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I recently twittered about trying to divine the future with precision in Datamonitor’s forecasts. If it weren’t for this recession, my life would be much easier today, at least on Twitter. 

The days of linear trend extrapolation have disappeared in the fog of this recession. Calculating upside and downside cases has become extremely difficult due to market volatility, while baselines might change drastically during the next couple of years. Although many of Datamonitor’s forecasts have changed during these uncertain times, and will continue to change to reflect current economic conditions, one technology that we remain bullish on is outbound interactive voice response (IVR). 

During the past 16 months I have heard quite a seductive bit of logic from outbound IVR vendors about how their technologies can benefit enterprises. The vast majority of this positive messaging, to date, has been crafted by the vendors themselves, which might lead companies to think the demand is artificial. However, we strongly believe outbound IVR is not an “if you build it, they will come” technology, but rather, one that provides significant cost advantages for enterprises and is a key piece of a long-term multichannel customer service strategy. Based on data collected in late 2008 and cross-referenced with recent data and deployment activity, we think 2009 will be the year of education for outbound IVR, and 2010 will see the beginning of large-scale outbound IVR deployments. 

We surveyed 150 contact center managers and IT decision-makers in late 2008. When asked to rank their top three investment priorities for contact center operational initiatives in 2009, the vast majority said they would be focusing on optimizing contact center technology, followed by optimizing agent performance and increasing the proportion of interaction serviced via IVR and speech. In 2010, prepare to see a sizable shift in investment priorities: Companies have already indicated they want to increase the volume of outbound campaigns to their customer bases. 

During the next few years, as currency tailwinds pick up and IT budgets increase, outbound IVR will become a core component of many enterprise customer service strategies. Innovative companies that are deploying outbound IVR today, and those looking to deploy the technology tomorrow, must keep in mind that investing in outbound IVR requires a lot of thought around issues such as identification and verification, multichannel and cross-channel strategies, IT governance, and customer demographics. Moreover, finding the right balance between inbound IVR, agent interaction, and other complementary outbound technologies, such as SMS, MMS, and email, is vital to deploying a successful outbound IVR campaign. 

Datamonitor provides more detailed and comprehensive studies of the speech market. For more information on Datamonitor’s research, please go to www.datamonitor.com, or email Daniel Hong at dhong@datamonitor.com.

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