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Johanne Torres[September 13, 2004]

IBM and Avaya Answer Calls


It has happened to me many times: I’m in my car, I wonder if I can stop in the supermarket before I get home from work, but I need to make sure about my bank account balance, I want to know how much I can spend tonight. I need to know if my payroll check has cleared. So I call the bank, but then I remember, I have an account with a local bank now (eh, free checking), and they don’t really have a huge call center that would be accessible at this time. Of course, I have no idea what the darn account number is, and I don’t want to have to stop at home to look it up. If only my bank’s automated service really worked! I mean, the recording rarely offers answers beyond the basic account balance, and hours of operation.

Many institutions such as banks, airline ticket centers, and insurance companies commonly face this challenge—making sure their customers’ request calls are satisfactorily fulfilled 24x7x365. Come Avaya (newsalert - quote) and IBM (newsalertquote) joining forces to offer a customizable speech-enabled self-service solution, which promises to tackle the challenge head on.

The companies combined Avaya’s Internet protocol-based contact center software for self-service with IBM’s WebSphere infrastructure software and speech technology, enabling institutions to integrate speech easily into their business processes such as account management, customer purchasing and inventory management. This new agreement mingles IBM’s business middleware and speech technology with Avaya’s global contact center products and services.

The Avaya-IBM speech bundle will allow customers and institution employees to use speech to interact with automated services that link together contact centers, IP networks and back-end infrastructures. With this combined service in place, the client’s automated call center will be able to do more than just answer caller questions; it will also allow critical data integration, such as customer info updates, customer’s past purchases and real-time inventory levels—ensuring access of the information required to serve callers effectively in a timely manner, by performing functions that previously called for a live agent.

Additionally, this offering lets institutions extend enterprise-class speech self-service to any remote location across IP networks. The Avaya-IBM solution can provide multiple options including speech self-service, allowing customers to instantly speak with centralized automated applications that reflect up-to-date transactions and past history.

"Speech is becoming an important part of companies' IT infrastructures. By using speech within the call center, as well as to access enterprise applications, companies are enhancing customer service and driving down costs," said Gary Cohen, general manager, pervasive computing, IBM. "And, in this heterogeneous environment, it is vital for speech technologies to work well across a whole series of platforms. Today's announcement is part of IBM's continuing efforts to expand its partnerships in this area."

The agreement joins Avaya’s contact center software for self-service—Avaya Interactive Response with IBM WebSphere Voice Server 5.1, providing clients with a single integrated platform to develop customization of speech applications. Avaya Interactive Response incorporates open standards such as VoiceXML (VXML), which allows Internet tools for speech application development, and Media Resource Control Protocol (MRCP), which facilitates integration of speech recognition and text-to-speech. New features in IBM WebSphere Voice Server include WebSphere Application Server for common administration, installation, deployment and logging throughout the enterprise, as well as support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS/ES/AS for Intel 3.0 and SuSE SLES 8.0.

The new Avaya and IBM bundle will be available towards the end of this year. The solution will provide multilingual support, including US English, UK English, Chinese, and Japanese.





Johanne Torres is the contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was the assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at jtorres@tmcnet.com.


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