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

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

One thought on “Voice: The New/Old Human Interface”

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

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