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October 04, 2012

If the Cloud Inspires Breakthrough Voice and Visuals, When Will IVR be Ready for Primetime?

By Stefanie Mosca, TMCnet Managing Editor

When you get a panel of experienced innovators and decision makers in the telecommunications industry, particularly the interactive voice recognition market together, the discussion is nothing short of thought-provoking.

That was certainly the case today at the Cloud Communications Expo, collocated with ITEXPO Austin 2012 during a session called ‘Cloud Inspires Breakthrough Voice and Visuals for Mobile Communications and Customer Service.’

With voice and speech-enabled technology just about on the cusp of penetration in the tech market today, telecom executives and consumers will agree that the technology just isn’t ready for primetime yet.

As Dena Skrbina, senior director of solutions marketing at Nuance (News - Alert) Communications put it; she has been declaring every year for the past 10, the year of IVR and unfortunately due to slower than expected adoption and less than ready data she is still waiting for that year to come.

Although we seem to at least be getting closer, however, as John Wolf, VP at eLoyalty (News - Alert) stated, while he doesn’t see IVR fading away anytime soon, he believes it will continue to grow at a slow pace. One differentiation that Wolf says could be the reason behind the industry moving at a snail’s pace is because the innovators in the space didn’t spend enough time doing the right research and engaging end users for the benefit of the cause. 

According to Wolf, the technology is not the problem as he believes that had the bigger organizations taken those steps in the beginning stages of the advent of IVR and speech-enabled technology, the adoption rate and the penetration in the market today would be much more substantial.

Overall, whether an application includes strictly voice-enabled or both voice and visual technology, it provides a better experience for the customer since it adds an additional layer of interactive engagement to obtain the end result, particularly when it comes to mobile devices. Skrbina put it best; we are all walking around with personal computers in our pockets, so why shouldn’t we be able to communicate with them on a level of human intelligence?

Tara Kelly, president and CEO of SPLICE Software Inc. brought up a very interesting point by introducing the term multi-modal, in which a company has to offer a variety of different ways to reach and interact with their customers in order to provide them with the most important information and solutions. She used utilizing video and audio simultaneously as an example. In order to build a relationship with a customer, she believes there must be more than one modality to form the basis.

Kelly added that when she is asked if voice is here to say, she responds that she doesn’t see that happening since people are still being born with two lips to communicate. The reason she claims there is such an influx of demand for these services is because we are humans and still desire to be able to evoke a sense of feeling and emotion when it comes to a customer experience. Theresa Szczurek, CEO and co-founder of Radish Systems (News - Alert) chimed in and agreed by noting that by using an application that includes both voice and audio knowledge retention of customers is increased six times while at the same time improving customer loyalty and ROI.

In fact, Szczurek added that studies show that almost 80 percent of people stop doing business with a company after having a bad IVR experience as it is ultimately an organization’s initial chance at a first impression.

All of the panelists agreed that the largest demand for IVR solutions lies in the retail market as speech-enabled technology is the future of how people want to do business. Speech could be the next modality that we use the most to execute these business transactions. However, Kelly admits that she doesn’t know if we have enough data yet to support it.

Based on the statistics provided in the speech-enabled technology market and given the panel that took place in Austin today, we can’t quite pinpoint when the year of IVR will begin, however, for Wolf, Kelly, Skrbina and Szczurek, the hope is 2013.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Austin 2012, happening now in Austin, TX.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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