Quickbooks is making its best voice assistant
AI assistants are getting smarter, and more customers are getting connected, so it’s time to start looking at how to evolve your marketing. Catch up with execs from Intuit, Kayak, LogMeIn and more to learn how to start leveraging voice and bots for amaze-and-delight experiences and hear important conversational use cases in this recent VB Live event.
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“How do we design great conversations with machines?” asks Bharath Kadaba, chief innovation officer at Intuit.
Conversational interfaces have come a long way since the old days in the late 70s when everything was in black and white, and computer interfaces were equally primitive, offering only the one-dimensional command line interface. The two-dimensional interface, or the graphical user interface (GUI), was a revolution that lasted 30 years and has given UX design professionals fits the whole time.
And now we have what Kadaba calls the zero-dimensional interface, with design problems all of its own. He’s especially interested in the problem as it intersects with text-based chatbots and GUIs to create the most immersive, customer-centric experiences possible.
He offers the example of Quickbooks Assistant, the accounting software’s digital assistant that offers both voice and chatbot interfaces. The assistant was launched in 2017 at the November Quickbooks Connect conference, and to date, it has answered about 1.5 million questions.
“You could simply ask a question like, how much money did I make in November?” Kadaba explains. When you ask that question, the system responds instantly by saying, hey, the revenue that you had in November was X dollars. Your products were A dollars. At the end, the AI-powered assistant suggests further questions to ask as follow-ups, which promotes continued interaction.
For Kadaba, voice interface innovation is organic, transformational, and core to the Quickbooks product, he says. Since its introduction, the company has continued to add more and more capability, so that it gets smarter and smarter — a user can ask a question like, who owes me money, sending the assistant into all of the current unpaid invoices and returning names and cash amounts, and it’s one of the biggest requests customers make, he says.
Customers can also go beyond queries about their financial situation or how much money they made to ask questions they would normally have to contact a customer call center for, such as instructions on using Quickbooks features.
There’s a very long tail of questions a user can ask, but the company is focused on designing the interface to blend responses in ways that it makes the most sense for the customer, such as returning an answer in the form of a pie chart or turning up a financial report when a voice-only answer just won’t do.
“With this voice interface, we are constantly learning,” Kadaba says. “We know which questions we could answer quickly and easily and which questions we struggle with. Then we can tabulate all the questions we couldn’t answer, the top questions that customers are asking, and we know the next things we need to answer to satisfy most of our customers. That gives us a good idea of what we’re doing.”
It’ll take a while to actually cover all of the use cases that customers want, Kadaba admits, but early adopters are patient, and continue to help drive the evolution of the product to a place where the more cautious users feel they’re ready to jump into the voice assistant waters.
The product innovation team is looking even further into the future as they keep developing the Quickbooks assistant, he says, asking questions like, how do we bring emotion to conversations?
“We believe that financial experiences are very emotional experiences,” he explains. “How do you build the assistant to be more empathetic to your financial situation, whether it’s good news or bad news, and how do you convey that with a likeable conversation?”
Any company diving into the voice interface waters must particularly work closely with its customers, Kadaba says, focusing on the functionality that they’re looking for — which means it’ll take continual experimentation.
“It’s not a one-shot deal,” he says. “Conversational interfaces are with us, and they’re going to evolve and get better and better over the next five to eight years. You have to have the right people on your team. You have to continuously improve and innovate. If you have expertise in a particular domain, figure out how to build the knowledge of that expertise and build that into the conversational interfaces.”
To learn more about how to integrate voice into customer experiences, best practices in voice interface design, and hear about best-in-class case studies, catch up now on this VB Live event.