Speak your mind

September 18, 2015

Why voice input will improve the survey experience

 

I presented a paper on how I see the wearables category developing at the MRMW conference this week. It was a great conference with some brilliant speakers discussing mobile research techniques.

 

One of the best papers was from Frank Kelly, the SVP of Global Marketing and Strategy at Lightspeed GMI, on the subject of ‘the expansion and uses of voice technology in research’.

 

The basic premise of the paper was that in a world where research participants increasingly answer surveys on their mobile phone it makes sense to encourage voice response to be used.

 

Why use voice for surveys?

 

This made a lot of sense to me from a qualitative perspective. People write 20% less in open ended questions on a mobile than desktop because it’s fiddly. Using voice to answer survey questions is likely to result in more insightful quotes that are more ‘human’, right?

 

Additionally, 80% of surveys are carried out in the home. So we have a situation where the majority of people are answering surveys conveniently on their phone whilst they are relaxing on the sofa, cooking, eating dinner etc… a perfect setting to use voice response.

 

By coincidence, on the way to the conference I had received an SMS survey from Vodafone. My phone bluetoothed the messages to my smartwatch so I could see them, but I answered most through the mobile as they were rating scales.

 

However, for the only qualitative question in the survey I answered by voice through the smartwatch. My smartwatch uses the Android Wear OS and if you are responding to messages and emails through it that’s the only way to input text. Google’s voice to text engine is fantastic and in no time I had spoken a long paragraph explaining my score to a previous question.

 

Will voice catch on?

 

Frank left us with the thought that “In the future, research surveys will become a conversation again, but it’ll be humans conversing with machines”.

 

I don’t like the concept of that at all, but it didn’t feel like I was doing that. After I had finished the survey Vodafone thanked me and asked if someone could call me to discuss the answers I gave – from that perspective I got the impression that Vodafone had taken things on board. The human touch was present for me.

 

I can see how voice will inevitably start to complement typed input in the years to come. My children only ever use voice search these days (one of them can’t spell yet so he has no choice!) and whilst I still habitually type to search and message I can see how voice will inevitably become a more ‘normal’ way to interact with technology.

 

For research, I personally think inviting people to respond to survey questions using voice will make the experience more human. Encouraging people to talk about their responses will help them to express themselves, and in turn create a more positive research experience. 

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