Speech Technology Magazine Cover

September/October 2006

Magazine Features

Eleven Tips to Improve IVR Effectiveness

There's been a lot of negative press recently about poorly designed touchtone and speech-enabled interactive voice response (IVR) systems. I'm sorry to say that most of the problems that I've heard, read about, or personally experienced are real. To make matters worse, the situation is inexcusable because the underlying technology that powers these applications is very flexible and can do significantly more than what it is being used for today. Poor implementations are giving these systems a bad reputation, as has long been the case.

Is Paul English Right?

Why is it when Citibank launches an ad campaign saying its customers can press "0" to talk to a human, it becomes big news? Have we reached a point where the ability to reach an operator is that big a deal? By now, virtually everyone knows the magic phrase: "Hello. Your call is important to us. If you are an existing customer, please press or say one."

Ivy League IVR

Respect-it can be a difficult, yet highly desirable value to attain. Most people want respect; it's a basic human motivation to be treated with dignity.

Natural Language Processing: The Next Steps

Speech interfaces in which users respond in their own words to open-ended prompts like "How may I help you?" are becoming more and more widely deployed. They are most frequently used in routing applications where the application's task is to identify the topic of the users' requests and transfer them to another part of the system where their requests can be addressed.

Speech in Multichannel Customer Service

It has been a longstanding debate: Do you spend a lot of money on high-quality customer service, or risk upsetting customers with a low-cost approach? The answer, which is not always simple, may require a blend of both, as more companies are including speech-self service as part of their multichannel customer service initiatives.

The Value of Speech Analytics

In this special section of Speech Technology Magazine, you will find an overview of the major applications for speech analytics within the enterprise environment provided by Datamonitor, followed by a concise discussion of the role of speech analytics in quality monitoring by SER Solutions.

VoIP's Impact on Speech Recognition

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is rapidly replacing traditional phone service in the enterprise and that's good news for speech recognition. According to Synergy Research, revenues associated with enterprise IP telephony topped $4 billion in 2005—a 31 percent increase over 2004, and that has undoubtedly increased even more this year.


Rotary Gets a Speech Lift

A subsidiary of Dover Corporation, Rotary Lift is the leading manufacturer of vehicle lifts and equipment for the automotive industry. Its success is based on 80 years of continued innovation in delivering tools and solutions that increase the productivity of service technicians. By providing a competitive advantage to customers, Rotary helps technicians get more done and generate more profit. It's no surprise that Rotary is always looking for ways to gain efficiencies.


Editor's Letter

Delivering On Its Promise

It probably shouldn't surprise me that on the day that Information Today Inc. acquired Speech Technology Magazine and its related products I was interacting with a speech-enabled interactive voice response (IVR) system. I was confirming an order with 1-800-flowers.com to buy a gourmet food basket for the family of a friend and colleague who recently lost a devoted father and husband. Because of the sensitive nature of this purchase, I wanted it to be treated with the care, sensitivity, and assurances that I thought only a human could provide. I've had plenty of good experiences with speech-enabled IVR systems, especially recently, but the importance of this purchase and the relative newness of the technology concerned me.

Forward Thinking

Morphing for Online Games

"Online communities that form around these imaginative activities are some of the most vibrant on the Web. For these players, games are not just entertainment but a vehicle for self expression," stated Will Write in the article "Dream Machines" (Wired magazine, April 2006).

Speaking and Listening to the World Wide Web

Developing and sharing content is a growing activity on the Internet. In addition to passively observing Internet content, users are actively adding to it by uploading their pictures to flickr.com, and sharing their thoughts in blogs and wikis. Readers rate books on amazon.com, and teens post real and fantasy personas on the extremely popular myspace.com, hoping to attract the attention of other teens.

Human Factor

The More Things Change...

Recently, I had a customer service problem that obliged me to call customer service. I heard the company had recently implemented a speech recognition self-service system and I was curious to see how converting to speech would improve its self-service process. I was shocked when my call was answered with the following: "Thank you for calling the Acme Company. Please pay careful attention because our menu options have recently changed."

Industry View

Stacked-Unified Communications Revisited

Last June, Microsoft held an event in San Francisco where top executives demonstrated new software and hardware components that round out its Unified Communications (UC) solutions stack, and, to use Bill Gates' terminology, "make it easy for people to reach each other using the mode of communication that is the most productive, on the device that is most convenient." Its partners - including LG-Nortel, Polycom, and Thomson Telecom (based in Australia) - set out to define hardware and software that fill out a solution stack for enterprise IP-telephony. Other members of its hardware consortium include Motorola, Samsung, Plantronics, Tatung, Logitech and Siemens.

A View from AVIOS

The Next "Great Leap Forward"

Voice has long been an integral part of education and societal growth. About 40,000 years ago, Homo species underwent what Jared Diamond characterized as the "Great Leap Forward," when human culture changed at an accelerated rate. Diamond, a professor of geography at UCLA and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, maintains this "leap" coincided with the spread of human language.

Voice Value

Bluetooth Dictates to Desktops

Here's a common misstatement: It is not possible to use Bluetooth headsets with desktop dictation.

Innovative Research in the Labs Part IV - Carnegie Mellon University

Taking a more academically-oriented approach to research, this month I reviewed the speech groups at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), in Pittsburgh, Pa. Centered in the Language Technologies Institute (LTI) in the School of Computer Science are two large research groups, the Speech Group and the international center for Advanced Communications Technologies (interACT). LTI conducts research and provides graduate education for all aspects of language technology and information management.


Industry Dashboard: Datamonitor

Over the past five months, (April to August) there has not been strong activity in terms of publicly announced customer wins in the global speech recognition market. The number of publicly announced speech recognition deals grew from 34 during the first three months of 2006 to reach a total of 69 deals year-to-date for 2006. Network-based speech deals continue to account for the majority of customer wins and revenue, as seen in the technology quadrant of the Industry Dashboard.

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