• November 1, 2006
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Speech Recognition Leads to R&R

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For most people leisure travel means relaxation, but for Carlson Leisure Travel Services (CLTS) leisure travel keeps its contact centers bustling. CLTS provides corporate clients with employee leisure-booking tools, and provides financial institutions and credit card reward programs with travel award redemptions. CLTS's Boise contact center, which fields about 120,000 calls per month, wanted to get more insight into customer data from its touch tone IVR, such as why customers were calling. With an IVR that didn't have much of a reporting engine, CLTS took a journey of its own to find a deployable speech solution. The contact center decided to tap the consulting firm it uses for quality assurance purposes for more in-depth analytics. "Part of that study broke down the reasons that people call and most of them were for program-related questions or questions about how it works and how many points do I need for a particular destination," says Joe Skeen, manager of business automation and continuous improvement. "That type of application would be very complex to create in a touch tone IVR--on touch tone things like travel origins and destinations are impossible to capture. That really drove us down a speech path." CLTS decided on the speech recognition functionality of Fluency Voice Technology. More specifically, CLTS tapped Identification and Verification with Status (IDVS) and Router, two apps from Fluency's core technology Virtual Speech Agent (VSA) Suite, a selection of applications that use open standards and component-based technology to help companies deploy speech recognition. IDVS quickly identifies and verifies callers, and once they've been verified, provides them with access to information like points balance. It also pulls together callers' itinerary requirements, then uses a CLTS-built gateway to a travel reservation engine to locate available itineraries matching the callers' criteria. Router sends callers and their search results to the right agent, depending on the level of service required, or if the caller prefers, to a self-service application. CLTS had a complete speech application designed and deployed in fewer than six weeks, according to Skeen. Sales conversion rates have increased by more than 15 percent. Some likely reasons include routing calls to the appropriate destination, freeing agents to handle more complex and revenue-generating calls (rather than basic inquiries that can be handled by a self-service app), and providing agents with caller information. Call flow to agents has also dropped by 20 percent. "A significant number of non--revenue generating calls can be automated with Fluency's VSA Suite, with the overall result being a reduction in call volume, presenting an opportunity to optimize agent head count," says Bob Huxley, vice president, North America sales and service. But the biggest benefit, Skeen says, has been the ability to provide customers with more options. Not everybody prefers "to interact with speech systems and IVRs, but most agree that they prefer options versus waiting on hold, so we give them that choice. They can get the information they want and not have to wait for an agent. We've given our clients and customers more choices about how they interact with us." The Payoff By deploying applications from Fluency's VSA Suite, CLTS has:
  • reduced call flow to agents by 20 percent;
  • increased sales conversion rates by more than 15 percent;
  • reduced agent handle time; and
  • provided customers with more choice
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