NZ Telecom upgrades to speech IVR

New technology streamlines call centre operations

Telecom New Zealand has implemented new-generation speech recognition IVR technology with a $40,000 pilot project aimed at streamlining call centre operations.

Overlaid speech recognition technology replaces touchtone IVR, enabling call routing based on identification of predefined phrases extracted from freely spoken requests. It aims to minimize zero-outs (callers leaving the system to talk to an agent) and reduce incoming call centre requests.

The company's channel strategy manager, Hamish Stewart, said the system has handled about 75,000 calls since going online, used skills-based routing to reduce transfer calls by half, and improve stability in the contact centre rather than lower headcounts.

"The back-end information in the old IVR was good, but the customer still had find their own way around a complex IVR and this created routing issues" Stewart said. "This is typical of many traditional IVRs and is the motivation behind speech recognition."

To ensure "grandparents could use the system", thousands of pre-recorded phrases recognizing linguistic request variations were built in, while the option to speak to an agent at any time was maintained.

The system, implemented by Genesys, Gen-i and Tuvox has since reduced agent-bound calls by 10 percent, is delivering the expected ROI, and increased self service by about 20 percent.

"If transfers were to drop by 50 percent [the system] would pay for itself," Stewart said, adding departments have stopped receiving misdirected calls. IVR technology is becoming mainstream as telecommunications providers, government agencies and pizza franchises begin to pilot speech recognition software in the call centre.

With some 50 local enterprises embracing speech-enhanced IVR, including Telstra, Centrelink, the Australian Tax Office and Dominos Pizza, Stewart said a notable exception is the banks which have been slow to adopt speech recognition even though the sector pioneered basic touchtone IVR.

"They have been slow to adopt speech [overlaid] IVR because they are confident they have self-service nailed," Stewart said, adding that IVR needs meet constantly rising consumer expectations.

Genesys Asia Pacific senior vice president James Brooks agreed, saying while speech technology adoption is three times that of recent years, he "has not seen any banks in Australia embrace speech overlaid IVR".

Stewart said the technology could see local call centres agents migrate to technical positions, with general zero-out agents offshored.

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More about CentrelinkGenesysGen-i AustraliaTelecom New ZealandTelstra CorporationTouchtone

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