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user experience & design

How to leverage conversational UI to improve your law firm’s user experience

Gibson Toombs
March 1st, 2021
10 MINUTE READ

Experts predict that by the year 2025, 75% of US households will have at least one smart speaker. Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Echo, and other voice assistant products are changing the way people interact with organizations and vice versa. 

In response to the rise of voice assistants, chatbots, and other UX technologies, trends in consumer behaviors and expectations have evolved. Now, when people engage with websites or applications to buy products, learn new information, book trips, schedule appointments, and so on, they anticipate a conversational user experience, backed by natural language-based technology. And as more people adopt the use of voice assistants to complete everyday tasks over the coming years, this trend will only magnify. 

In comparison to industries like retail, transportation, and education, the legal space has been slow to embrace the power of a conversational interface. Many law firm websites are powered by legacy technology that doesn’t support a seamless and engaging user flow. Rather, traditional law firm websites are often stale, unoptimized, and difficult to navigate. AI-driven voice assistants and bots present a perfect opportunity for modern firms seeking new and innovative ways to interact with potential and current clients, as well as enhance their overall digital presence.

By adopting a conversational UX for your law firm’s website, you can improve user engagement, simplify tasks, attract and retain more clients, and ultimately increase revenue. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of conversational UX and voice user interfaces, as well as how to implement them into law firm websites and applications. So if you’re interested in learning more about voice technology and how it can help modernize your law firm, keep reading!

What is conversational UI?

Conversational UI, as the name suggests, mimics a human conversation. In other words, rather than manually navigating through a website or application, the user can simply communicate their needs to a robot—powered by artificial intelligence (AI). 

Whether the user is verbally interacting with a voice-enabled application like Siri or chatting with a bot on a text-based messaging platform, the goal is to make the interaction as natural as possible. In a law firm’s case (no pun intended), these interactions hopefully end with: 

  • Client transactions
  • Lead qualification and generation
  • Creation of legal documents, reports, and briefs
  • Scheduled consultations and appointments
  • Users receiving helpful answers to basic legal questions

The rise of chatbots

The conversational UX discussion cannot be had without mentioning chatbots. These are the dialogue boxes—usually located in the bottom right corner of a website—that pop up with a welcoming message like “How can we help you today?” 

There are three different types of chatbots:

  • AI-drive bots: These bots use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to interpret and respond to requests that users type into a platform. 
  • Rule-based bots: Unlike AI-driven bots, rule-based bots can only provide fixed responses to certain predetermined requests. 
  • Choose-your-adventure bots: Offering a gamified version of conversational UI, these bots provide users with a number of suggested responses to queries. For example, the bot might say “What brings you to our website today?” and then provide several responses for the user to choose, like “I have a legal question,” or “Need to book an appointment with an attorney.” 

The use of text-based chatbots has become increasingly popular over the past few years. In fact, 40% of millennials engage with chatbots on a daily basis. The success of this AI tool has led many businesses, including law firms, to implement it into their website to boost engagement and drive revenue. 

Adding a chat feature to your law firm’s website is a big step forward in developing a conversational interface, but with most organizations already following the trend, chatbots can hardly be described as innovative. In order to maintain a competitive edge and fully optimize your site’s conversational UX, consider investing in a voice user interface (VUI).

How does a voice user interface (VUI) work?

A VUI is a technology that enables spoken human interaction with computers. Behind every voice command product, like Google Home and Alexa, there is a VUI. Here are some examples of common devices that are built with this technology:

  • Smartphones
  • Smartwatches
  • Smart TVs
  • Desktop computers
  • Laptops
  • Sound systems
  • IoT devices like thermostats, lights, and locks

To create a complete experience for the user, a graphical user interface (GUI) is used to display visuals for the VUI on the user’s device. For example, when Siri responds to a request, her voice is complemented by animated sound waves on the user’s iPhone screen. 

Now, let’s get into the specific AI mechanics that go into creating a VUI:

Automatic speech recognition (ASR)

This technology is used to analyze human speech and translate it into text. When a VUI receives audio input, the ASR software identifies and filters out any background noises that aren’t human speech. Then, it creates a digital file of the words for the system to interpret and respond to. 

Name entity recognition (NER)

NER is used to classify words as underlying entities in order to better understand requests. For example, if a user says, “Find personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles,” the words “Los” and “Angeles” will be treated as a single entity, because the NER is pre-trained to understand that it’s a location. This can be applied to any subject, like specific people, movies, books, scientific terms, etc.

Speech synthesis 

Also referred to as “text-to-speech” output, speech synthesis is the process of an artificially produced voice speaking to a user via their device’s speakers. Through machine learning, speech synthesis is constantly improving the VUI’s cadence, intonation, and pitch to more closely imitate human speech. 

When a VUI receives a request from a user, the response should be fast and helpful. If your law firm’s website has a poor VUI design, you won’t achieve the return on investment (ROI) you were hoping for, since many users will either not use the feature or bounce from the site out of frustration. When configuring a website to handle spoken requests, these are the four main elements designers focus on:

  • Intent: What task does the user need to complete?
  • Utterance: What words does the user need to speak to trigger the task?
  • Prompt: How will the voice assistant reply to the user’s request?
  • Slot: What information is required for the application to start and finish the task?

