Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: siri

Zero UI: What It Is and Why It Matters to Your Credit Union.

Originally published on CUInsight.com

I want you to share a piece of information. Anything. There’s only one catch: You have to do it using only your voice. You’ve just used Zero UI.

Pretty easy, right? Thank millions of years of evolution (and a unique amino acid order in a specific gene) for its silent help.

Now, imagine I placed you in front of a computer and said, “convey information to this system, receive additional information in response, then ask it to perform an action, all while using only your voice.” You’d offer me an exasperated look. Because you’ve done this before. And it’s…not fun. Voice assistants improve every day, yet they’re still a ways off from equaling a simple person-to-person exchange.

Part of that is due to the complexity of computer systems, plus the depth of information they can access, while adding the struggle of context. Asking a coworker about “the game” incorporates prior knowledge of the person, their activities, their preferences, and much more.

Harry Potter Playing Quiddich

You’re thinking it was a professional sports event. Nope. They’re really into Muggle quidditch. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Computers are getting frighteningly good at context (see constant stream of, “I know what you did last summer…and will do for the next 5 summers” demonstrations from large tech firms). Yet the user interaction still leaves much to be desired. As I write this post, I’m typing on a keyboard into a section of screen, surrounded by a lot of tappable (iPad) spots which do everything from change how the text looks to switch to another notebook (I’m in Evernote). At its core, what am I trying to do here? Convey information to you. If we were standing face-to-face, it’d be stupid easy. No “user interfaces” (UI) needed to take in my thoughts, process them, format what’s written, and so much more. I mean, really. Think about all the little steps that have to occur for me to get my thoughts to your brain. It’s not simple at all. That we manage to communicate at all is amazing (though, we seem to be struggling with it lately).

The easiest and most direct way to communicate is with voice. That’s why Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri have enormous potential (I’m not the only one to say this), and are so vocally (see what I did there?) critiqued when they fail. We expect an app to crash. A browser to freeze. Yet when Siri misses one word of our dictated sentence, we’re all, “this tech is such garbage…YOU KNOW NOTHING, JON SNOW!” Because our voice is part of us, and it’s pretty reliable, until you’re in front of an important crowd, then it just shuts off like the computer giving you those low battery warnings. Barring that, our voice accomplishes its task much of the time.

Bringing Everyone To The (Tech) Table

The idea of interacting with tech using only our voice is called Zero UI. And it’s a goal of most tech firms. It’s also really hard, because computers haven’t had millions of years to learn how to do it best. We’re trying to teach them to teach themselves in less than 0.0001% of the time it took us. Imagine the potential, though. It eliminates the need to learn specific steps for any computer-assisted task. You just say it. Think of the person who struggles to find the icon for the web browser. Or looks at modern tech and recoils, dreading the learning curve. Zero UI makes them part of all improvements, and they can reap the benefits as much as a total geek like me.

Zero UI As A Guide

Veggie Burger
Not that burger. (This one’s veggie, anyway)

Think of your entire digital ecosystem. I’m certain it isn’t Zero UI, and that’s ok. The technology isn’t there yet. In the meantime, how can you reduce what a user has to do to accomplish their goal, while minimizing any learning curves? Remember, a learning curve can be as simple as knowing that the icons on the bottom of the phone screen in your app actually represent different sections. Or, that the three lines on the top left mean it’s a “hamburger menu” (which, after becoming the norm, is going away again) with more sections within?

Ask Your Grandmother!

When designing websites, phone systems, mobile platforms, and more, I’ve always deferred to the tried-and-true method: If you showed it to your grandmother, would she have a basic idea of what to do? I’m not suggesting she’ll start using Alexa to pay her bills (though, being a Zero UI solution, she probably would rather that than the app), only, did you design something simple enough to explain simply?

Alexa, help close us out.  Sing a song about paper airplanes. (Seriously, ask her!)

Paper Airplane Held in Hand

New Tech Alert! “Hey Siri, Pay My Electric Bill”

This is a CUbit.  In case you haven’t seen one before, these are my out-of-schedule short posts highlighting breaking news.

Today, Apple released a beta update for iOS (software powering iPhone and iPad).  There were the expected improvements and feature additions (hooray, an easy way to find my AirPods!), but something else snuck in.  Something which can change the entire credit union industry overnight.

Apple added bill pay capabilities to Siri.

Yes, with only your voice, you can pay a bill or check on the status of a payment.  Instead of opening an app, finding Bill Pay, trying to set a new one, finding out you can’t do it on your phone, going to your computer, entering the information…etc., now, just say, “Hey Siri, pay my cell phone bill.”  Or, “Hey Siri, did Dave ever pay me for that dinner?”

This functionality is now in beta as part of SiriKit (the API which powers integrations into Siri services).  If your banking platform service is not diving in to the documentation headfirst, tell them get on it!  And if you manage your own bill payment system, ask your IT to begin looking at what it will take to have your members paying by voice upon its release.

What are you waiting for?  Get to it!

Living In Airplane Mode

“No, it was 1963, I’m sure of it!” “It’s 1964, really.” “Oh just Google it.” “Hmm, it says here 196…WHAT IS THAT?!”

Pointing out the monster on the wing is way better than being proven wrong by the omniscient Google. It wasn’t always this simple to drop a knowledge bomb, though.

How quickly we forget. In 2007, Apple ushered in the modern smartphone era. Before the iPhone, we either had “smart” phones or Blackberry’s. Neither category was particularly good at browsing the Internet. No Siri or Cortana in those days, either. Unless it was essential, you waited to research when back at a computer. But the web still had hold.

Let’s go back even further, before the Internet, like, the 80s. Big hair, boomboxes, leg warmers, neon clothing…got it? If you didn’t know something, you asked another person. Or, crazy as it sounds today, drove to the library. Society operated without all the answers at our fingertips and Def Leppard had no idea how much reverb they used.

Last month, I met a group of friends in Peru to hike the Inca Trail. 5 days, 4 nights of grueling steps, towering mountains, and no wi-fi. We used our phones solely as cameras and flashlights. Roughing it, I know. The separation from our always-on culture began on the flight to Lima. “Please switch all cellular phones to airplane mode.” My phone remained in this state until landing again in Florida. Have you seen roaming charges?

A number of times during our trek, a question was posed. Nothing too substantial, just, “hey, what song has the line?” or “how long is that other trail?” Yet we couldn’t look it up! Being disconnected caught us all off-guard. And it was wonderful.

When instant answers are available, conversations falter. With no reason to think, debate, or discuss, you move on to the next topic. No depth, no connection. Call me old-fashioned, but I enjoy a chat wherein we don’t have every fact at our immediate disposal. Imagine a debate about sports stats…done with a Siri request. Sure, now we all know, but where was the fun, the light-hearted arguments, the silly bets, and the social bonds?

Lifestyle guidance sites sometimes recommend disconnect periods, full separation from technology, to get back with yourself. Whether it’s an hour a day or a week per year, the effect is the same; active thought coupled with in-person communication.

It’s tempting to want every new technology for your members, and I’m not suggesting abandoning any of these efforts. Millennials and other generations alike seek the simplicity of modern conveniences. However, once you have these things, everyone is the same. Whether you’re a $5B national credit union, a $25M community charter, or a bank with America in its name, the experience is similar. If your member turns on Airplane Mode, do you stand out?

Image credit: https://support.apple.com/en-us/ht204234

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