Please Listen Carefully, as Our Customers Have Changed

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Many organizations are happy to have closed the book on 2010. While it wasn't as bad as the financial collapse of 2009, it was still a difficult year marked by slumping and stagnant sales, forcing many organizations to curb spending and keep their speech technology investments on hold—again. Unfortunately, neglecting an aging interactive voice response (IVR) system for too long comes with consequences. If your IVR still makes crucial mistakes, such as stating the useless prompt Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed, then you might be in for a big surprise: Your customers have changed, and so have their expectations of your organization. They demand what the Internet, mobile devices, and social media have given them during the past few years—instant gratification.

Fortunately, some promising speech solutions that aim to deliver it are on the horizon, as evidenced in "A New Year," by Editorial Assistant Kathleen Savino. Her feature reveals what industry insiders are anticipating for 2011, such as IVR improvements, lower-cost and lower-risk hosted speech solutions, the proliferation of speech on smartphones and applications that can be used on multiple mobile devices, and speech and video updates to VoiceXML 3.0. This issue also introduces one company that merges speech technology and social media. It’s still a young technology, but the business implications—i.e., enabling IVRs to read social media updates and promotions to callers waiting on hold—are clear. Read “New App Brings Social Media to Standard Voicemail” for more information.

Perhaps, though, the customer segment that will notice the biggest change is the Baby Boomer generation. In the feature story “A Gray Area,” Managing Editor Leonard Klie covers the importance of adjusting IVRs to the needs of consumers 65 and older. What makes this story so timely is that the oldest Baby Boomers turn 65 in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As this very large and influential cohort continues to age, organizations must make sure their IVRs can serve this group’s changing physical needs. For example, seniors should have the option to slow the cadence or increase the volume of the IVR. The article also suggests an IVR system should add a second or two at the end of a prompt to offer seniors more time to respond.

It's clear that customer demands are changing. That’s why it’s incumbent on organizations to regularly assess customer experiences with their IVRs and respond appropriately. As time passes, an organization that continues to sit idly by while customer demands continue to change will find it increasingly difficult to serve them.

David Myron is editorial director of Speech Technology magazine. He can be reached at dmyron@infotoday.com.

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