Benefits of conversational UI 

By implementing chatbots and voice assistants, lawyers can get more value out of their websites. Not only do these tools generate leads and drive revenue, but they also make life easier for clients, attorneys, and other law firm employees and associates. Here are some specific benefits of a solid conversational UI:

Streamlined user flow

With so many different law firms to choose from, one way to stand out among the competition is by having a fast and easy-to-use website. Chatbots and voice assistants help users get what they need with little friction. In comparison to clicking around looking for certain information or filling out a contact form and waiting for someone to respond, typing or speaking request directly into an interface takes very little time out of the client’s day. 

24/7 access

Another great thing about chatbots and voice assistants is that they never go to sleep, take coffee breaks, or go on vacation. As long as your website is functioning properly, someone—or rather, something—will be there to assist your clients. This is especially important in a world where if a prospect submits a request and doesn’t receive a response in just five minutes, they are 10 times more likely to drop off. 

Task automation

Certain duties—particularly involving sales and customer service—can be automated via conversational UI tools, allowing you and your employees to focus on more salient objectives. If a prospective client engages with a chatbot, the bot can gather important lead information for the sales team, such as name, company name, email address, phone number, and so on. Also, if a client types or speaks a basic, frequently-asked question, a trained bot or voice assistant can respond quickly with the answer. 

Greater accessibility

Voice assistants have been revolutionary for the blind and visually impaired. With a voice-enabled website, you can service clients that aren’t able to interact with standard visual interfaces.  

How to implement conversational UI and VUI design into your legal software

Conversational UI implementation is not something that happens over a few short days. The planning and execution of a voice-enabled website require significant time, effort, and resources. And like the vast majority of lawyers, you probably don’t have the technical expertise to lead the project. So when you’re ready to leverage chatbots and VUI for your firm’s site, hire a team of experienced web developers and designers to help guide you through the process. 

In the meantime, here are the basic steps for implementing a conversational UI design into your legal software:

Step 1: Research user behavior

Like any user interface, the focus of a conversational UI design should be to understand the target user’s behavior. What are their pain points? What features and content do they interact with the most? At which point in the process do they usually bounce from the site? Knowing what makes your clients happy—as well as what makes them tick—will put you on the right path when implementing text- and voice-based communication tools.  

Step 2: Define capabilities

Next, identify the various interaction scenarios your website will encounter, and rank order them by importance. For instance, let’s say a large percentage of your site’s visitors regularly request legal consultations, while only a small percentage inquire about billing. In this case, you’d want to ensure that your chatbot and voice application are heavily optimized for consultation scheduling. Compartmentalizing your site’s primary, secondary, and tertiary voice capabilities will result in a more efficient UI design and implementation process. 

Step 3: Create a prototype

Now it’s time to start mapping out the user experience flow. You can do this by drawing storyboards and writing sample dialogues, addressing any and all tasks that may be requested, and determining how to work through each scenario in as few steps as possible. Creating prototype dialogue flows is also a good opportunity to define your brand’s tone of voice. In other words, do you want your firm to come off as serious, funny, casual, enthusiastic, or neutral? 

Step 4: Perform tests

Testing is a crucial part of the design process. It will show you which aspects of the chatbot and VUI are beneficial to users and which parts need improvement, as well as any scenarios that you may have overlooked. Organizations often conduct usability testing sessions, where a select group of target users is monitored as they interact with the UI, while designers keep track of user satisfaction and task completion rate. 

Step 5: Assess and refine

Once your chatbot and voice assistant is up and running, there is still work to be done. It’s imperative for designers and developers to resume collecting user data and feedback so they can continue optimizing your site’s conversational UI flow. 

Wrapping up

As more and more people hop on the voice assistant trend, the expectation for organizations to offer conversational user experiences is becoming universal. By relying on an outdated website design and ignoring the benefits of chatbots and VUI, your law firm will miss opportunities to expand its client base and boost revenue. So get the most out of your firm’s digital presence by leveraging conversational UI. 

Here at Codal, we specialize in designing and developing digital transformations for law firms. With over a decade of experience planning and executing digital strategies backed by extensive research and data, we’re confident in our ability to create a solid UX that leverages state-of-the-art voice and chatbot applications. Through streamlined user navigation flows, task automation, and higher accessibility, our conversational UI design will help you get more value out of your law firm’s website. 

Ready to get started? Reach out to Codal today!

Gibson Toombs
AUTHOR

Gibson Toombs

Gibson Toombs is a Technical Content Writer at Codal. His writing career began in 2015 after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Since then, he has worked on many projects, covering a wide range of technical topics, from solar energy to cybersecurity. When he’s not taking complex ideas and turning them into easily-digestible pieces of content, Gibson can be found playing guitar and writing songs at his apartment in Chicago.

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