By: Dena Skrbina of Nuance Enterprise
When we use apps like Dropbox, Gmail, YouTube or Facebook, we’re using a “cloud” service. Think of the cloud as giant clusters of computes in the sky where we store, do and share things using our smartphone, tablet or PC, no matter where we are.
The purpose of the cloud is to enable large groups of people or companies to do things that otherwise would be prohibitively expensive or technologically complex to do on our own. For example, it wouldn’t be practical for each one of us to design a system to search for, watch and share video. Instead, we all use the YouTube service – a cloud-based system that does that and a lot more. Businesses, government agencies and other organizations are flocking to the cloud philosophy for similar reasons; access to shared technologies and services that are too complex or expensive for them to develop on their own.
A prime example for business use of the cloud is “interactive voice response (IVR),” a complex computer system used for automating customer service calls. With IVR, incoming calls are answered by a computer instead of a human. IVRs ask callers questions to determine the reason for their call and provide answers by connecting to the same information systems that customer service agents use. For many callers, the IVR provides exactly what they need, such as the arrival time of an upcoming flight, without needing to wait on hold for a customer service agent.
Every conversation with an agent can cost a business $5-$12, Forrester Research says, while an IVR conversation costs only pennies. The extreme savings motivates companies to use IVR. But, when not done right, IVR can be infuriating for callers. We’ve all experienced IVRs that greet you with too many numbered menu choices, none of which exactly match the reason for your call. Sometimes we guess at which one of the choices might match, other times we press 0 and hope for an agent. We’ve all been stuck in circular IVR mazes with no way out, or had information spoken by a choppy robotic voice.
Doing it right – designing a system consumers want to use – requires considerable sophistication and investment for businesses. Most companies don’t have the budget or the expertise, but they see the value in providing great self-service to their callers. So, more and more they are relying on the cloud for their next-generation IVR. The cloud offers shared, sophisticated technologies, proven designs, and cost-effective delivery of the ideal IVR.
The ideal IVR experience makes it easier for us to get answers ourselves, which many of us prefer over talking with an agent. Popular applications such as Siri and Dragon Go! are getting us accustomed to asking a device – rather than a person – for information like driving directions and the weather. The same advanced speech-recognition that drives those apps is available in the cloud too, and savvy businesses are adding it to their IVRs so that we callers can get information about a transaction just as easily as we get the weather from Siri. The cloud makes it easy and cost effective to add cutting-edge technologies.
As consumers, our ideal IVR lets us express our request in our own words and simply asks, “How can I help you?” rather than providing a long list of touchtone menus. It uses speech recognition to understand what we need and skips the industry jargon. If we say “I have a question about a new charge on my bill,” the ideal IVR knows that we’re asking about a line item on our billing statement and will tell us about the item.
One of the next advancements in voice technology is “voice biometrics,” where companies are using our voiceprints to help ensure each caller is who he says he is. And, instead of having to remember multiple forms of passwords, voice biometrics technology quietly listens in the background to verify our identity – and will protect us against fraudsters.
Cloud-based IVR delivers better self-service for consumers at a fraction of the cost to businesses. The ideal IVR understands what callers need and gets it to us fast. The IVR cloud holds the future for great self-service—a future that will finally free consumers from the IVR abyss.