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IVR Solutions

This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR Solutions and custom IVR software and products. 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. The PACER and WIZARD IVR System is just one of many DSC call center phone system features..

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Banks and Speech Services

The following is an extract from the article "Bank Aims to Cash In with Speech Services" by Michael Caton, August 30, 2004. "Woodforest National Bank is looking at speech recognition as a way to improve customer service over its existing touch-tone telephone banking system.

Based in The Woodlands, Texas, Woodforest has four 24-hour branches, and transactions completed before 8 p.m. are credited to accounts the same day, seven days a week, rather than the 3 or 4 p.m. business-day cutoff typical of most banks.

Furthermore, the bank has experienced strong growth in the past five years using a hub-and-spoke model, expanding into an area first with in-store locations and later adding a traditional branch with full banking services.

To more efficiently support these expanded offerings and to assist customers during off-hours, the bank has built and tested a new IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system that will eventually replace its touch-tone system.

Michael Webster, systems analyst with Woodforest and project manager for the development of the new IVR system, estimated that replacing the bank's touch-tone-based system with a speech-based system will save Woodforest about $10,000 a month in toll charges.

Most of the savings will be realized through faster call completion and through allowing customers to access more services than they could with the old system, thus reducing callers' need to talk to customer service representatives.

Webster said he expects that the new telephony system's features will boost the number of calls the bank receives from 8,500 to about 10,000 per day but that the net result will be lower costs through shorter calls.

Woodforest wanted to replace its existing DTMF (dual-tone multifrequency) system because the system had reached a dead end in growth, said Webster. "It definitely wasn't meeting our needs," he said. "We couldn't grow it much in terms of capacity, and we couldn't grow it much in terms of the features we could provide customers."

Webster said the bank was also running into problems because the touch-tone application was created in an older version of Microsoft Corp.'s Visual Basic that developers couldn't fully support with Microsoft's latest Visual Studio .Net tools.

Because Woodforest is a Microsoft shop, Webster and his team decided to make the transition to speech recognition using Microsoft's Speech Server 2004 Enterprise Edition. "We are very much a Microsoft shop in terms of development," Webster said.

"We are comfortable with Web development in the .Net platform, and that is exactly what you are developing in when you are developing in Speech Server."

A fundamental problem with the bank's touch-tone system is a lack of flexibility, said Webster. If a customer wants to find transactions for a specific date, for example, he or she must input that date in a specific format.

The new system, in contrast, will be able to accept input for date ranges expressed in simple terms such as "last week," Webster said, because it can work to a relative reference.

Webster said the biggest challenge in making the transition to voice hasn't been writing code but grasping the technology.

"Our biggest challenge ... has been understanding the technology, understanding what is a prompt, what is a grammar and how does speech recognition work," he said.

Two Woodforest application designers spent several months learning about voice technology and took classes in voice user-interface design offered by Enterprise Integration Group Inc., a San Ramon, Calif., company specializing in IVR applications...."

To view the entire article, please contact Technical Analyst Michael Caton who can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR services and IVR application development software.