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September 18, 2009

SpeechStorm Following Etisalat in Providing Voice IVR for Hearing Impaired

By Kelly McGuire, TMCnet Editor

SpeechStorm, a specialist provider of phone self-service solutions, announced that within the United Kingdom roughly 9 million individuals categorized as deaf or hard of hearing are unable to reap the benefits of the rising usage of telephone-centric customer care services.

While Internet usability continues to grow, more than 75 percent of customer/organization interaction is still over the telephone. So, for those 9 million hearing impaired customers, there’s a limited outlet to interact with desired organizations. 

As SMBs, large organizations, retailers, banks, utilities and telecom companies increase voice-based interaction contact center services, a large portion of consumers are being alienated with the inability to pay bills, check account balances and other common telephone activities.

Video IVR, a video-based communications tool, allows organizations to offer the same services to their deaf and hard of hearing customers as to the rest of their client base, according to Oliver Lennon, CEO of SpeechStorm (News - Alert).

“Using Video IVR for self-service, customers can see all the options on the display of their mobile phone – no need to listen to complicated audio menus or speak to voice based systems or call center staff,” Lennon said. “So, this is a perfect fit for the deaf and hard of hearing community.”

Etisalat is the first to offer video calling-based customer services to 8.5 million Egyptian customers, which are user friendly for customers with hearing impairments, and did so using SpeechStorm’s Video IVR technology. 

Damian Kelly, director of Video IVR for SpeechStorm, said that Etisalat’s (News - Alert) success and positive feedback from its video-based calling inspired SpeechStorm to create a platform accessible for the hearing impaired.

After Lynne Ellis of the British Deaf Association organized a demonstration of SpeechStorm’s Video IVR for three of her deaf colleagues, their feedback showed promise.

The difficulty of accessing ordinary, everyday services is clearly a big issue for a very large number of customers, Kelly said, adding that the Video IVR addresses this issue so well. 

“We will certainly be discussing this with all of our banking, telecoms, retail and utility customers, for whom it offers the potential both to improve and to truly differentiate their customer care,” Kelly said.

In regards to the demonstration of SpeechStorm’s product, Ellis said that her deaf colleagues were very positive about the benefits that Video IVR on a mobile phone would give them. 

“They found the system very intuitive and could see all of the options on the display of the phone. The speed with which they would be able to check balances, make enquiries, confirm details without the need for an interpreter, which is an expensive resource, was very appealing,” Ellis said. 

Since Video IVR gives deaf and hard of hearing people access to services that were previously unavailable, and with more companies use phone self-service solutions to communicate with their customers, SpeechStorm hit these service barriers daily. 

This way, all individuals can have access to the organizations they need, whether by Internet, by telephone and now, by Voice IVR.

Kelly McGuire is a TMCnet Editor. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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