Interactive Voice Response
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR and interactive voice response software as well as automatic call answering solutions.
Business phone systems and toll free answering systems (generally 800 numbers and their equivalent) are very popular for service and sales organizations, allowing customers and prospects to call your organization anywhere in the country.
Our PACER and Wizard IVR systems add another dimension to our call center phone system solutions. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) processes inbound phone calls, plays recorded messages including information extracted from databases and the internet, and potentially routes calls to either in-house service agents or transfers the caller to an outside extension.
Interactive voice response research aims to improve call centre experience for users
Computer Weekly, Oct 28, 2003
One of the most annoying problems faced by people who phone a call centre is when the interactive voice response (IVR) system that handles the call misunderstands what the caller has said, leading them down the wrong path.
IVR systems rely on speech recognition. But the scope of speech technology deployed with an IVR system remains limited, as it generally works by recognising key words in a conversation. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have been looking for ways to improve the way computers interpret human communication.
The focus of the research being conducted by the Human Communication Research Centre (HCRC) at Edinburgh is dialogue systems. These could allow a voice-driven application such as a call centre menu to react more flexibly to unexpected input by the user.
Potential uses of this technology include voice interaction with devices, training, customer relationship management and customer support. A dialogue system could also drive interactive entertainment applications such as life-like computer characters for gaming and virtual reality environments.
Johanna Moore, the professor leading the research, said, "We are working on technology that has a natural language capability and can learn as it goes along."
According to Moore, the challenge in developing a dialogue system is to move away from the prescriptive voice interface, as used in today's IVR systems, to a more flexible approach, capable of reacting to unexpected voice commands.
An example of this flexibility would be in detecting when someone is unsure what response is required. Moore said the systems in development at HCRC would be able to tell from voice characteristics such as hesitancy that more explicit confirmation is required.
"We are also trying to make systems more adaptive," Moore said. "For instance, people habitually speak using similar terminology throughout the conversation. The system would be able to align its use of language with that of the user."
The HCRC has also been looking at improving language technology when applied to the way people search for information. Moore said the HCRC has been developing computational techniques to extract information from text, sustain a dialogue between a human and a computer and generate texts that are personalised for individual readers. Such techniques could be used on internet search engines.
"Services such as Google are good but they could be so much better, as you do not get answers in the way you want them packaged," Moore said. "We want applications that go out and find information and package it for you. We have had a lot of interest in this area, particularly from companies that offer general goods."
The aim of another project is to build and evaluate a simple, adaptable language system that could generate textual dialogue incorporating subtle linguistic features that create the impression of a personality. The goal is for the linguistic personalities to be clearly identifiable, and for the interaction between them to be believable and engaging for both researchers and the public. The user of such a system should not need to adapt their behaviour.
"Human communication is all about gestures, intonational patterns and body language, as well as what is being said," Moore said. "A public information kiosk with a computerised agent that can point and gesture would be easier to understand than simple text."
The dialogue systems being developed by HCRC could enable new types of interactions that would be useful in business environments. The HCRC has been talking to call centre operators and call centre software companies about using its technology, Moore said.
However, she stressed that implementing improved dialogue technology is not about replacing call centre staff, but ensuring they only have to deal with complex calls.
"The technology could possibly integrate into a lot of the conversation flow software that is being used already so that certain aspects of the call can be automated," she said. "It is about using people's skills in the right way, not cutting jobs."
Wizard Simplifies Development
DSC provides IVR software including our IVR wizard development tool for creating interactive voice response applications.
Our IVR software lets you increase IVR development productivity by providing a visual development environment. IVR applications can be defined in minutes using this sophisticated, yet easy to use development tool.
DSC also has available a comprehensive IVR software library known as our IVR Wizard Software Development Kit. This optional package is available for programmers and systems adminstrators who wish to manage IVR programs fromLinux IVR, Unix, or Windows IVR operating environments.
Data collected by your phone ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) or IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems can be passed to your existing PC, Unix or Web applications through our phone software.
The PACER predictive dialer can automatically call your customers and pass only connected calls to your agents. With our computer telephony software, your telephone and computer work together to provide cost-saving benefits.