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3 Human-Centric Business Communication Solutions

by Margaret Joy

Business communications should use tech that centers on people rather than making people change to accommodate tech. Here are 3 ways to make that work.

At its core, human-centered design (HCD) is about creating useful solutions rather than designing for design’s sake. It’s all well and good for higher-ups to spout innovation buzzwords like “ideate” and “prototype” with the end game of producing something that will sell or pique VC interest. But these ideas are often just shiny toys, not anything that fills the end user’s needs. 

HCD is often written off in the innovation world precisely because it doesn’t focus on tomorrow’s latest tech. Instead, it works with human capabilities to solve real-world problems that exist today. Business communications are full of solvable problems. Here are a few solutions to make your workplace communications more human friendly. 

1. Mimic In-Person Meetings With Video Call Tricks

We need to face the bitter truth: Video conferencing is weird. Everyone’s looking at the faces on their screen even though the camera is above. When we meet in person, we aren’t all staring at each other’s stomachs. Now there’s some fancy new AI from Nvidia designed specifically to address this weirdness and make video calls smoother, which is fantastic! It can align faces to appear as though they’re always looking at the camera. To reduce bandwidth, it tracks key facial points to transmit rather than the whole camera view. Compressed video means less noise and higher resolution where it matters, and a smoother meeting experience for all. Nvidia’s tech is a great example of software designed for humans rather than for the sake of design. 

For those of you who think artificial intelligence mimicking eye contact will just deteriorate video conference etiquette and lead us straight to a WALL-E style human doom, we’ve got you covered too. Many video conference platforms, like Hoot, let you move that little box with your face around the screen. Move it to the top center so that no matter your vanity level, your eyes stay closer to that little green dot streaming than to everyone else. 

Looking at the lens is weird when the other person’s face is on your screen. Shift your screen so that you can see both, making the whole experience feel more natural.

If your platform doesn’t let you move your face box, there’s still an easy fix. Don’t have your video conference window full size on your screen. Instead, shrink it enough that you can still see everyone, and move the window to the top center of your screen. Same effect! Instead of staring at the bottom left corner because it’s natural to look at the speaker, the same person’s face is closer to your webcam, giving the impression of eye contact and focus. Don’t forget to hide the bookmarks bar!

2. Choose Software That Enhances Your Communication

First and foremost, don’t overlook accessibility when communication styles change. Everyone shifted so quickly to virtual meetings that it makes us wonder how many of us overlooked necessary accessibility changes, too. You may have had regular practices to accommodate various colleagues’ needs when you met in the office, but what about virtually? 

This is one instance in which advanced technology, even in beta, leans into HCD. Yes, augmented reality (AR) in communications tech is widely discussed, but it’s still little more than a playground for tech startups. Artificial intelligence (AI), on the other hand, is steaming full speed ahead for video conference features. Would it be cool to have 3D-rendered graphs in your video conference so that every attendee could interact with the data under discussion? No doubt. Would we realistically prefer accessibility tools in the here and now? Absolutely. 

Language Technology

AI and machine learning (ML) work in tandem when designed for virtual accessibility. Speech to text software is sophisticated enough to recognize individual voices. With machine learning, the technology becomes more accurate over time.Google uses AI to fill in dropped audio packets during calls (and securely!)—gaps that would otherwise degrade call quality. 

Both of these use natural language processing (NLP), which rely on AI in tandem with machine learning. Essentially, the software learns to discern dialects and individual style nuance. So if you happen to have a team member who talks too quickly, the tech can learn her speech style and accurately translate the voice to text for searchable meeting minutes later on.

Deloitte diagram showing the key capabilities of NLP.
Natural language processing (NLP) is at the heart of voice to text software. Via Deloitte.

Facial Recognition Software

Tools like facial recognition or Cisco’s Cognitive Collaboration add insight and context to virtual meetings. Imagine opening up your video conference and having an Iron Man view of everyone in attendance: details of who they are in the company beyond just a name under a face. 

Meeting Scheduling Software

People spend an absurd amount of time scheduling meetings. Scheduling software Doodle found that professionals spend upward of six work weeks per year just scheduling! A human-centric solution: a single scheduling software that scans everyone’s availability and time zones to pinpoint the best openings for meetings. You waste less time on email chains and matching different calendars and can focus on the actual work at hand. 

Infographic showing that people spend too much time on scheduling.
Are you surprised by Doodle’s findings, or does this hit home?

Long story short, there’s loads of AI-powered software out there designed to make your work communications easier and more efficient. Find what works best for your team!  

3. Choose People, not Bots

Last but not least, never underestimate the power of people over bots. As described earlier, AI in video conferencing supports the people factor. One of the first uses of AI in business communications was in the form of chatbots. They’re highly touted for streamlining workflows and quick answers to customer queries. But as we’ve discovered when creating our live chat tool, sayso, our live chat tool, most people want to talk to humans, not bots.

Gif from Westworld showing a character annoyed that he's talking to a bot not a human.
Even HBO’s Westworld, a show focused on the wonders of AI, knows where it fails.

Tools like sayso take the convenience of chatbots and apply HCD to make customer interactions more natural. The effect is better user experience, which leads to retention, engagement, and brand loyalty. Don’t sacrifice empathy for convenience—choose tools that fulfill customer needs without bumping them to bots that can’t relate on a human level.

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