Error Handling

Error Handling

Focus on the basics: Is the system accurate? Does the caller achieve call completion? Does the caller like using the system, and want to continue doing business with your company?

An optimal application addresses these issues by combining technology with art. Mixing technical aspects, like programming and testing, with aesthetic elements, like writing, casting, and coaching, reduces errors and increases customer satisfaction. Give sufficient consideration to each part of the development process.

Understand the speech recognition software that you are using; the confidence scores it returns allow you to make a good decision about the call flow. Track confidence scores at the project, grammar, and single call levels, to set both the static and dynamic thresholds. This will permit the system to make a good decision on whether or not to confirm.

Remember that it is better to confirm than to make a mistake. Although confirming can be unpleasant for callers, it is preferable to the frustration of being lost. Figure out when you need to confirm using the confidence scores, and try to make the confirmation prompts less complex than the original prompt. If you choose your confirmations wisely, even though it takes a little longer, users will not become irritated or impatient, and will get to where they need to be.

Help Callers Avoid Frustration...

Errors occur because callers get lost, or are unsure of what to say. In either case, this is usually a prompt issue. Effective prompt writing guides callers to say what is in the grammar. Another option is to make the grammar robust enough to handle reasonable requests, even when the caller's phrasing is clumsy.

No matter the style, the prompt should always focus on the task at hand: moving the call forward.

Sequential prompts should be connected with transitions, e.g., first, next, finally. Prompts can also use related questions, as in "Please tell me your account number... and your pin code."

Although long prompts should generally be avoided, sometimes a few extra words pay off. Phrases like "Just to confirm," "Almost finished," and "So I can help you better," create a forward mental model. In these cases, reassuring the caller is more beneficial than the few seconds you gain by clipping the prompt.

Solving Problems

When an error happens, fix it! And don't let it happen again.

Sounds simple enough, but how? And what will customers do in the meantime?

Figuring out why an error happens is the key to fixing it. The feedback callers provide is often vague; instead, go straight for empirical data. Examine the context of the caller to help pinpoint what caused the error: too much background noise; not enough volume; mispronunciation. Invariably, errors will occur. To provide great customer service through speech applications, we need to minimize errors, and make the callers as comfortable as possible when errors do occur.

Error–handling interfaces often increase caller frustration. Recognize any of these?

Adversarial error response:
"I need you to be more specific."

Generic response:
"I'm sorry, I didn't understand."

Annoyingly enthusiastic response:
"Let's try it again!"

When developing speech applications, most companies strive to achieve a balance between saving money on live agents and providing better service than traditional DTMF system. Unfortunately, callers are sometimes uncomfortable with speech applications — they try to talk as they would to a human, or worse, speak in a stilted way, because they think computers will better process their requests. Successful experiences with your call system will help increase caller confidence — and when errors occur, callers will tend to be more patient if they have had positive experiences in the past.

Improving the caller experience is about good customer service. So think carefully about the error interface, designing effective prompts, testing the call system often, and the caller's satisfaction with the speech recognition application... and with your business will increase!

Whatever your company's application or speech recognition needs, LumenVox can help.

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