Aspect Communications, which specializes in call centre workforce management applications, is updating its self-service software so customers can expand their use of speech-powered technology.
Customer Self Service (CSS) 7.1 includes a VoiceXML-based auto attendant product, the ScanSoft Open Speech Attendant, that can be deployed for broader corporate use. The basic platform starts at US$20,000; the auto attendant add-on starts at US$25,000.
Open Speech Attendant provides speech-enabled dial-by-name capabilities, eliminating the need for a live operator to route calls within a business.
“What this means is you’ll have a different buyer in the enterprise. The call centre manager doesn’t have to buy it. The IT manager can buy it. The telecom manager can buy it. It extends [Aspect’s products] deeper into the enterprise,” said Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics.
Corporations in growing numbers are turning to speech-enabled applications, such as Aspect’s CSS, that let customers conduct transactions automatically via the phone, rather than having live agents handle every call. The idea is to reduce labour costs and improve efficiency.
Call centre costs and ROI typically are very clear and by applying speech technology more broadly, customers will see greater return from their call centre investments, according to McGee-Smith.
“That’s what Aspect is saying here, ‘You bought it for your call centre. Let me help you leverage it against the rest of your business,’” she said.
VoiceXML is one standard driving the trend toward broader use of speech-enabled applications. Aspect and its competitors, such as Avaya, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories and Nortel, increasingly are using VoiceXML-based applications to make it easier for customers to expand speech-powered applications and extend them into other areas of their businesses. In the past, customers had to use custom-built applications.
“The Open Speech Attendant application is plug and play,” McGee-Smith said. “It’s a great proof point that their VoiceXML engine really works and that it doesn’t have a lot of proprietary hooks in it that would make it difficult for an off-the-shelf, prepackaged product to work.”
Other updates in CSS 7.1 include support for more languages, better voice quality and better recognition. In addition, CSS 7.1 integrates speech recognition and speaker verification technology from ScanSoft and Nuance.
An updated open database connectivity driver, which enables the system to access databases from different vendors, provides faster data access for the self-service application.