Voice: The New/Old Human Interface

It started with punch cards, evolved to a cryptic language with phrases such as “c: DIR and CLS,” moved on to point and click, and then reached touch and pinch.

Moving mouses, typing on keyboards, pushing buttons, and touching screens has helped technology become significantly more accessible. But those approaches are still not the ultimate human interface.

While these newer interfaces have much lower learning curves, they still require learning new things. Not only do people need to understand physical interfaces, but they also need to understand logical ones. If you want to watch the TV show “Blue Bloods,” then you need to figure out both the channel and the time that it’s on.

So what’s next?

One of our 2016 CX trends is “Speech Analytics Piloting.” The technology for recognizing, understanding, and responding to human speech has evolved to the point where it can be more practically deployed. In our trends, we identified that analyzing phone calls from customers can uncover amazing insights. But the power of speech goes well beyond just listening and analyzing.

The advancement of speech technology allows companies to tap into an interface that we do naturally, speak. Anytime we force someone to take what they’re thinking and translate it into a set of physical maneuvers, we are introducing a cognitive burden. We significantly lower the burden when we ask people to do what they already know how to do.

We just installed Comcast’s Xfinity X1 Voice Remote in our home. One of the key elements is the ability to speak your commands. So if I want to watch Blue Bloods, for instance, I don’t need to know anything. All I have to say is “I want to watch Blue Bloods.” Here’s what comes up:


There was no need for me to search through TV listings or type in a bunch of commands.

While I regularly hammer Comcast for its consistently abysmal customer experience, it has done a really nice job with this interface. Here are a few key elements that make this design work:

  • It’s accessible from anywhere in the system
  • It doesn’t require users to learn a special language
  • The landing pages anticipate customers’ next steps (we call this “Customer Journey Designing” in our 2016 CX trends)

This is not just a new Comcast feature, it’s a sign of much more to come in the future. The power of speech as an interface will propel it into many new areas.

The bottom line: Voice will become an increasingly important technology interface

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

One Response to Voice: The New/Old Human Interface

  1. mcgntr says:

    This is really very interesting development. Think of what if means for people with disabilities. The application should have far reaching effects. Thanks Ann

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: