Speedy and Quantifiable Returns Necessary to Take Speech-IVR Systems to the Brink of Mainstream Acceptance

Speech interactive voice response (IVR) solutions are creating a buzz with their ability to increase customer satisfaction and deliver brand equity.

To drive uptake of IVR speech applications in the mainstream market, vendors are relying on compelling value propositions and strong business cases that emphasize the robust return on investment (ROI) and shorter deployment time.

New analysis from Frost and Sullivan, U.S. IVR Systems Market, reveals that revenue in this industry totaled $551.6 million in 2003.

"Application development environments and toolsets with reusable components have brought about a dramatic reduction in the development life cycle, resulting in enhanced ROI and lower payback period," says Frost and Sullivan industry analyst Seema Lall.

In fact, payback periods have dropped from 12-15 months to 4-6 months, depending on the complexity of the application. Vendor case studies have also revealed dramatic savings, bringing down costs per transaction from $3.50 to $0.80 in specific instances.

Pre-built components are particularly popular among larger enterprises that not only require quick deployment, but also a certain degree of customization.

For the small-medium sector, packaged applications with off-the-shelf deployments at significantly lower price points are a viable alternative. These solutions are pre-configured, pre-engineered, and tested, requiring minimal customization and integration during deployment.

"Several vendors are offering solutions targeted at vertical markets such as banking and utilities and on the basis of knowledge gained through multiple speech implementations," says Lall.

Healthcare is another vertical with numerous opportunities for speech-IVR applications, in areas such as automated prescription refills, claims and billing, appointments, physician referral, and general information.

Product penetration for touchtone IVR systems within the large enterprises has been increasing and currently stands at around 90 percent. User-friendly speech IVR systems are expected to drive the market by providing the impetus to upgrade. Technologies such as automatic speech recognition, text-to-speech, and speaker verification have evolved over the years and are providing improved performance.

Natural language understanding and advanced user interfaces that conduct interactive dialogs with users are also delivering versatile and robust applications for IVR.

Vendors need to make sure that customers can benefit from these advanced speech solutions even without complex and expensive fork-lift upgrades to their existing IVR systems.

"As customers move from existing touch-tone systems toward next-generation speech-enabled IVR products, the onus is on the vendors to develop effective migration paths that mitigate the associated risks and reduce total cost of ownership," says Lall.

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