason. We can observe this phenomenon with the growing popularity of podcasts and audiobooks.

Moreover, users that are using VUIs now are likely to continue doing so in the future. This means that with years there will be a growing group of older users accustomed to the comfort of voice-operated devices as well as new younger users attracted to it by its convenience.

Parents, Children, and Voice User Interfaces

There is one more significant user group that sees VUIs as lifesavers. It’s parents. It’s common knowledge that they are multitasking ninjas juggling endless duties. It’s no wonder they appreciate any help. It turns out studies confirm this intuition.

According to Google, parents tend to use their voice assistant significantly more often than non-parents. They are also much more willing to purchase items with the voice-operated device (76% of parents do so).

The same report states that parents tend to put their speakers in the living room and treat it as a resource for the entire family. They find it much more beneficial for their children to talk to the device than to operate it using the screen.

Hence, there is the entire new generation growing up that will treat VUIs as a most natural thing.

Conversation Designers as Experience Architects

Obviously, the same as with GUIs, in order to attract users, VUIs need to be well-designed. People who make sure interactions with voice bots are smooth and pleasant are called Conversation Designers. They could as well be called voice experience architects. Their job is to ensure that the voice bots have the right personality matching organization’s voice and tone. And that they are able to respond to issues bugging users.

A good Conversation Designer guarantees that having a chat with a voice bot is a smooth and informative experience. The change cannot be about simply implementing ANY VUI. In a world that’s vastly dominated by GUIs, it’s vital that voice user interfaces are intuitive and pleasant. The introduction of a faulty one can scare the customers away in no time.

Assuming that convenience is what people are after, modern voice user interfaces have to match the known and loved GUIs with the extra layer of personal engagement and human-like interaction.

This goal can only be achieved with the help of the experienced and skilled Conversation Designer who knows how to match botsanality with users’ expectations.


We live in an era of graphical user interfaces. However, with the development of technology and the adoption of conversational AI, it’s very likely that we’re going to observe the shift towards voice-operated devices in the near future. People who will be responsible for shaping the user experience after this shift are called Conversation Designers. You can learn more about their importance from our next piece.

Find out more about conversational AI