Web personalization works – why not do it for callers?


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While user-personalization has had demonstrated success for Web based interactions, it has yet to be fully leveraged in the handling of voice self-service telephone calls.

Advances in speech technology such as ASR, Natural Language Understanding, Caller- Directed Dialogues and Web Profiles are excellent enabling technologies, though these are only part of the solution. Used in conjunction with a well designed Voice User Interface or VUI, they represent a significant improvement over earlier technologies. However, one important design factor that has until recently been overlooked, is the individuality and in-call behavior of the telephone callers themselves.

Every caller to your speech application has his or her own individual set of aural, speech, hand-eye coordination (as used in DTMF keypad entry) and material comprehension skills. Add to this environmental variables such as background noise, poor mobile phone signals and caller distraction and it becomes clear that each call to the IVR System is truly a unique interaction.

This is one of the main reasons human operators are so good at handling any type of call – they can handle the dynamics of human conversation intuitively and with ease. Your callers know this all too well and will opt for an agent the first time your speech system fails to be productive for them.

To the extent that the speech application can monitor and adjust to the behavior of a particular caller during the call, a proportionate number of your automated calls can be more efficient and productive. While a well designed call script with optimal structure and content, intentional pauses, grammar tuning and context forming are excellent design principles, the system falls short if it does not consider the real-time behavior of the caller just as a human would under the same circumstances.

Non-adaptive speech applications are “static” and make no dynamic adjustments for the real-time behavior of your individual callers. As a result, all callers are handled in the same way regardless of their knowledge, experience, navigation skills and willingness to use your automated system. Such applications do not listen for signs the caller understands what is being said and is comfortable with the pace and content of the dialogue. Without “tuning in” to a callers behavior during the call, real IT efficiencies are lost. As shown in Figure 1 below, this can lead to consequences in terms of customer satisfaction and the costs associated with the handling of automated calls.

Figure 1 – Compromising your callers causes undesirable consequences

When your callers can interact with a system that is tailored to their specific set of skill levels, knowledge and aural, vocal and hand-eye coordination talents, many efficiencies are gained in the handling of your automated calls. These include:

– Highly skilled power users can more quickly navigate the application flow
– Greater tolerance for callers having difficulty hearing/understanding the audio
– Unfamiliar callers are given a reason to become repeat users
– Salvaging the automated call for callers using mobile or public phones.
– Distracted callers get the flexibility they need

Having your IVR system listen to how your callers behave during the call and adjusting the responses of the system accordingly promotes improved communication. That translates directly into cost savings and improved customer service.

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 an Adaptive VUI such as Interactive Digital’s Adaptive Audio (www.interactive-digital.com) and VUI Cloud (www.vuicloud.com) 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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