I was mulling around the internet this week, and stumbled across this video of Susan Bennett talking about how she provides voice services for technology companies as a voice actor.
What she didn’t realise, until a friend told her, is that one her recent acting jobs had landed her the job of Siri on the iPhone.
Siri is the intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator that uses a natural language interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions for iPhone users through sending requests to a set of web services.
Siri’s software is really clever, and adapts to the user’s individual preferences over time, personalising results.
Also, just in case you didn’t know, the name Siri is Norwegian and means “beautiful woman who leads you to victory”. It was chosen as it was the name of the developer’s first child.
Now the link with banking.
Susan Bennett, the voice of Siri, was also the voice of the First National Bank of Atlanta’s ATM!
First National Bank of Atlanta (acquired by Wachovia and now Wells Fargo) was concerned that the relatively new Automated Teller Machine (ATM) it introduced in 1974 would appear cold and difficult to use.
In those days, customers were accustomed to walking inside a bank and chatting with a pleasant teller, so First National named their ATM “Tillie the All Time Teller”, and put the face of a smiling blonde girl on the front of the machine.
“Tillie” looked inviting to customers and suggested that the machine was highly user-friendly.
Did it work?
Tillie launched one of the most successful ATM systems in the banking industry.
In their efforts to promote Tillie, First National hired a blonde actress who wore a red and white polka-dotted dress in TV ads.
She sang: “I’m Tillie the All time Teller, I work for First National Bank” as she stood beside the machine.
In another Tillie ad, a balding, middle-aged man approached the machine singing, to the tune of the classic “If You Knew Susie” :
Oh, if you knew Tillie like I know Tillie
Oh, oh, oh, what a girl!
She works to please me, to make life easy
Oh, oh, she makes my banking smooth and breezy
Day or nighttime, I don’t care
When I need money, I know my all-time teller’s there!
If you knew Tillie, like I know Tillie
Oh, oh, oh!
For Tillie’s second birthday, she was toasted to the refrain of “For She’s a Jolly Good Teller.” As the song ended in the ad, a drawer opened and blew out three candles!
The bank also hired Tillie look-alikes to help customers at branches learn how to use the machine.
Personalising this new technology worked for First Atlanta. Customers enthusiastically embraced Tillie and helped her maintain one of the highest transaction rates per machine of any such service in the country. By 1977, Tillie was so popular that three other banks purchased rights to the program.
There were even t-shirts and more.
Just goes to show that humanising technology makes a difference, and gives me a gratuitous ability to post my favourite episode of The Big Bang again.
Tillie’s pictures and story are taken from the Wells Fargo blog