• November 1, 2008
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Speech Helps Hurricane Evacuees

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In the days leading up to landfall for hurricanes Gustav and Ike, call volumes at contact centers in the nation’s travel and hospitality sectors spiked as thousands of people from Louisiana and Texas fled their homes.

Speech solutions provider Voxify handled the unplanned call volume for leading travel and hospitality companies in the days before the storms. The company’s speech solutions, called Automated Agents, regularly handle millions of call steering and routing, rate finder, reservation, reconfirmation, flight information, cancellation, and flight check-in applications for some of the largest airlines, hotel aggregators, and hotel chains in the United States. So when weather forecasters spotted hurricanes Gustav and Ike and charted their courses, Voxify went on hurricane alert.

"In cases like these, it’s important that every call is answered," says Hollis Chin, director of marketing at Voxify. "We could see volumes going up across our whole travel sector. The volume we saw from the hurricanes was enough for us to move our whole portfolio."

Voxify had experience handling hurricane-related spikes in 2005 with hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but this time was different because people seemed to be taking the warnings more seriously.

Seven days before Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana, Voxify saw call volume spikes for its entire travel and hospitality sector. The calls peaked just two days before Gustav came ashore, with an increase of 23 percent over total daily call volume for the previous six months. The increase was primarily from hotel reservation and confirmation calls. One hospitality customer experienced an unplanned call spike of 93 percent over its average daily call volume for the six months prior.

When it came to Ike, people waited longer to evacuate. Call volume didn’t increase in Voxify’s entire travel and hospitality sector until just two days before Ike hit Galveston, Texas. Calls suddenly peaked on September 11 at 11 percent over total daily call volume for the previous six months. But this time people were taking airplanes as well as booking hotel rooms. One Voxify customer experienced an 89 percent increase in reconfirmation calls on September 11 alone.

"The biggest volume was out of the Galveston/Houston area," Chin says. "We could see where people were leaving from, but there was no particular trend as to where they were going."

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