Voice-recognition abilities added to new CRM system

Customer relationship management (CRM) software vendor Aspect Communications Corp. last week added voice-recognition technology to a self-service application that lets customers process transactions by telephone.

San Jose-based Aspect said the self-service software can now identify customers by their "voiceprints," eliminating the need for them to enter personal identification numbers (PIN) or other passwords to access account information or pay bills. The voice-recognition technology, developed by Nuance Communications Inc. in Menlo Park, Calif., is included in Version 6.0 of Aspect's Customer Self-Service tool.

Sheila McGee-Smith, a CRM analyst in Pittstown, N.J., said the voice-recognition feature wouldn't have been that noteworthy prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. But now, banks and other security-conscious companies may "take a closer look at this than they might have" if the attacks hadn't occurred, she said.

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Large CRM players such as Siebel Systems Inc. don't offer homegrown voice-recognition capabilities with their software at this point, McGee-Smith said. A services person at San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel confirmed that its voice-activated self-service application can't authenticate users by their voice patterns.

McGee-Smith noted that Dallas-based InterVoice-Brite Inc. does support voice recognition as part of the interactive voice response technology it sells. However, Aspect claimed that it also provides call center, e-mail and other CRM-related functions with its software.

Daniel Reagan, vice president of technology at Minneapolis-based Navitaire Inc., said the new voice-recognition tool could make self-service applications easier to use. "I think [customers] would welcome a system where you use your own voice," he said. "Certainly, things that can't be stolen are beneficial."

Navitaire, an application service provider that has contracts with about 40 airlines, uses Aspect's applications to let corporate users do things such as book flights. Currently, Navitaire relies on PINs and other traditional authentication procedures to verify the identities of customers, Reagan said.

He added that he hasn't investigated what it would cost to install Aspect's new software or whether Navitaire's IT infrastructure would have to be upgraded to support the voice-recognition technology.

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