Dr. Jennifer Teves, Senti AI Ask the Expert May 2021

Companies fail to future-proof when excluding older adults in product design — CX expert

Companies that fail to consider and understand the needs of older adults amid their digital transformation journey may end up struggling in future-proofing their products and services, according to Dr. Jennifer Teves, a customer experience and product experience research expert.

Dr. Teves, a research and design leader for an American consumer electronics retailer, said in an interview with local AI (artificial intelligence) company Senti AI that companies often fail to see older adults as a viable target market when designing products or upgrading their technology.

“One of the things that companies have to realize is that whatever difficulties that the current group of older adults is facing are all going to be difficulties that every one of us would be facing down the road,” Dr. Teves said. “That’s because we are all going to get older and we are all going to experience a number of changes in the way we function and navigate our world as we age.”

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Dr. Teves also serves as a part-time faculty for user experience design at Kent State University’s School of Information. She holds a doctoral degree in Human Factors Psychology from Wichita State University and is into research on building inclusive and accessible technologies.

Senti AI CX Expert series

In the first leg of Senti AI’s Ask the CX Expert series, Dr. Teves highlighted the importance of developing and designing products that can accommodate the needs of older adults.

“If we’re not solving for the needs of older adults right now or if we’re not solving existing issues of our products and technologies, we’re not doing ourselves a favor,” Dr. Teves said. “Failing to look at the needs of older adults and individuals with disabilities is failing to future-proof the products or services that the company is designing.”

Private and public institutions all over the world sped up their digital transformation in the past year as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic which forced most of the working population to work from home. Consumers also turned to e-commerce sites and relied on messaging platforms or apps to conduct transactions that would have usually been done in brick and mortar stores.

In the Philippines, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank) noted an increased use of electronic fund transfer services InstaPay and PesoNET in 2020 as the government pushed for technological reforms which included digitizing the disbursement of pension and cash aid.

Digital environments

However, failing to properly design the digital environments to be accessible, intuitive, and usable may discourage older adults from engaging with online platforms — ultimately costing businesses potential customers.

Dr. Teves said that a good number of older adults in the population are made up of retired professionals who are more likely to have disposable income than the younger population.

“These are lolos (grandfather) and lolas (grandmother), the titos (uncle) and titas (aunt) who have money to spare and they might be going online shopping to send presents to members of their family. That’s part of your market. You would want them to be able to use your products and experiences,” Dr. Teves said. “When they do, they are not excluded in the world that we are creating. Simply put, when they are able to navigate in this digital age we allow them to participate actively and in the world of e-commerce, which could mean allowing them to shop and purchase online with ease.”

AI-enabled voice assistants

Aside from ensuring intuitive user experience in the digital environments that organizations are creating, Dr. Teves said that opting for AI solutions such as voice bots that can make transactions easier for older adults and people with disabilities is another route companies can consider.

“[I]f the voice interaction would be a less rigid set of commands for it to be able to recognize what the older adults are saying, then it would allow older adults to do their tasks using advanced technology more efficiently,” Dr. Teves said. “For example, a household that has voice-enabled devices conveniently allows its residents to interact with the digital world using an additional modality — voice interaction.”

“The residents, older adults, and individuals with disabilities included would have an option to use speech to issue commands and accomplish their tasks, which could include browsing the web or online shopping,” Dr. Teves said.

Including voice assistants as an added option for customer service is another way businesses can better cater to older adults who may prefer to conduct their transactions through phone calls or other forms of verbal communication.

As most business transactions continue to stay virtual, contact centers in the Philippines are also opting for voice AI to quickly resolve repetitive and low-level queries.

A local bank opted to integrate voice AI in their contact center as a response to soaring call volumes months into the general community quarantine. In partnership with Senti AI, the bank’s voice bot can understand Filipino and Taglish (Tagalog and English) through Voix, a contact center AI solution, made by the Filipino for the Filipino. Backed by nearly three decades of academic research and deep industry experience, Voix’s human-like conversational AI helps organizations deliver outstanding customer experiences and operational efficiency while reducing cost.