sales director, IVR self-service, Avaya

Call centre technology will evolve to such an extent over the next five years that callers will be perplexed by today’s touch-tone menu options. Instead, the power of voice will be the standard customer service tool, according to Brian Sharwood, principal with the Seaboard Group, a Canadian technology research and strategy consulting firm based in Toronto.

Recognizing this exponentional growth of speech self-service adoption, Avaya Inc. announced last month a new IP-based speech self-service system called the Avaya Voice Portal, a new platform that allows speech IVR (Interactive Voice Response).

“Speech will provide you better human to machine interface. You’ll get a higher IVR completion rate versus using touch tone,” said Steven Feldman, sales director, IVR self-service for Avaya. Speech will provide you better human to machine interface. Steven Feldman>Text Sharwood says that while there are other companies out there that offer similar voice portal solutions, it is Avaya that is leading the way in this area.

“There is nobody out there doing speech self-service with the reach and breadth that Avaya has. Avaya has sales people across the U.S. and around the world. They can be in places where small companies just don’t have the reach,” Sharwood said.

This new solution, he added also showed Avaya’s customers that its internal research and development was actually working, whereas in the past Avaya had been critized for being a little out on the edge and not the most practical.

Since Avaya is known, especially in Canada, as a leader in the call centre space, Sharwood said the Avaya Voice Portal system’s advantage was that it could re-direct and deal with calls without anyone being involved. Sharwood said the system would also reduce business costs for companies by eliminating the need for receptionists by having certain processes automated.

Tracy Fleming, national IP telephony practice leader for Avaya Canada, agrees that speech interfacing is going to be more cost effective than human interfacing.

“There is always going to be a requirement for human interface at some point in time, but if you can take a percentage of calls and have them handled entirely or partially by the speech interface, then you are streamlining overall call centre processes,” Fleming said.

Feldman added another reason why Avaya developed a voice portal system was to address the constraints IT organizations have, such as the lack of IT budget and staff.

“We also looked at the whole concept of how we integrate with Web services and allow customers to leverage and re-use a lot of IT infrastructure services and applications that they already built,” Feldman said, referring to the fact that the Avaya Voice Portal system integrates with a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Sharwood says SOA integration is important as it connects the applications a company is running to the voice and the telephony services. “That really is the key. You are not starting to build something again that you may already have, such as a CRM tool. You do not want to re-build these things just because you are putting in this voice portal.”

In addition to integrating with SOA and Web services, the Avaya Voice Portal also has additional disaster recovery ports built into the software architecture that will automatically redirect traffic to the nearest Avaya IP gateway, Feldman said.

The Avaya Voice Portal is currently in beta testing, but will be available early November. Feldman said it would be priced on a per port licencing model and well below what the rest of market was charging. As well, Gartner Inc. recently announced it had listed Avaya as the leader in its quadrant for enterprise voice portals and IVR solutions.

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