How the customer experience evolved from snail mail to Conversational IVR
LumenVox and its artificial intelligence speech technology has initiated an evolution within the world of customer service. In the good ol’ days, people went to the bank to deposit a check. They absolutely had to make the trip; there were no other options. Eventually, banks got savvy and integrated with another institution—the post office—to provide printed account information to your doorstep, send or receive checks, etc. Eventually, with the integration of the telephone and its proliferation of use in businesses, we got phone support. If we had any questions or concerns, we could call a teller or bank representative to get the needed information. Over time, the number of incoming calls vs. the number of representatives available were too incongruous. There could never be enough reps to answer the number of needed phone calls per day.
With speech recognition, self-service phone options were put into place. When customers called the bank, instead of a human voice, they got automated options: “Press 1 for your balance. Press 2 for hours and location,” etc. But those menus can get quite annoying—people quickly got tired of the amount of time it took to listen and navigate. Everyone pressed zero, hoping to skip straight to a human voice.
To solve this issue, speech interactions were introduced, but only via directed dialog, i.e., “Say yes or no.” It wasn’t that transformative, really; there was still a fair amount of patience required by the customer. Eventually phrases such as “Account Balance,” “Did my check clear?” were put into place. This was considered an improvement by customers, but there were issues with the inconsistencies in customers’ speech. As a result, there was a good amount of–“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that.”
But businesses did finally get it. They learned from all the trying and testing that the level of ease of the customer experience, now primarily implemented by mobile phone, is just as important to a customer as the quality/ price of items or service purchased. Essentially, time is money—to everyone. This realization is what spurred on the notion of a conversational IVR and how it became instrumental in the design of self-service solutions.
The goal of Conversational IVR is to have automation mimic a conversation with the consumer. Open-ended questions, such as “Thank you for calling. How can I help you?”, have become the desired greeting. This evolution into machine, yet human-like interaction relies on Deep Neural Networks (DNNs), their ability to seek out, classify and order information in more complex or “intuitive” ways, and their contribution to Natural Language Understanding (NLU)/ Natural Language Processing (NLP). NLU/NLP is a specific branch of artificial intelligence that enables human-computer interaction using the input of sentences in text or speech.
Integrating NLU/NLP into a customer service environment results in a customized user experience: Enterprises are now able to recognize and automatically speak to you by name when you dial in. Your phone number is matched to your account information so they can even predict what you may be calling about (i.e., “I see you have booked a flight…)”.
Conversational IVR promotes a better customer experience. Frustration is reduced, just as conversation is encouraged. It’s a win-win: Customers have instant, secure access to vital information while businesses can effortlessly exceed service expectations. LumenVox’ next generation of Advanced Speech Recognition incorporates this advanced technology into a seamless solution for businesses. And our presence at Avaya Engage (Booth 300) will allow you to familiarize yourself with its capabilities in person to see exactly how it can benefit your business.
Pivot Technology Services Becomes LumenVox Skills Certified
LumenVox and Pivot announced today that Pivot Technology Services (Pivot) has officially become a LumenVox Skills Certified Partner. LumenVox Partner Skills Certification demonstrates Pivot’s capability to deliver high-quality speech solutions based on the LumenVox speech automation suite. Pivot, a trusted provider and integrator of the world’s leading technology solutions and services, utilizes the complimentary LumenVox Automated Speech Recognizer and Text-to-Speech solutions to improve the customer experience and employee productivity within contact center agent portal environments.
“LumenVox is excited to see the facilitation of a large joint opportunity that the evolution of our partnership with Pivot has already brought,” stated Ed Miller, LumenVox CEO, “and we look forward to supporting their development of innovative and dynamic speech-enabled solutions.”
“Becoming LumenVox Skills Certified broadens the benefits for our customers by combining Contact Center solutions design and implementation expertise with the best technologies available. The earned partnership strengthens our strategic position in an underserved niche of the market between traditional VARs on one end and large IT service providers on the other,” stated Jeff Brinckman, Pivot Director of Customer Experience Solutions.
Contact center technologies are ever-evolving. LumenVox Automated Speech Recognizer and Text-to-Speech solutions add functionality and improve capabilities. With Pivot’s expertise and LumenVox’ world-class technology, businesses and their customers can now experience efficient and customized communication.
Pivot Technology Solutions has created a portfolio of operating companies and partners, differentiated in their respective markets by superior competencies and an unmatched commitment to total customer satisfaction. Through its portfolio companies, Pivot has built an organization with deep knowledge of the industry, an extensive partner network, and the implementation capacity required to take on large and complex projects. Additionally, through Pivot Technology Services, the Company offers a comprehensive portfolio of services on a global scale.
The Customer Experience Solutions Practice provides insight and technology leadership that enables organizations to adapt to changing market conditions in the client care space. Recognizing that 85% of customer interactions flow through the contact center architectures, Pivot helps organizations transform their contact center platforms into a strategic corporate asset that creates competitive advantages.
Interested in learning more about how your organization can leverage LumenVox’ suite of speech and authentication solutions by becoming a LumenVox Skills Certified Partner? Contact us today!
LumenVox is excited to announce the release of LumenVox Version 17.0.200. In this release, we have:
- Added support for a new short-utterance transcription (Natural Language) functionality to process audio with a maximum length of approximately 30 seconds.
- Added a new Out of Service configuration option for the ASR (Automated Speech Recognizer) service, allowing system administrators to enter maintenance mode from the Dashboard, which permits currently pending requests to be completed, but any new requests will be rejected (to be potentially handled by other ASR servers in the cluster).
