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Product Development

Voice-Enabled Devices: Speaking Up About the Industry’s 3 Biggest Challenges

August 6, 2018

Chances are good that you don’t need a statistic proving how immensely popular voice-enabled devices are. Here’s one anyway: experts predict that the voice recognition market will be worth $18.3 billion by 2023. As with other connected devices, the audience for smart speakers, digital assistants, and other voice-enabled gadgets has grown exponentially in a short time, gaining traction beyond the tech enthusiasts of yesterday. Your parents, in-laws, teenagers, coworkers, and neighbors are also likely to own voice-activated products now or in the near future.

But this relatively new technology is still learning how to walk, even while it’s running full steam ahead. Smart product producers grapple tirelessly with their voice-enabled connected products to ensure they’re meeting the high standards of performance, interoperability, and usability set by their increasingly broad – and increasingly demanding – customer base.

In working with some of the biggest players in the IoT industry, we’ve helped many quality, support, and product teams identify and overcome issues specific to connected products. Here are the three biggest challenges today’s voice-enabled devices are facing.

1. Difficult-to-Prioritize Features in Voice-Enabled Devices

The larger and more diverse your target market is, the more difficult it becomes to predict how each market segment will interact with your product. Voice-enabled devices are incredibly sophisticated pieces of technology – Amazon Echo supports over 30,000 features – but the features your customers are going to use, and how they’ll use them, can vary dramatically by demographic and situation.

Without meaningful feedback to inform your product roadmap and effective processes to help your teams prioritize feature development, product teams risk missing the mark on critical components of their customers’ experience, which leads to bad reviews and returns.

2. Increasingly Complex User Environments

The challenge facing all product teams is in creating machines that not only perform flawlessly but can also thrive in the unpredictable, exponentially varied technical ecosystems of their users. Producing a device that plays nicely with countless other connected devices might be getting harder, but your customers still expect the same seamless user experience they get from their toothbrush.

This is especially true for products created to enhance convenience – like voice-enabled technology – so it’s not surprising that software defects, network drop-offs, and other stability or interoperability issues are oftentimes deal-breakers. Nearly one in four users end up returning connected products. As endless variations of ecosystems grow alongside the expanding market, troubleshooting requires more and more use cases – and more effective methods for ensuring smart devices can consistently meet quality and performance expectations in the wild.

3. Unpredictable User Interactions

Even when your product functions well, problems with installation, setup, or voice recognition can have a powerful effect on customer satisfaction. According to a recent survey conducted by management service provider iQor, more than one in three adults in the U.S. have trouble operating a connected device. Seventeen percent of users reported their voice-controlled products are too complicated in a report by Accenture. Between the different levels of technical experience, various accents, age groups, and applications for your product, failure to incorporate real-world usability data earlier in the development process means development costs and support workloads will continue to pile up.

Why Lean on Real User Input?

Leveraging feedback from real user interactions alleviates this unpredictability with meaningful data that enables you to make truly informed decisions. By scaling your test efforts with targeted users, you’ll have more eyes on product performance, and opportunities to capture usability data from nuanced ecosystems that are difficult to replicate in a lab. Using customer feedback to inform your product roadmap early in development gives line-of-sight into the use cases you’ll need to focus on. And as more data comes in, you’ll get a headstart on identifying technical or user experience issues that would burden QA, dev, and support teams after launch.

Using Customer Validation to put your product in the hands of real users and collecting meaningful feedback about their in-the-wild interactions over time enhances quality efforts with a deeper, more nuanced perspective on performance and reliability. Best of all, these insights are easier to access than you think. Emboldening employees to generate feedback, for example, is a practical solution for scaling your testing efforts with resources already at your disposal.

Learn practical, easy-to-implement techniques to consistently harness key product insights from employee testing by watching this webinar on 5 Ways Employee Testing Improves Success for Connected Products!

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