Effective Speech Application Design
Effective Design = Customer Satisfaction
Speech recognition applications come in many types, from simple call routers to complex ordering systems. What designers
must remember is ease–of–use. Even with a complex system, callers must be able to navigate through the system easily.
Speech recognition software allows customers to accomplish their goals quickly and easily. Much of the internal work is in
the design phase: building the call flow, creating grammars, recording prompts, and conducting usability testing. Speech
application designers will modify each aspect throughout design and internal testing phases.
But with all the speech applications on the market today, and most prominent speech companies boasting accuracy in
the high 90%'s, why do so many people feel that "speech doesn't work?"
Usually, it is because callers don't know what to say based on your flawed design.
You can avoid common pitfalls by carrying out the following steps during the design phase:
- Research Needs and Create Initial Design
First, speak to the people who currently answer phone calls, and get their input. What current questions and interactions
could potentially be automated? If the company already uses a DTMF
application, how well does DTMF handle these interactions and questions? Not all interactions match well with speech's capabilities,
so initial research is critical.
- Develop Prompts and Grammars
Designers should decide how much of a "natural language" system callers need or desire. "How may I help you?"
only works if callers know precisely what they want, and the designer can accurately predict their responses. Generally, callers
will need some guidance and cues as to what to say. A "How may I help you?" question involves more extensive
grammar development and testing than a question like:
"We offer three choices, A, B, or C. Which would you prefer?"
- Test with Real Customers
The ultimate measure of an application is the first live deployment of the system. The first live deployment must be a test
version with actual users, not the programmers who are intimately familiar with the application's design. This will be the
first time that assumptions about use behavior will be seriously tested; the resulting data will allow designers to modify
the application to meet the caller's needs.
- Tune with Real Data
Test deployments permit designers to fine–tune the system, often resulting in significant changes, if they review actual
caller experiences. By refining prompts, grammars, and call flow design, the application will become more robust, error–free,
clear and effective — in short, an application that customer will want to use.
To tune the speech recognition application effectively, all of the components of initial design — prompts, grammars,
call flow, and the persona of the speech–enabled application — must be tested. Since these elements are often built separately,
developers must ensure that all of the parts combine effectively in the testing phases to achieve the desired effects. Properly tuning
the speech recognition solution involves a thorough assessment of initial design components and real caller interactions.