AT&T Yellow Pages Offer a Speech-enabled Alternative

AT&T has begun pilots of a free voice-enabled directory assistance program in Bakersfield, Calif.; Columbus, Ohio; and Oklahoma City. The application, developed with Nuance, is a customized user interface for its 1-800-YellowPages service. The service is available to AT&T land line or cell phone customers.

AT&T is supporting the service with advertising. "In this day and age we are witnessing the slow demise of traditional advertising media like radio, newspaper and television. Satellite radio is eroding traditional radio ad revenues. Pay-per-click Web site advertisements threaten newspapers. Personal video recorders decrease the number of times a commercial is viewed. Companies are indeed looking for new ways to advertise and connect with their customer base and phone-based DA advertisements can be one of these new ways," explains Daniel Hong, lead analyst at Datamonitor.

Directory assistance, data management, and operator services provider VoltDelta, integrated Nuance's directory assistance application into its advertising platform, data, database services, and operator interfaces to enable name and number search via speech recognition for AT&T customers. The user calls into the DA system and speaks the name of a specific business or a category of businesses; the verbal request is recognized by the speech system, which delivers possible matches using text-to-speech. From here, the user can select from the list of possible matches or start the search over again. Before receiving the information or being connected to the business, callers hear short audio ads relevant to their listing requests.

There are other free directory assistance services available to callers that are similar to AT&T's offering, but "bringing AT&T to the party is going to be much more market changing," says Brad Schorer, senior vice president of marketing, VoltDelta. "There are some brand recognition issues that can be overcome when targeting advertisers with the AT&T brand."

These services could easily become more prevalent because "DA does not require highly trained agents as it is a relatively easy task. Due to its flexibility and automation capability speech serves as a perfect complement to DA solutions," Hong states.

"This is a pretty unique application in that you can take what was once a paid service and, through the addition of an interactive capability of serving up ads, offer it for free," Schorer asserts. "This really opens up a lot of opportunities with what you can do with consumers and speech automation. It has the potential to be expanded to a multimodal service."

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