Powered Up: Voice Automation Shines in the Utility Industry

MENLO PARK, Calif. - Voice automation technology is allowing companies like Duke Energy, Endesa, Energy South (Mobile Gas), Iberdrola, MidAmerican Energy, Missouri Gas Energy, Sierra Pacific Power Company, Texas Gas, Transco Gas, United Utilities and others to successfully speech-enable customer-facing services like start/stop service, emergency outage reporting/service and bill pay, as well as internal work management for field crews. These voice automation solutions are delivered by Nuance and its partners, including Datria, Milsoft Utility Solutions, Syntellect, Tier Technologies' EPOS business unit, Waterfield Technologies, WorkForce Technologies, Vertex and others.


"Utilities are shifting their speech-powered applications into high gear, having realized initial benefits -- both qualitative and quantitative -- with speech recognition," said Dennis Smith, research director, Chartwell Inc. "Our recent study, 'Speech-Enabled Customer Service Applications in the Utility Industry,' shows that an increasing number of utilities are implementing or investigating speech recognition for their interactive voice response systems."


Nuance's utility customers are deploying speech across their organizations in customer-facing areas such as customer care, information requests, and transactions, as well as internally facing areas such as business communications and productivity. Internal speech-powered applications include outage and storm recovery-related communications and work management for field crews. For example, technicians can call into the speech system via cell phone from the field and retrieve job assignments, close trouble tickets or provide outage updates. The spoken information is then automatically entered into the company's order database/scheduling system. This dynamic, speech-based system helps utilities respond to emergencies, reallocate technicians as needed and adjust service schedules.


Customer-facing applications of speech include account management, bill pay, start/stop service and outage reporting. For example, with speech-based outage reporting, a customer can call in and speak his address into the system without trying to key in portions of his address via touchtone. Once the address is captured, the system communicates up-to-the-minute outage and repair updates.

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