IVR and Speech Recognition: Good for Business?

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Can Speech Recognition and IVR Technologies Ever Replace Live Human Response?

The automation possibilities offered by IVR and speech recognition technologies appear to answer many business owners’ prayers. IVR and speech recognition programs provide business owners with the ability to run functional phone systems with a considerably smaller live staff than traditional call center solutions, and the promise of a smaller staff translates directly into the promise of significant cost savings.

Yet there’s more to running a successful business than simply keeping an eye on the bottom line.While IVR and speech recognition technologies offer an acceptable solution to a limited range of organizational problems, they shouldn’t be considered a “magic bullet” cure for every element of every company’s phone systems.

The Limitations of IVR and Speech Recognition Technologies

IVR and speech recognition technologies have come a LONG way since their adoption by call centers during the 1970’s. These technologies are now able to identify spoken words and phrases with a much higher degree of accuracy than ever before, allowing companies to set up larger and more flexible automated response systems than they could even a decade ago. The technology itself holds a lot of promise and IVR algorithms are becoming ever more sophisticated. It’s capability to integrate with business applications offers a whole new realm of possibilities for businesses of all sizes.

However, for all their advancements, mainstream IVR technologies are not yet capable of replicating the intelligence level and conversational flexibility of a human being. If your phone system requires more than simply inputting yes/no responses or making a selection from a list of multiple-choice options, then basic IVR technology will be unable to meet your caller’s needs.

When IVR Works

Now, you’d be hard pressed to find any modern call center that doesn’t utilize some form of IVR- and with good reason! IVR technology offers an effective and efficient solution for identifying a caller’s general needs, for routing that caller to the correct phone line, and to accurately queuing them within that line.

As long as identification, routing and queuing can be accomplished through speaking a few simple words or through inputting characters into a keypad, the use of IVR technology is warranted. In fact, for these simple tasks IVR technology can (arguably) perform a superior job than a human, especially in the face of a large volume of incoming calls.

Where IVR Solutions Fail

There are two primary avenues where IVR technology fails to live up to its promise:

  1. IVR systems only recognize responses they are programed to recognize.
  2. Most callers find IVR technology frustrating to navigate.

Likewise, an IVR system is functionally limited by each caller’s ability to effectively navigate its branches. In practice, every IVR system functions as a type of elaborate guessing game.

  • On the one side, you have business owners attempting to provide automated solutions for needs their callers haven’t vocalized yet.
  • On the other side, you have callers attempting to figure out what seemingly arbitrary sequence of responses will lead them to the answers they require.

Is it any wonder most callers find IVR systems frustrating to navigate, especially compared to speaking with a live human being? Most mainstream IVR systems have not yet evolved to the level of flexibility and problem-solving capacity of a live call center operator.

The Bottom Line on IVR and Speech Recognition Technology

IVR solutions represent a “necessary evil” for large businesses and organizations that receive a large volume of calls every day, and play an integral, though limited, role in most modern PBX systems. But every organization, especially small and medium sized companies, needs to limit their phone system’s IVR usage to the absolute minimum.

Fully integrated IVR solutions may cut operational costs, but they do so at the expense of the quality of your organization’s customer service. And at the end of the day, NO organization will last long if it doesn’t adequately meet its customer’s needs- no matter how many costs that organization cuts.

Source by Sam Rozenfeld

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