Yesterday I noticed that my
five year old daughter was speaking with someone on the second floor of my
house. I found this strange, because the rest of the family was on the first
floor in the dining room, and to my knowledge, we didn’t have any visitors. Was
my daughter on the phone? I decided to investigate, walked to her bedroom and
noticed she was speaking to… Siri! She was having a conversation, which she was
enjoying so much that she told her daddy to leave her alone. Feeling somewhat upset
by the fact my daughter would prefer to speak to her phone than her father, I
thought about how far the virtual assistant has come. With personal assistants
like Siri, S-Voice and Dragon Mobile Assistant, it’s easy to envision a world
where people engage with technology and applications by default through voice.
Star Trek portrayed this vision in a very sci-fi manner, but Hollywood has
caught up to the fact that we’re already engaging in conversations with
technology - though we’re not yet traveling throughout the galaxy in spaceships
(turns out space travel is more challenging than speech technology, who knew?).
The movie “Her,” due
out this Fall...
takes the concept of the virtual assistant beyond the boundaries
of what is possible today, and probably beyond what most people would consider
as a healthy relationship with technology. However, it does highlight that people
are conversing with virtual assistants today. We know this to be true with our
Nina Mobile technology, which powers applications from some of today’s largest
brands, including Geico (and their mobile app’s assistant Lily), and USAA. But
we wanted to better understand what people think
about these conversational interactions, so we commissioned a survey. The study was
conducted in the United States with over 1000 participants – all SmartPhone
users who were at least 18 years old.
While reviewing the survey results, the first key finding
that hit me is that 83% of those surveyed agree with my daughter – they prefer
a two-way, conversational interaction
with their virtual assistant over one-way communication. In other words, people
want their virtual assistant to talk back to them. What’s more, 89% of people would
like their virtual assistant to be proactive with information of interest and
deliver reminders, meaning that people want their virtual assistant to engage
in conversations proactively, without being solicited to do so!
If you think this is crazy, and have uttered at least once
the following words: “Who would want to speak with their phone?!?” you are
probably not in my daughter’s age group. Another key finding of the survey is
that there is a direct correlation between age and virtual assistant usage. See
the table below for the results to the question “Do you use a virtual assistant
such as Siri or S-Voice on your SmartPhone”:
I suspect that if we had expanded this survey to the teenage
group, we’d see an even higher usage of virtual assistants than the young adult
18-24 group. However, it would be a mistake to position virtual assistants as
technology geared for a younger generation – the fact that almost a third of
those in the 55-65 age group use virtual assistants is a clear indication that the
technology is delivering value across generations.
Usage on its own is only one piece of the puzzle; the other
question that we were curious about is how frequently do people use virtual
assistants? I was pleasantly surprised to discover that 98% of those that use a
virtual assistant, use it on a regular basis, be it on a monthly, weekly or
daily basis. Periodic use is the most powerful indicator of value – you don’t
do something on a regular basis unless it’s of use to you.
You may be asking by now if we asked to what degree people
like their virtual assistant experience. Well we did, and the results are quite
encouraging – 99.8% had a positive experience. The bulk of respondents, 55%,
responded that the experience was “good,” which indicates that there is still a
lot of work to be done to deliver a “fantastic” experience to everyone.
Nevertheless, the data is clear, people do like their virtual assistants!
Another set of data points that I think are of interest, are
what tasks people believe are more easily performed using a virtual assistant
than via a traditional interface. What surprised me is that ordering a pizza
was selected by the most respondents, following by searching for a product.
This is a clear indication to me that the virtual assistant technology needs to
be deployed at the application level,
to enable users to order a pizza or shop for their next pair of shoes, which is
very encouraging news for Nuance’s virtual assistant for the enterprise, Nina
Mobile. Nina allows enterprises to add virtual assistant capabilities to their
apps. For more info, please visit the Nina page.
Finally, and perhaps most compelling, we found that a
majority of people – 86% to be exact – already use a mobile app to engage with
a company or service provider. And here is the piece that really jumped out at
me – 90% of people said that a positive
experience with a company’s mobile app makes them more likely to continue doing
business with that company. What a huge opportunity for companies to really
differentiate in a stiff competition for brand allegiance. If companies can
start to introduce these more engaging, conversational personal assistants into
their apps, they stand to lead when it comes to customer experience innovation.
What do you think of your personal assistant? Have you had a
great experience with a company’s personal assistant? Let us know in the comments below.
08-19-2013 3:51 PM
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