Speech Gets Loud and Clear

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NEW YORK -- Session Initiation Protocol-basedinitiatives and unified communications were at the core of "SpeechEnables Self-Service," one of the breakout sessions here Monday at SpeechTEK 2007, the sister conference to destinationCRM2007.

"Withthe introduction of lower-cost-per-port speech engines and newcompetitively priced servers, the cost of providing speech applicationshas gone down dramatically," said Richard Grant, CTO of OrderCatcherInc., a provider of voice-recognition applications for the fast-foodindustry. Session Initiation Protocol-based communications, Grantadded, are going to allow more callers from more devices. "Gateways andVoIP will widen the need and the use of speech self-service," he said."The future is unified communications...where the speech engine will bejust another element to access data somewhere and create an action."

FollowingGrant's presentation, as part of the same breakout session, AlexandrosPapanikolaou, sales manager of Village Roadshow Greece, spoke ofbolstering customer satisfaction while trimming costs by usingautomated speech. In June 2005 Australia-based Village Roadshow, amedia and entertainment company that operates several multiplexes invarious countries, launched VoiceWeb Ticketing, a hosted speech-enabledIVR that was built on Envox Worldwide's Envox CommunicationsDevelopment Platform and uses Nuance speech recognition functionality.The application enables customers to sidestep lengthy queues byproviding movie information and allowing callers to purchase ticketsand place orders quickly.

More specifically, the voice-ticketing component of the deployment features various elements:

  • automatic town recognition based on phone number;
  • natural language understanding featuring multiple commands;
  • seat selection;
  • customer identification/credit card clearing; and
  • call logs and statistics.

Infact, Village Roadshow's VoiceWeb application has served more than500,000 unique users and automated about 80 percent of customer calls.VoiceWeb Ticketing, Papanikolaou said, "is available through the day,through the year, whenever." This is particularly pertinent for thecinema chain during its peak days and times. "By having this system wereduced [waiting times] and we lowered the cost," he said.

Elsewhereat the conference, a session entitled "Speech Drives CRM" highlightedhow Shunra, a provider of hardware and software network simulationproducts, uses speech to maximize its CRM capabilities. Jangwoo Sin,technical director of Salesforce.com partner NetXentry, explained howhis company's WebForPhone service serves as Shunra's Salesforce.comtelephony gateway, essentially enabling users to tap intoSalesforce.com over the phone. For example, by speaking into a phone,users can execute various tasks, such as:

  • gaining access to and updating accounts;
  • initiating calls to contacts; and
  • searching calendar entries linked to related searches and responses.

Sinframed the benefit simply: The system will "let you access the Web sitethrough your phone." Many companies have deployed some type of CRMfunctionality, but "the problem is nobody updates it," he continued."When the [system] is not updated, it's useless. This can bedistributed to your sales team so that they can update the information."

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