SpeechTEK 2017 Writeup
Spring 2017 brought another successful SpeechTEK back to Washington DC, although we were (yet again) too late to see the famous cherry blossoms. (Hint hint: Make next year’s conference a bit earlier!).
But, beautiful blossoms aside, if you couldn’t attend, there were a few highlights worth sharing.
Chatbots and Conversational Interfaces continue to be hot topics. The plethora of chatbot tools and platforms means that this technology has been put into the hands of a lot of people. Has this resulted in a lot of poor chatbot experiences? Possibly so. However, is this a real problem, or are the useless and poorly designed ones simply going to die out?
I conducted a “flash poll” at my Sunrise Session “Chatbots vs. Voicebots.” I asked participants “How many of you have done a proof of concept or a prototype with a chatbot?” Virtually the whole room raised their hands. Next question: “How many of you have done a production deployment with a chatbot?” Crickets. But, is this a side effect of the SpeechTEK attendee audience? Or a harbinger of the (not-so) wider adoption of bots?
As the maxim says, “Those who are ignorant of the past are doomed to repeat it.” Several speakers addressed the need to evangelize good user interface design in the brave new world of Alexa Skills, Google Actions, and chatbots. The question we should be asking ourselves (the SpeechTEK audience) is: Are designers and developers of these new bot-based CUIs ignoring the lessons of the past because they’re not aware of them?
Digital Transformation was another popular buzzword. As with most popular buzzwords, it seemed a bit vaguely defined. One speaker used the term to mean their enterprise’s adoption of a “Visual-IVR” type of project. Another speaker used it to refer to their adoption of algorithms to add meaning to their website’s search results. Vague as it may be, it’s a sound concept: The term “Digital Transformation” reflects the growing enterprise awareness of the need to connect systems in order to truly have end-to-end data about the customer experience, as well as the technical architecture to truly provide a seamless, interconnected Omnichannel experience.
Data versus Stories: Monday’s keynote speaker, Gerry McGovern spoke on “Speeding To Success.” As you might have guessed, he was all about responding quickly to your data. “Good experience keeps changing over time.”And how does it keep changing? By and large, it’s getting quicker and more effortless. That means your focus needs to be on saving time for the customer, not for the organization.
He encouraged enterprises to stop measuring production of information, as that encourages excess. Organizations should instead start measuring consumption of your information. “Nobody is reading your PDF:” 1/3 of PDFs put out by organizations are never downloaded. Never.
On the other hand, Peter Leppik of VocalLabs took a bit of a contrasting view on Tuesday during his talk “Drowning in Data” by asking the question, “Are enterprises getting lost in statistics and detail?”
Consider Company A: they regularly summarize their customer satisfaction and NPS metrics and pass them up the food chain. Yet, quarter after quarter, their numbers fail to improve. Contrast that with Company B, who regularly surface their raw customer comment data to upper management — and consistently see their metrics improve. Individual stories have power. It may seem counterintuitive, but his message was: to improve your metrics, don’t focus so much on them, focus on what’s going on with each individual story.
At Versay, we recommend both approaches or a combination, depending on the questions our clients are trying to answer and the circumstances impacting a particular issue.
Each of these topics, while distinctly different, share the commonality of putting the customer experience first. Whether you’re building your chatbot or voicebot or trying to tie together or grow your digital offerings both are focused on how quickly you impact customer satisfaction when utilizing data.
Finally, we had a great AVIxD general meeting on Monday morning. There was a lively discussion of possible ideas and projects for AVIxD, with lots of contributions from Jim Larson. There were also several shoutouts to AVIxD throughout the conference sessions. If you’d like to get involved in any capacity (articles, help with publicity, wiki, Brown Bags etc.) just send a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you in the loop!