Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems have been around for quite some time now, but it is only recently that its importance is being truly appreciated with the development of Speech Enabled IVR systems.
An IVR, which is a basic telephony menu system, is equipped to guide or prompt the caller to perform basic operations on the phone that allows the system to identify the need of the caller and channel him/her to the right customer handling executive. This can also enable screening and routing.
It is effective, hassle-free, quick, and the customers can be made to wait in a queue. Some advanced systems also have the option of having the right agent to call back customers, rather than making them wait in a queue. Although it has been extensively used in commercial applications and business interactions for a while now, speech enabled Interactive Voice Response systems were considered to be commercially unviable due to technological challenges, even till a few years ago.
However, with improvements in technologies like artificial intelligence, speech algorithms, natural language processing and language modeling, speech enabled IVR is becoming the user interface of choice. It has tremendously improved the user experience and is predicted it would replace most web-based business interactions in the future.
The Developmental Path So Far
At the beginning, Interactive Voice Response systems could allow the caller to use search keypad to answer simple questions, which would help the system to correctly identify the need of the caller and route to the right agent. However, the efficiency of these systems was low. They were unsuited for most business purposes, simply because it was impractical and too tedious for callers to type in the required information.
It started with the pulse dialing which was soon replaced by the multi-frequency dialing. However, what fired up the self-service telephony business was the introduction of the dual tone multi-frequency system, which used two tones – one high frequency and another low frequency – to properly identify the key pressed by the caller and then transmit the signal in voice frequency range over a telephone line. But, there were too many limitations which brought about the need for speech enabled IVR.
Speech Enabled IVR
Initially, the system could only recognize discrete numbers, monosyllables, and single sentences – spoken with a lot of clarity and adequate gap after every word from a single user. It was not much better than the touch tone dialing system.
However, language modeling has now made it possible for a single system to recognize complex phrases and sentences spoken at natural speeds by multiple users. Today’s speech independent systems can serve a large number of unknown callers without prior training.
The Benefits of Speech Enabled IVR
- Navigational flexibility: The modern speech recognizable IVRs have revolutionized the concept by granting greater flexibility to the user. They don’t have to type every command or wait endlessly for it to process. It is quick and efficient. These can process non-linear data. as opposed to strictly hierarchical systems of the past.
- Cost efficiency: A lot of customer service organizations are adopting this new technology due to rising labor cost. Speech enabled IVRs give these companies the flexibility to do away with voice receptionists who would process the requests manually and then route the speaker to some agent. Moreover, it has done away with some basic administrative functions of the agents which means they are free to take more calls and allot more time to sensitive caller requests. Thus, it has improved the productivity of agents.
- Handle more traffic with increasing profitability: These systems have a very quick response time. Therefore, the requests or commands can be processed very quickly and the requests can be routed to the right desk at the quickest possible time. These systems are not arbitrary like human agents whose behaviour could fluctuate depending on various circumstances. This has improved customer satisfaction and retention.
- Enhanced security: Speaker verification technology like the voice layered analysis can seamlessly verify the identity of the speaker by testing vocal characteristics of the spoken utterances in a conversational language. This means greater security of financial data or other data that are a bit personal in nature.
- Higher scalability: Speech enabled IVR solutions not only have the benefits of traditional IVR but also address the issue of scalability. For a multilingual country, speaking to an agent who understands the language of the speaker is profound. However, getting separate agents for different languages is unviable. A speech enabled IVR system which has been configured to deal with multiple languages can address this concern and reduce operational costs.
As discussed, the potential of speech enabled IVR systems is immense. If you want to stay ahead of your competition by improving customer experience and reducing your operational costs, this is the technology which will do wonders for your business.