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800 PBX launches new IVR solution aimed at automating local pizzerias.
By Eric Felipe-Barkin - Posted Mar 12, 2009
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800 PBX yesterday launched Dial-A-Pizza—a hosted interactive voice response (IVR) solution tailored to pizzerias—at the 2009 International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.

800 PBX is a value-added telephony solution provider. Its voice-enabled Dial-A-Pizza allows for an entirely automated, end-to-end, pizza-ordering transaction, enabling a user to speak her topping selection and side dishes while the system pulls up her address from the white pages.

As the system locates caller "Cathy Stuffed Crust's" address based on her phone number, she could say Medium pizza with pepperoni, taco flakes, green peppers, and onions, listen to the system repeat her order—along with her address—and rest assured that she’s getting what she ordered.

After the order is complete, callers are directed into a point-of-sale system that completes the sale. 

The English version of the solution is powered by Nuance Communications and Microsoft recognition engines. 800 PBX’s chief product officer, Sreedhar Ambati, sees Dial-A-Pizza as the opening salvo in a charge of hosted speech into the hospitality sector.

“The reason we had to develop a pizza application was that whenever we were calling the pizza houses, especially with international accents, there was a lot of trouble,” Ambati says. “When taking the orders, there are several instances where you have a human error.”

Ambati also cites cost savings as a potential benefit to the company’s solution. He says call volumes at pizzerias are inconsistent, picking up over the weekends and around special occasions. In these instances, many pizzerias have to hire extra part-time staff devoted to the phones to handle the influx.

Moreover, he asserts that, according to inquiries 800 PBX made, many calls received by pizzerias are not new orders, but customers calling to check on pending orders. Answering such calls pulls labor away from pizza-making, adding to delays and forcing callers to endure longer hold times—especially at smaller pizzerias.

Given the cool economic climate, Ambati feels the market is primed for the IVR pizza solution: small businesses are looking to cut costs, speech recognition has reached a new level of proficiency, and callers are finally starting to trust speech systems—that is, not approach them with immediate apprehension and mistrust.

“With several big banks embracing these kinds of applications in a big way, now the common man has started getting to know more about voice applications and appreciating them,” he says.

While 800 PBX may enthuse over Dial-A-Pizza, Datamonitor associate analyst Ryan Joe is sour on the solution’s immediate prospects.

“Speech will continue to grow in 2009, but at a slower rate than in previous years,” he says. “There’s still a need to automate, but cash-strapped enterprises are less willing to make an immediate investment in speech.”

The recession has correlated with a drop interest around speech across the board, Joe reports. At least for the coming year, he doesn’t foresee the growth of speech in the hospitality sector.  And as to the distant future, Joe is unwilling to speculate.

If Joe’s assessment is correct, 800 PBX may have to bide its time and wait for the economy to fully right itself.

For now though, Dial-A-Pizza remains undeterred, eager, and optimistic. There are about 10 pizza chains, each with six to seven outlets, piloting Dial-A-Pizza. Ambati expects to pick up more customers in the coming weeks.

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