Capital One’s Steph Hay on Designing the Non-Binary Chatbot
Doreen Lorenzo interviewed Capital One’s head of conversation design, Steph Hay, about how AI is transforming design practice. The interview was featured in the Fast Company Co.Design column, Designing Women, profiling women leaders in business and creative fields.
Hay obtained a journalism degree, and it was her interest in digital communication that led her to pursue a career in design. Her conviction that storytelling and content are the core of design experiences brought her to her current role, working on conversational interfaces at Capital One.
In the interview Hay shared how design thinking is shaping financial services: “I assumed banks valued numbers over emotion. But then I met Capital One and it shifted everything for me. Being able to manifest the humanity in our technology really compels me. And the most exciting opportunity to me is the way machine learning and design are coming together to unlock these really human experiences delivered by robots — in any industry, including financial services.”
Hay discussed Capital One’s new SMS chatbot Eno as an example of machine learning and design coming together to unlock new human experiences. After conducting research with engineers, product managers, marketers, and lawyers, the design team decided to make Eno gender-neutral. Explained Hay, “Because money is so intensely personal, we didn’t want to express Eno as a male or female. That Eno is overtly ‘a bot you can bank on’ leaves the customer’s mind open to create whatever association with Eno makes the most sense for them.”
Hay highlighted the importance of system thinkers as an integral part of design teams as AI-driven decision-making alters the landscape at the system level. With machine learning in the mix, designers can free themselves from static and reactive design choices, and toward more proactive design guided by data gathered through empathy and engagement with users.