Getting personal without being intrusive


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PCI Security Standards, HIPAA Privacy Rules and Internet Privacy Concerns pose serious problems for businesses in today’s online economy.

Your customers want you to treat them as though you know them personally. Yet they and the regulators really don’t want you to “know” them at all.

Just ask Facebook, Google, Linked In and other social media and online services as they become increasingly aware of the impact legitimate privacy concerns are having on their business models.

How does this relatively new phenomenon relate to customers calling your self-service voice applications? Well, they too want you to treat them the way a close friend would. They just don’t want to be your close friend.

They want you to not only know their particular brand of communication, with all of it’s nuances, conversational pauses, speech tempo and so forth, but they want you to know ahead of time when they are becoming frustrated or bored with the pace of the dialogue. And when they are done with the call and their problem is solved, they want you to act like you don’t know them from a hole in the wall. Until they call again, that is.

So how do you go about getting that done in your voice applications?

Well for starters, have you ever noticed how much time and effort good communicators put into just listening to their conversation partners? Good communicators will always have their ears open way more often than their mouths. They carefully choose the timing, delivery and content of of their message based on how they understand their audience communicates and digests information internally.

You may be better at this than you think you are.

For example, when speaking in person or via telephone to another person, have you ever noticed how you tend to speak more slowly when your listener seems confused? Do you enunciate and elaborate if they continue to struggle? Would you allow your listener more time to respond instead of jumping to the next point if this is the case? Or would you speak a little faster if you sensed your listener was getting bored? Maybe omit some inconsequential details further down the road in the conversation in order to help keep them engaged?

As humans, we do these things naturally, instinctively and often even unknowingly. They are part of the verbal and aural skill set we have evolved over the millennia and come from a strong desire to communicate effectively with other humans. This quality resonates with us humans and conversely, a machine that attempts to have a dialogue with us, no matter how good the ASR, NLP, Grammar Optimization, Best Practices in VUI Design or other fine design qualities, will always leave something significant on the table if it omits this most natural of human qualities.

It is only natural then, that any system seeking to effectively communicate with humans adopt these same characteristics in order to be successful. Failing to do so ignores one of the fundamental tenets of human communication. It’s a primary reason many callers have developed such a strong dislike for voice self-service in general. It’s one of the reasons they call your IVR “a stupid voice system” when you are not listening (no pun intended). And they are correct – why is it that your IVR won’t even listen, really listen to them – just like humans do?

Having your IVR system listen to how your callers behave during the call and adjusting the responses of the system accordingly promotes improved communication without the need to keep caller profiles or other personal information. This kind of caller anonymous personalization translates directly into direct cost savings (the call is more efficient and productive) and improved customer service (the call is more user friendly and pleasant).

With Call Centers, Enterprise IT Departments and ASR based hosting centers recognizing the economic benefits of automated calls versus using an agent, the trend is towards longer, more complex and information-rich speech applications. This increased caller interaction makes leveraging the benefits Adaptive Technology such as Interactive Digital’s Adaptive Audio ( and VUI Cloud ( products even more advantageous for businesses.

For further details on how this technology would work in your specific call center environment or for production results on voice applications similar to yours, contact [email protected]

Daniel O'Sullivan
CEO, innovator and technologist in software engineering and product development. Created and implemented Adaptive Technology and Fastrack Software products that have optimized over 1.5 Billion self-service phone calls worldwide and saved clients over $100M to date. Electrical Engineering undergrad with a Masters in Computer Science. Lucent/Bell Labs alumni. Winner of worldwide eco-design project and received several patents. Currently CEO of Software Technology Partners.Focus: Business Development, Technology Partnering, Mobile, Web and Cloud Technologies and Human-Computer Interaction.


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