What Every CIO Needs To Know About Trends In User Experience Design

Ivo van Barneveld

Part 4 in the “UX Design for CIOs” series

If designed well, conversational user interfaces offer many benefits to end users. Language is the most natural interface humans understand. Therefore, talking to a machine rather than entering specific commands facilitates a more natural user experience. It will take a user less effort to get familiar with an application as there is no need to get used to screens, navigation hierarchies, input fields, and buttons. Thanks to machine learning, applications will learn how to adapt to humans, rather than humans needing to adapt to applications.

Conversational user interfaces also save time. First, users do not need to download an application or navigate to a website to communicate with a company. Second, they can start a conversation right from a messaging app (like WhatsApp, WeChat) or digital assistant (like Siri, Alexa) – interfaces they know and understand. Third, being able to talk rather than type frees up your hands so you can multitask. And fourth, chatbots offer a 24/7 service availability – so users can engage with companies also after office hours.

Another benefit for users is the personal touch that conversational UIs can offer. Two-way communication gives a feeling of personal attention, even if the “person” at the other end is a machine. Natural language processing and machine learning keeps improving. Digital assistants get better and better at understanding the user’s intent and context. They can remember the user’s preferences and previous interactions like purchases, complaints and requests. This information is used to generate tailor-made answers and to make proactive suggestions. And the more digital assistants are able to understand humans, the more users will trust them – or even bond with them!

Big benefits for companies

By introducing chatbots on popular messaging services like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger, companies can tap into an audience of billions of users immediately. Rather than spending effort promoting the use of an application or Web site, companies can easily reach their customers through existing messaging channels. For example, when KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced to be first airline with a verified business account on WhatsApp, the CEO stated his motivation very clearly: “We want to be where our customers are and, given the 1 billion users, you have to be on WhatsApp.”

Another benefit of deploying chatbots and digital assistants lies within efficiency and cost. While it might take a couple of days or weeks to train a new employee, chatbots can be trained in hours – and they improve over time as they are fed with real-life input and feedback, thanks to artificial intelligence. Moreover, intelligent assistants can take over routine or low-level tasks so employees can focus on exceptions or high-level tasks – thus adding more value to the company.

And finally, conversational applications can be rolled out at scale, while still offering a personal, 1-to-1 experience to customers. An artificial intelligence system can talk to (nearly) an infinite number of users simultaneously, and learn what they want. On one hand, this will allow companies to strengthen their brand widely and consistently. On the other hand, this will lead to higher customer satisfaction and more business transactions.

In my next and last blog in this series, I’ll look at how to design a conversational user interface.

Find out more

If you’d like to learn more about conversational UIs and chatbots in general, I recommend subscribing to Chatbots Magazine on Medium. If you’d like to know more about SAP’s digital assistant, you can follow the blog posts about SAP CoPilot on Experience.sap.com. You can also follow me on Twitter and reach out to me if you’re interested in co-innovating with us, or joining our next planned customer engagement initiative.


Ivo van Barneveld

About Ivo van Barneveld

Ivo van Barneveld is a passionate evangelist of innovations in user experience, mobile, and Internet of Things. His work focuses on the intersection of technology and business. He is currently a member of the UX Customer Office team in SAP Global Design, with the remit to drive adoption of SAP’s award-winning user experience, SAP Fiori. Previously, he worked at SAP as a lead consultant, supporting customers with planning and executing digital transformation strategies. Prior to joining SAP in 2012, he held several business development, account manager, and partner manager roles at Nokia and Layar, among others. Ivo holds a Master’s degree in Applied Physics from the Delft University of Technology, and is based in the Netherlands.