Speech Is My Copilot

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NEW YORK — Who your customers talk to — and who (or what) talks back to them — is a major component of their interaction with your company. According to Sonja Lough, manager of self-service communications at Continental Airlines, self-service automation and speech technology enable a consistent customer service experience.

Lough made the case for interactive voice response (IVR) systems at a breakout session here this week at SpeechTEK 2009, titled “How Airlines Improve Service with IVR.” Lough told the audience about a partnership with speech-solution provider Voxify that allows Continental — which she described as the world’s fifth-largest airline and the only one offering interactive-voice check-in — to check in a passenger within 25 seconds, all via the power of IVR.

“Typically, IVRs get a bad rap,” she told the crowd, but Continental's customers — reaching 65 million passengers annually, she said — are reporting delight with both the outbound and the inbound IVR systems the airline has developed. “We’re able to give customers information that is pertinent to their specific travel, as well as information that’s going to help reduce their stress and make it a seamless product for them.”

Prior to working with Voxify, Lough said, Continental’s IVR systems were disjointed and often confusing. “[Voxify has] been able to help unify our approach,” she told the audience. The interactive check-in application, she said, was the first offering Voxify created for Continental, but was so successful and well-received that the airline moved the rest of its outbound messaging services to Voxify as well, after which Continental also developed a number of inbound applications with Voxify's assistance.

“By creating a strategy for both our inbound and outbound speech, we’re able to string together independent modules to create an end-to-end experience for the customer," she said. "It’s one voice, one call -- regardless of how many applications [customers] might be transiting through.”

Looking ahead, Lough said, Continental not only plans to continue working with Voxify to provide customers with additional self-service opportunities, but the airline also hopes to discover ways to make travel “more informative” for customers and “provide greater transparency” into the company’s business.


CRM Evolution '09 concluded earlier this week in New York. Full coverage can be found here.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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