Taxi fleet bets on speech recognition

Auckland Co-operative Taxis expects its recently-implemented speech recognition taxi reservation system to take more than 50 per cent of its 250,000 customer calls a month.

Developed by VeCommerce, the VeCab reservation system will go live in late May and let customers place their phone bookings directly with the taxi despatch computer instead of via call centre staff.

With the reservation system sharing the call load with call centre staff, Auckland Co-Op Taxi plans to "take on more business with other taxi companies with the same number of staff", said Robert van Heiningen, the company's chairman.

It currently provides taxi booking bureau services to seven other fleets in New Zealand. Its 75 call centre staff take bookings for 1150 taxis; with VeCab, it expects to take bookings for 2000 taxis.

The system will also enable the company to automate routine transactions and enquiries, reduce call handling costs, increase the ability to handle busy periods more effectively and reduce the need for complex rostering.

For its customers, VeCab will eliminate waiting in phone queues and ensure an accuracy rate of 97 per cent in the entry of booking requests.

Auckland Co-op Taxi's data despatch computer, which taxi drivers access for booking orders, was developed by Raywood Communications. VeCommerce worked with Raywood and the taxi company's technical staff to integrate VeCab with the despatch system.

VeCab is developed on VeComerce's FirstContact interactive voice response system and US-based Nuance Communications' natural language speech recognition software.

According to Paul Magee, managing director of VeCommerce, Gold Coast-based Regent Taxis went live with its VeCab reservation system in February and "taxi patrons have responded very positively to the new system, with many users preferring to use the automated system rather than speaking to a live agent". Incorporated in February 1947, Auckland Co-op Taxi has a fleet of 700 vehicles carrying about seven million passengers yearly.

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