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IVR - What Did You Say? Natural Speech Software Can Repair IVR and Save You from Losing Customers
October 11, 2012

What Did You Say? Natural Speech Software Can Repair IVR and Save You from Losing Customers

By Allison Boccamazzo, TMCnet Web Editor

When dialing into a call center or credit card hotline, the first thing you’d expect is to be referred and spoken to the way you yourself sound; natural, organic and in other words, humanly. Apparently, the great majority of businesses don’t know how to take a hint, because we all seem to still find ourselves in what Rachel Metz writes for the technology review as “automated customer support hell.” That sure doesn’t sound too friendly, but then how can we work to make interactive voice response (IVR) systems sound not only more appealing, but comprehensive?

Ah, the ongoing battle regarding synthetic speech. Thankfully, some companies are taking that leap of faith in adopting new and innovative IVR software for improved customer care. Interactions, a company that sells this new kind of software for customer-care phone systems, is one of the few.

Apparently with this new software, users no longer have to go through an “interminable series of push-button choices,” and neither must they be confined to practically yelling out overly simple verbal commands which somehow ironically remain indistinguishable. Rather, they speak like they would to a human agent, and as Metz shockingly expresses, “it actually works.”

Software such as that offered by Interactions is “more than a solution to impossible [annoy] automated support systems,” instead serving as a prime symbol of software and human intelligence truly joining forces to work together. Can’t you just imagine the little white flag rising in compromise? Together, the two can be actually be quite harmonious.

via Shutterstock

“The interactive voice-response (IVR) systems that you typically encounter when calling a company's support line send chatter through speech-to-text recognition software, which submits a text result to an application that decides what step to take next,” Metz explains. “Until recently, computers have had nowhere near a level of understanding or accuracy to match that of a person, so systems have required users to restrict possible replies.”

But today is a new day, and thanks to slow but sure improvements in natural language processing, a hybrid machine-human solution has surfaced, and the results are impressive. Interactions’ software, for example, can set up a hotel reservation – which can take up to six long steps with some programs – in just three, essentially cutting the caller’s time in half. Cutting down the amount of steps leaves the caller happy, but it conversely requires a lot of hard work behind the scenes, Metz points out, continuing by giving a detailed example:

 “If you call the customer service number of a business that uses an Interactions application, you'll be greeted by an artificial assistant. Your responses are passed through speech recognition software, and answers to potentially complex questions like ‘How may I help you?’ and ‘What's your e-mail address?’ are routed to humans where they can be ‘translated’ into a straightforward typed phrase and sent on to the application. Answers to simpler questions like ‘What's your ZIP code?’ are sent straight to Interactions' software. The application brings together the two piles of data in real time to help you complete your call.”

The complexity of this process is thankfully met with big savings for businesses, as well as increased customer satisfaction. Perhaps when thinking about how to evolve your IVR system for enhanced usability, consider natural speech IVR software.

Interested in more about IVR? Be sure to follow industry-leader Plum Voice on Twitter (News - Alert) @PlumVoice for all of the latest!

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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