Transcript of Interview With Simonie Wilson

Interview With Simonie Wilson

This interview features Simonie Wilson, UX design manager at Allstate. You can watch it on Simonie’s profile page.


– Hello again. I’m Joe Welinske, conference director for ConveyUX. This is our 12th annual event that we’re gonna be having February 27th, 28th, and 29th in Seattle. And also, it’s going to be online. And one of the fun things I get to do is have chats with the many speakers that will be part of the event. And so today I am speaking with Simonie Wilson. Hello, Simonie. How are you today?

– I’m great. How are you?

– Ah, it’s all right except for being a really pouring rain day in my area, just north of Seattle, where Blink has its headquarters. Where are you talking to us from?

– I am located in Denver, but I used to live just north of Seattle in Snohomish. So I know what you’re talking about.

– Well, it’s great to have you as part of the program. We’re really pleased that you’re involved. Probably the best place to start is if you could tell us a little bit about your background and the type of work that you’re doing now.

– Yeah, so I’ve worked in the voice user interface side of UX most of my career. Started in voice user interfaces, interactive voice response systems, IVRs, for years designing. I gravitated toward tuning, looking at the analysis once those things were launched, really getting into the customer feedback and the customer experience. And I did that for many years. And then more recently, I went specifically into authentication. I worked with a startup that had a voice bio authentication and fraud tool. And so I was really looking at the authentication experience and that’s what I’ll be speaking on at the conference. And since then, I’ve taken that knowledge to Allstate. And so at Allstate, I run the conversation design team. It’s chat, it’s IVR, it’s two-way SMSing, whatever across the whole company and standardizing a lot of things. For instance, authentication is something that we’re really focused on right now.

– Well, I’m sure there are a lot of complicated, exciting things going on with the technologies that you’re involved in. Are there any particular challenges that you’re encountering either individually or your organization or maybe more broadly the industry?

– A couple of things come to mind because we’re deep in it at Allstate right now is there are so many IVRs and chatbots across Allstate. It’s such a large company and they don’t all or haven’t historically all funneled through the UX team. We are right now undergoing a large effort to bring them all under the same umbrella, which means ones that we’ve owned the experience for years and ones that have never seen UX before are coming together and we are trying to standardize, you know, whether it’s brand or legal, the customer experience, the tasks that are available, but also the platform. So we’re bringing all of the platforms together and the design tools together. That’s a huge undertaking at a company like Allstate. And the other thing that continually comes up and I know will come up with the conference is ChatGPT. So there’s another effort, just like a lot of companies, I’m sure, to really examine how we can utilize that. At this point, we’re utilizing it informally, as I think everybody is. You know, we go there when we have questions, when we’re doing a crit for each other’s work, we say, “Hey, have you run that through ChatGPT?” But there’s no official usage. So there’s a group that’s dedicated to creating that domain-specific use of ChatGPT. So hopefully one day we’ll be able to really integrate that, one day soon, I’m hoping.

– Well, let me bring in your topic. The title is the “UX of Advanced Voice Biometrics for Authentication.” So tell us a little bit about how you came around to this topic and what we can expect to learn from it.

– Yeah, I’m really excited to be able to talk about this because I have spoken on authentication for years now and I usually only get to scratch the surface. It’s kind of authentication of voice file 101 and I barely get there before I have to move on. And it’s the same over and over. So getting the opportunity to look at it from an advanced perspective and bring the audience along with that will be great. So, and what I mean by that is normally I spend time just saying there’s KBAs, knowledge-based questions where you just asked a series of questions for authentication all the way to sort of the spectrum where you’re into deep voice bio, but it’s not a monolith. There’s so many ways to implement it. People have had bad experiences over the years. People have one idea of what voice bio is. It might be frightening, it might be frustrating or expensive, those kinds of things. But there’s so many different ways to implement it. And I’m gonna go through as many permutations as I can in the time allotted at the conference. We’ve also done some internal research on a lot of those permutations. I myself have designed and implemented many of them. And so it’s just something I want to get across to people that it’s not just one thing. If they want to open themselves up to the idea of using voice bio for authentication, they can take or leave as much of it as they want and you know, start and sort of tippy-toe into it. It’s not just the one thing maybe that people have the impression of. So I’m really excited to talk about that.

– Well, AI is a big theme at the upcoming conference, and so your topic fits in really well and it also explores a very detailed aspect of it. Do you have any thoughts about how the things that you’re doing will affect the workflow of the researchers and designers and strategists that make up the UX profession? I think sometimes it’s a little difficult until we get involved with a new technology as to how it’s going to potentially change the way that we work.

– Right. Well, I mean, for voice bio and authentication itself, I mean, I have grand visions of simplifying and shortening experiences for users, but in general, the work that we are doing is really aimed at creating reusable best-in-class tasks and modules and approaches to everything, whether it’s authentication or, you know, any component within a chat bot or IVR, for instance. So that’s kind of where we’re aimed at is just honing that. Every time we iterate, every time we do research, we bring everybody along so that there’s that consistency. And I will hopefully continue to talk on those things and broaden everybody outside of Allstate too. It’s not just for Allstate. We’re trying to create those best-in-class standards. So we want to get that reusability for everybody.

– Well, at the event, we have people from a broad spectrum of experience levels, from a lot of very experienced practitioners to also people that are just starting to get involved in their user experience career. You know, for the people that are kind of just at the beginning getting started, do you have a tip or a thought about something that maybe you would’ve wished you’d known about earlier in your career?

– Wish I’d known about the fact that it’s, you can’t just go get a degree in this. It comes from a lot of experience, broad across everything, whether it’s technical, all the way to user, just having an English degree, whatever it is. People who come to this come from a lot of backgrounds. So I think don’t focus on finding the right degree, but getting that experience. And I would say, especially right now, don’t get distracted by the tech. It’s always about the user. It’s easy to go, I want to do something with ChatGPT, for instance, but what are you doing for the user? Is this for the user? Keep the user at the center and you’ll go where you want to go.

– There’s a lot of good nuggets of advice for all of us in there, I think. So thanks for that. And thank you so much for taking a few minutes to talk about the work that you’re doing and the presentation that you’ll be doing in Seattle in a few months.

– Sure. I’m looking forward to it.

– All right. Thanks a lot. Bye-bye.

– Bye.