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August 11, 2014

A Look Into the Past, Present and Future of Voice


Although voice is sometimes pigeon-holed as an “old school” form of communication, rapidly developing voice technology is actually putting spoken word back on the bleeding-edge of innovation. During the opening keynote for Smart Voice Conference at ITEXPO, Dr. Valentine Matula, senior director and head of Emerging Product and Technology for Avaya, discussed some of the exciting developments he is seeing—and helping create—for voice interactions.

As Dr. Matula explained, the “mother lode” for ROI is in customer service, where new technology can merge Web or application-based communication with phone interactions to:

  • Save labor costs
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Increases productivity

One of the challenges for today’s contact centers, explained Matula, was offering efficient, effective solutions for customers who start an interaction on the Web and progress to another channel if they encounter a problem. In other words, in contrast to customer communications of yesteryear, many of today’s interactions don’t start through voice communications—but may very well end there.

“Nobody wakes up and says, ‘I think I’ll call United Airlines, I want to go to Paris and I think they fly there,” Dr. Matula explained. “They are going to the Web and starting from there.”

To illustrate the way new voice technologies can be used to drive better business processes, Dr. Matula cited a recent use case in which Avaya developed Egencia, the business travel arm of Expedia, a new mobile application to help improve its contact center service. When customers with this application sign in to use it, two calls are automatically generated. Simultaneously, the customer’s phone rings to connect to an agent, and at the same time, a call comes into the contact center to connect that customer to an available agent.

The application reduces the time and effort the customer expends in reaching out for service, thereby increasing customer satisfaction. At the same time agent activity becomes more efficient, saving the business time and money. In fact, Egencia kept data on its trial of Avaya’s technology that showed the mobile application reduced agent call time by eight percent.

“If you walked into a call center and said you had a little app that would produce an eight percentage reduction in staffing time, that would be a heck of an ROI story,” he explained. “It was like a medical trial where the results are so positive that it wouldn’t be ethical to keep doing trials because you’d just want everyone to get the medicine. This was the equivalent of that.”

Dr. Matula also emphasized that most of the business world is only just starting to recognize voice as information, and that we have only reached the proverbial tip-of-the-iceberg in making voice interactions smarter. So, do the possibilities for smarter voice communication seem endless?

You can say that again.  




Edited by Adam Brandt


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