Alcatel SA subsidiary Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc. Tuesday unveiled software that uses voice-recognition features to help users automate the handling of customer service phone calls.
The new software, called Genesys Voice Portal, handles common customer transactions - such as obtaining account balances, checking flight status and ordering products - automatically, without the assistance of live agents. It is aimed at reducing companies' dependence on agents by giving customers tools to find answers on their own and over the phone. This frees agents from answering basic, repetitive questions and allows them to focus on more complex interactions that require human involvement, Genesys says.
The goal is to reduce customer support costs. Genesys cites Forrester Research Inc. data that puts the average cost of self-service transactions at less than US$2 per call, vs. agent-assistance costs that average more than $6 per call.
What sets Voice Portal apart from basic interactive voice response (IVR) software is that it can offer users access to Web content via voice commands. Genesys Voice Portal has built-in support for VoiceXML, an extension to the XML document formatting standard. VoiceXML provides a standards-based approach for companies to develop voice applications that retrieve Web content.
Basically, customers speak their inquiries, and an automated voice-recognition system pulls information from Web sources. In this way, companies can take existing Web content and infrastructure investments - including application integration code, business rules and personalization software - and reuse it for voice applications, Genesys says.
Genesys is not alone is adding VoiceXML support to its contact center software. Aspect Communications this week unveiled voice-activated customer service features, based on VoiceXML 2.0, that the company has built into its existing software suite, Aspect IP Contact Suite. Likewise, Avaya last week announced that support for VoiceXML 2.0 is included in the latest version of its flagship IVR offering, Avaya IVR 9.0.
"VoiceXML is clearly gaining credibility as a leading protocol for customer service voice applications," said Bern Elliot, research director at Gartner Group. "And because it enables companies to leverage existing Web applications, VoiceXML-based self-service provides the framework for a more integrated customer contact management solution."
Genesys built Voice Portal using technology from Telera. In May, Genesys parent company Alcatel announced plans to acquire - for $136 million in Alcatel stock - Telera, a Campbell, Calif., company that specializes in VoiceXML systems. The deal is expected to close soon. At the time the purchase was announced, Alcatel said the acquisition was key to its strategy to build advanced voice applications that could drive the transition to converged voice and data networks.
Voice Portal integrates with the Genesys Suite 6 contact-center applications. The software can route a customer to a live agent if its self-service features can't answer a query. Live agents receive automatic screen pops containing information about the self-service transaction in progress, as well as customer history.
Genesys is demonstrating its software at this week's International Call Center Management (ICCM) Conference & Exhibition, which is being held in Chicago. Advanstar Communications is the show's organizer and said 5,000 attendees were expected.