Nuance Powers a Reservations Self-Service System for US Airways

US Airways and Nuance Communications successfully launched the domestic airline industry's first natural language understanding (NLU) interactive voice response (IVR) system last week.

The new automated system, which was deployed over a two-day period, replaces a list of menu options and offers the airline's customers a wide range of self-service capabilities, such as flight information, upgrade status and Dividend Miles account details.

The new IVR is shortening call times and providing customers with more self-service opportunities. It was implemented as US Airways brings approximately 400 jobs to its Phoenix, Reno, Nev., and Winston-Salem, N.C., reservations centers this year when it returns to the United States work currently handled outside of the country. As part of the airline's agreement with the Airline Customer Service Employee Association-CWA and IBT, which represents the airline's more than 6,000 customer service employees and reservations agents, support for sales calls originating in the United States will be brought to U.S. locations by November 1.

"The more we know about our customers and the reason for their calls, the more efficiently we can provide the assistance they need and allow them to get on with their day. Over the last year, we have worked with Nuance to develop a service experience that provides an intelligent understanding of our customers and their travel needs," said Kerry Hester, senior vice president of operations planning and support at US Airways. "By integrating those insights with cutting-edge speech recognition technology, we are providing our customers with the convenient, quality care they have come to expect from US Airways."

US Airways and Nuance partnered closely to create the new system, which converses with customers in a natural manner, understanding their verbal requests, recalling details of their previous conversations, and matching its answers seamlessly to the transaction. In addition, the IVR is closely integrated with US Airways' 1,800 reservations agents, proactively providing them with information such as customer name and existing reservations as they are connected with callers.

"US Airways is a clear leader here, demonstrating just how perceptive and effective the new generation of natural language self-service solutions can be," said Gary Clayton, chief creative officer at Nuance. "Travelers are looking for airlines to provide simple, convenient service options, and US Airways just moved to the head of the pack, delivering the most intuitive and useful voice system in the industry via Nuance's On Demand service."

Nuance On Demand is a hosted service that showcases Nuance's best technologies, providing US Airways continued assurance that the IVR will evolve, taking advantage of the newest innovations in conversational speech recognition.

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