• August 21, 2007
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Speech Gets Loud and Clear

NEW YORK -- Session Initiation Protocol-based initiatives and unified communications were at the core of "Speech Enables Self-Service," one of the breakout sessions here Monday at SpeechTEK 2007, the sister conference to destinationCRM2007
. "With the introduction of lower-cost-per-port speech engines and new competitively priced servers, the cost of providing speech applications has gone down dramatically," said Richard Grant, CTO of OrderCatcher Inc., a provider of voice-recognition applications for the fast-food industry. Session Initiation Protocol-based communications, Grant added, are going to allow more callers from more devices. "Gateways and VoIP will widen the need and the use of speech self-service," he said. "The future is unified communications...where the speech engine will be just another element to access data somewhere and create an action." Following Grant's presentation, as part of the same breakout session, Alexandros Papanikolaou, sales manager of Village Roadshow Greece, spoke of bolstering customer satisfaction while trimming costs by using automated speech. In June 2005 Australia-based Village Roadshow, a media and entertainment company that operates several multiplexes in various countries, launched VoiceWeb Ticketing, a hosted speech-enabled IVR that was built on Envox Worldwide's Envox Communications Development Platform and uses Nuance speech recognition functionality. The application enables customers to sidestep lengthy queues by providing movie information and allowing callers to purchase tickets and place orders quickly. More specifically, the voice-ticketing component of the deployment features various elements:
  • automatic town recognition based on phone number;
  • natural language understanding featuring multiple commands;
  • seat selection;
  • customer identification/credit card clearing; and
  • call logs and statistics.
In fact, Village Roadshow's VoiceWeb application has served more than 500,000 unique users and automated about 80 percent of customer calls. VoiceWeb Ticketing, Papanikolaou said, "is available through the day, through the year, whenever." This is particularly pertinent for the cinema chain during its peak days and times. "By having this system we reduced [waiting times] and we lowered the cost," he said. Elsewhere at the conference, a session entitled "Speech Drives CRM" highlighted how Shunra, a provider of hardware and software network simulation products, uses speech to maximize its CRM capabilities. Jangwoo Sin, technical director of Salesforce.com partner NetXentry, explained how his company's WebForPhone service serves as Shunra's Salesforce.com telephony gateway, essentially enabling users to tap into Salesforce.com over the phone. For example, by speaking into a phone, users can execute various tasks, such as:
  • gaining access to and updating accounts;
  • initiating calls to contacts; and
  • searching calendar entries linked to related searches and responses.
Sin framed the benefit simply: The system will "let you access the Web site through your phone." Many companies have deployed some type of CRM functionality, but "the problem is nobody updates it," he continued. "When the [system] is not updated, it's useless. This can be distributed to your sales team so that they can update the information." SpeechTEK 2007, which runs through Thursday, marks the third event since Speech Technology magazine and its events were acquired by Information Today, Inc. (ITI), CRM magazine's parent company. (The first was SpeechTEK 2006 in August 2006 and the second was SpeechTEK West in February of this year.) SpeechTEK is being co-located this time around with CRM's annual destinationCRM2007 conference, which runs through Wednesday. Related articles: Feature:The Voices of Reason Speech technology experts reveal the value of analytics and the secrets of locating what your customers say about you. Raging Against the Machine Customer frustrations with automated phone systems abound, but easy-to-use systems that provide customers with the option to speak with live reps can help build loyalty and enhance the brand. The Price is Right: Price Optimization 101 A session on the emerging technology kicks off the destinationCRM2007 conference in New York, and focuses on how businesses are maximizing profitability analytics. CRM at the Tipping Point The renowned author of The Tipping Point and Blink speaks at destinationCRM2007 about how CRM can break the barrier and make its way to success.
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