consumer and you’re having problems with product ABC. Said product
requires that you call a specific 800-number, but they don’t tell you
what you’re in for when you dial the 800-number. Often, an automated
voice answers your call and you are then guided into what seems an
endless menu of number pressing.
verify your account, press 1. To check the status of your order, press
2. To change or cancel your order, press 3. To speak to an agent, please
wait on the line and the next available agent will be with you
kicks in. You sit back and relax. Your call is placed in the queue, and
then you find out that your estimated waiting time is just over 20
minutes (usually due to high call volume, which is the last thing you
wanted). The wait becomes a hassle, you hang up and accomplish nothing.
Now the company with product ABC has lost your business…and your faith.
telecommunications industry on the rise, new and improved products are
being introduced to companies so that call centers can better assist
their clientele, avoiding the “zero out” solution.
solution was presented in 2001 when AT&T
quote)introduced VoiceTone, a new
alert) product to Medco, one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers in
the country. According to Kenny Klepper, Executive Vice President and
Chief Operating Officer of Medco “AT&T is a client of ours. We look for
common ground where we can expand relationships from our client
companies. AT&T presented their strategies around the VoiceTone product,
and Medco was the first client that put it in service.”
call centers nationwide, Medco services large corporations such as
managed care facilities, insurance carriers, third-party benefit plan
administrators and local government agencies. Medco receives nearly two
million inbound calls a week with an estimated 200 calls a minute. Since
adopting the VoiceTone, customers are now identified through speech and
triaged to a proper agent.
VoiceTone is possible through AT&T Labs’ “How May I Help You?” (sm)
natural language understanding. Designed and maintained by AT&T’s global
network, VoiceTone recognizes a large area of vocabulary and speech.
VoiceTone can determine a caller’s intent and will then direct the
caller to the right place. Through natural dialogue, companies can offer
a more effective experience for their customers, providing the
comfortable experience of speaking to a “pseudo” agent, while requiring
minimal or no agent involvement. This applies to web-based, PDA, or
wireless telephone interaction.
VoiceTone, Medco’s callers were placed into a call prompter which
provided four menu choices and zero for an operator. What they found was
that too many callers relied on pressing zero, completely bypassing the
menu, resulting in a longer wait time. The solution was to put
VoiceTone up front so that customers didn’t have to press buttons or
decipher for themselves where to place their call.
to Mark Harsch, Signature Client Director of AT&T, “We think we are
unique in the market place. You can speak very naturally to the system
and in some cases, some people feel as if they are talking to a real
person. We feel we have the best algorithms in the business.”
It was an
effort on Medco’s part to implement VoiceTone because they were the
first adopter of the new IVRU. But to their advantage, Medco was able
to provide feedback to AT&T to customize menu options and make it fit
for their call centers for the final product. Prior to VoiceTone, Medco
had a successful call rate of 48%. Since its installation, the call rate
went up to 55% which resulted in over a million dollars in savings.
very little training involved during the migration process. Technical
staff were brought up to speed on how to set up the tables and from
there, clients were moved over to VoiceTone one by one
VoiceTone technology has proven success for both AT&T and Medco. To view
an interactive demonstration, visit
AT&T’s VoiceTone on the web. For more information on Medco, please
Michelle Pasquerello is the Assistant Online Content Director for
TMCnet. She welcomes your comments.