• September 20, 2004
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

SpeechTEK Spotlights Key Trends in Voice Technologies

Analysts, users, and more than 100 vendors gathered at SpeechTEK's 10th anniversary conference to discuss speech technology's current and future trends last week at New York's Marriott Marquis. Tuesday's keynote speaker, Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium, delivered an address to a full house, discussing the interaction between speech and technology. According to Berners-Lee there are two fundamental types of language: natural language, which he classifies as soft and evolving; and computer language, which takes a solidly defined, hard-language approach. "Speech technology is trying to bridge the gap," he said. Berners-Lee kept the audience entertained with anecdotes by conveying some of the limitations of contact-center voice systems. He detailed a few of his own customer experiences, including an instance when he used a company's touch-tone phone system and the police arrived at his house--responding to a 911 call. He had pressed the numbers he was prompted to enter during a call he made to the company, and the police just showed up at his home. Technology wasn't the only topic on the agenda. During a breakout session entitled "Call Center Automation Versus the Human Touch: Usability to the Rescue," IBM's Peter Braunthal, senior consultant, communications sector, CRM; Rosanne D'Ausilio, president of Human Technologies Global; and Marie Meteer, vice president of commercial speech solutions of BBN Technologies, provided tips on how to incorporate the human element and touch into automated transactions. Braunthal asserted that customer experiences initiatives should drive the customer experience directives for the IVR system. "Reports are your best friends," he said, because they allow managers to get to the root of why customers call and what they expect. "You can see where the abandonments are occurring." D'Ausilio offered several strategies for success, including responding properly regardless of the channel used, handling the request through the customer's choice of medium, and personalizing service. "It's not about the product, it's about the service," she said. Meteer urged audience members to examine the caller experience, including IVR and agents, and then identify the problem and quantify the benefits as savings of agents' time. During a session on the multichannel contact center panelists discussed how to blend channels like email, fax, voice, and chat into one unit. One panelist, Barry Zipp, MCI's senior director of contact center services, suggested that before companies consider deploying multimedia, they should ask themselves such questions as "do we really need it?" and "can we afford it?" Often "your customers will let you know," whether you need to make the move to multichannel, he said. Panelist Wendell Black, vice president sales, operations for Telephony@Work, added that unifying locations is key: "It's about meeting the customer where your customers want to be met." Related articles: Speech Technology Begins to Realize Its Potential
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