- Added a new feature to the ASR load-balancing mechanism to actively route ASR requests based on the language specified.
Useful for situations where you do not want to be constrained by a specific grammar, or challenged by implementing a more complex and costly Statistical Language Model, the LumenVox Short-Utterance Transcription functionality utilizes a built-in, general Statistical Language Model that has been tuned for everyday use to provide a text representation of supplied audio.
Supporting LumenVox’ commitment to making speech applications more secure and easier to administer, additional enhancements were made to our diagnostic tools and dashboard, including more robust grammar handling within the LumenVox Speech Tuner.
For a comprehensive list of improvements and features released with LumenVox Version 17.0.200, please click here.
If you’d like to watch a previously recorded webinar about the release, including participant Q&A, please click here.
In a recent post; The ROI of Speech we discussed ways in which the use of speech recognition technology has changed the face of how companies interact with their customers. Perhaps the most significant benefit realized through the implementation of a speech enabled service solution is the enhanced level of intelligence delivered during the customer interaction – the improved intelligence of the interaction. Customers are no longer bound to pushing keys to force fit their call reason into the company’s pre-determined options.
Since speech-enabled solutions provide a highly conversational interaction with customers, organizations are empowered to expand the level of intelligence their self-service solutions offer. Benefits from implementing such a solution come from two perspectives: 1) reduced costs and accelerated ROI, and 2) enhanced customer experience.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on how the customer experience is enhanced by implementing a robust speech self-service solution. We’ll specifically address the questions posed in the ROI of Speech post:
- Can I engage customers in manner that allows me to dynamically generate personalized treatment that results in higher rates of self-service or cross/up sell opportunities?
- When customers don’t want to play in the IVR, can I gather enough information to avoid costly misroutes?
- Can I take what I know about the customer and provide proactive information that might resolve their need before they move into the transactional path or transfer to an agent?
Understanding how each of these factors tie into the overall speech self-service strategy will help to position the organization for success and yield an intelligent experience that customers will engage in time and time again.
Given the dynamic nature of conversational speech, companies can leverage speech technology to build very robust interactions with consumers. Let’s assume a customer calls to inquire about their checking account. Based on this customer’s profile we know that they are a high-net worth customer and would be eligible for numerous up-sell offers. Using conversational dialogue, we can begin to ask the consumer targeted questions in conjunction with what we know about their relationship with the bank. This depth of conversation would be controlled by the consumer and all information collected would ultimately be used to improve the intelligence of the customer record. Over time, the organization would have a targeted view of this consumer using a combination of profile and behavioral information.
As organizations begin to consider whether a speech-enabled solution is right for them they should take inventory of their current personalization strategies and lay out numerous use cases that could be supported through a more robust speech solution.
The most successful companies across all industry verticals recognize that holding consumers hostage within the IVR system is the most egregious error they can make. The internet is filled with horror stories of consumers being trapped in automation purgatory. In fact, being trapped in the IVR is one of most common reasons consumers hate to use automation. To combat this, companies tried, often unsuccessfully, to build “second chance” menus to capture caller intent to get them to the right location. Of course, consumers who despise automation rarely play at this level.
Fortunately, speech recognition technology provides a viable solution for both the consumer and the organization.
For companies, the conversational approach of the speech solution provides a sense of forward progress to the consumer. This approach promotes engagement and therefore reduces the rate of costly internal transfers, as well as improves the perception of the company.
Consumers benefit from easy transfers without the need for sitting through verbose second chance menus or cycles of repeated commands.
While proactive information can be successfully pushed in a DTMF solution, the use of speech recognition technology can expand the interaction, thereby delivering a much more targeted push. The depth of engagement will be far deeper with speech technology. Consumers can provide complex responses and the company can offer multiple data points in a single question. The dynamic interaction will reduce the cognitive load on a consumer as the flow of the information will more fluid and natural. This approach is highly successful in keeping calls in the self-service channel and avoiding the costlier agent channel across many industry verticals, particularly when high rates of repeat callers are common, for example credit card and bank account balance inquiries.
The power of speech technology continues to change the face of the self-service world and customer experience as a whole for improved intelligence of the interaction. Understanding the use cases for the technology requires a solid understanding of current capabilities and consumer behavior and expectations. While the questions presented above represent a significant portion of developing a business case for a speech technology solution, numerous other factors must be addressed to build a comprehensive roadmap.
In our next installment, we will discuss how speech can open opportunities for new functionality and scope of coverage across the entire self-service solution.
As our relationship with our partners mature, we find ourselves influenced to create and develop for their needs. We do not build something in hopes that our partners will buy it. We listen carefully to those around us and develop to their needs after the proper qualification is secured. Recently there has been a flurry of activity in Central and South America and especially in Brazil. One of our larger partners who have fully integrated our software into their platform, requested we develop a Brazilian Portuguese acoustic model. Given our willingness to please and our understanding of the market potential of undertaking such a venture, we recently agreed and added this to our ever growing list of languages. We used a novel approach to developing this model that we have been researching for quite some time and we think should satisfy most speech recognition applications.
The Brazilian economy is in a state that presents a favorable opportunity to increase automation to maximize their efficiencies. To answer this urgent call, LumenVox has expanded its ASR offering by creating a Brazilian Portuguese language model which will bring the number of ASR languages to 8 and the number of TTS languages to 23. Today LumenVox covers all of the America’s from Cape Horn to Cape Columbia and everywhere in between!
We will be doing a lot more with the Asian TTS languages in the future, once we figure out how to deal with some of the double byte issues in our Media Server. We just entered into QA with our new version so we should be able to share some details with you on this in just a few weeks.