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IVR - TMCnet's IVR Week in Review
August 01, 2011

TMCnet's IVR Week in Review

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

TMC’s (News - Alert) Brendan Read wrote, “You are responsible for your company’s contact center operations. At the top of your wish list is replacing the ACDs, IVRs and predictive dialers. These vital applications and boxes are several years old; the downturn had kiboshed earlier plans to kick them to the curb.”

Also they do not support vital new and cost-effective customer-popular channels such as chat, SMS/text and outbound notification.  

Now finally your firm is loosening the tap on this and other long-delayed purchases but with a strict budget. Also in the works is changing from wholly or partial TDM to IP. The choice you are now facing is whether to buy new premise-licensed tools or to have them hosted instead.

Hosting has emerged as a competitive option to acquiring, installing and integrating new products. Hosted delivery promises low or no capital expenses or CAPEX for them, which entails upfront costs and reduced flexibility via billable operating expenses or OPEX (News - Alert) on typically a pay-as-you-go basis.

On the other hand buying your own set of products enables you to customize them and after three to five years can be cheaper than hosting: provided you do not change them out.

Ben Navon is president and CEO of Optimized Business, a voice/data communications firm. It provides hosted services as well as supports on-premise installations. His company has extensive experience in call/contact center management and telephony services integration. TMCnet recently interviewed him to get his take on the benefits and issues with hosting these vital contact center functions.

TMC also reported that IVR, whether DTMF or speech rec, is the self-service technology that everyone loves to hate. Web self-service can also be frustrating to use. Yet if they are designed right – one of the key features is having backup human assistance options – even those of us who hate communicating with machines may learn to truly like the experience.

Interactions Corporation thinks so. So do its investors. It has closed a new funding round totaling $12 million led by Sigma Partners, with strong participation from North Hill Ventures, Cross Atlantic Capital Partners and Updata Partners.  

The firm has patented hybrid self-service/human assistance technology for automated voice plus other interactive systems that it says delivers an unprecedented level of understanding that engages customers in productive, natural conversations. The technology routes customers’ utterances to a speech recognition engine supplemented by small pool of what it calls “intent analysts” who provide an additional layer of understanding at any point during the conversations.

A fine case study available on the TMC site for IVR looks at the experience of Knowledge Learning Corporation, based in Portland, Oregon, is a childcare provider in early childhood through school age education. Since 1983, KLC has grown into a family of nearly 2,000 community-based centers, 650 before-and-after school programs, and 123 employer-sponsored centers in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

KLC employs a workforce of thousands, over 2,500 of whom are mobile workers in the field. These employees conduct before and after school programs, which are distributed throughout hundreds of schools and centers all over the U.S. And because mobile staff report to work in varying, decentralized locations, keeping track of their attendance and hours can be a difficult and time consuming task.

To effectively manage and track its widely dispersed personnel, the company relies on a Plum IVR based time and attendance system. This workforce management tool has been an efficiency breakthrough for KLC, cutting labor costs, boosting data entry accuracy, and accelerating the payroll process. It is also a system highly valued by mobile staffers for its outstanding level of convenience that enables them to report their hours anywhere and anytime.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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