Speech Takes on New Roles

NEW YORK (SpeechTEK 2011) – The cloud is where technologies are headed, proclaimed Blade Kotelly, a visiting lecturer at MIT and CEO of 1Minute40Seconds, a Boston-area computer software firm, during the luncheon keynote at SpeechTEK 2011 today.

"Hardware is dead," Kotelly said, noting that cloud-based solutions make it easier to do many things that couldn’t be done before. The cloud also means fewer running parts on site to worry about, he added.

According to Kotelly, the underlying technology, design and development processes have changed in the past 10 years, while the user experience has not kept pace.

When a user logs onto a Web site, cookies store information about past site usage, but interactive voice response systems do not remember and store phone numbers. "Use my phone number as a cookie," he suggested. "And if a user calls into the same option each time, shorten the call."

As another example, he said Web sites present information based on the user’s current location. "Why can't an IVR do that?" he asked. If it could, the IVR could make on-hold time productive by offering things like local restaurant guides, sports scores, news content, and other local information.

But, despite advances in technology, the phone is not going away as the primary means for customers to contact companies "as long as people want an immediate response," Vicki Broman, lead VUI designer at eLoyalty, said during an earlier session.

Likewise, speech is not going away, even though it is likely to take on new uses as one part of a larger customer service strategy that includes voice, Web, chat, email, and social media. "But, to do something different, users need a solution that includes knowledge, personalization, transactional analysis, and memory," said Dan Reed, executive vice president at Voxify.

"But, the cure-all is not natural language," Reed added. "The cure-all is that when you call, I know who you are and why you are calling."

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