Maya rings true for Bell Canada work force

There’ll be no more leafing through bulky phone directories,fretting over misspelling a co-worker’s name or spending time inIVR jail, for Bell Canada employees at least.

Employees of the communications giant report that their newlyinstalled speech-enabled auto attendant application, dubbed Maya,has done away with these irritants and reduced the time it takes tomake internal calls by as much as 50 per cent.

Maya is based on SpeechAttendant, a natural speech-enabled autoattendant application developed by Nuance Communications Inc. inBurlington, Mass.

The system was deployed by Bell Canada early this year tostreamline communications among its 5,200-strong bilingualworkforce in Quebec and Ontario.

Heather Forrester, director of Bell’s global portfolio, saysMaya functions as an interactive voice response (IVR) application,enabling callers to directly access their colleague’s desk phone,cell phone, or pager by simply uttering the person’s name and thedepartment or region they would like to reach.

And that feature has great appeal for Mark Schober, associatedirector, enterprise solutions at Bell Canada.

Schober is on the road most of the time and makes around 70calls a day. Manually searching his phone diary is not always anoption. “Leafing through my directory to contact a co-worker wouldtake a minute max, but you can’t do that while driving,” he says.On the other hand, to access the company’s online directory,Schober had to wait until he got to his office or homecomputer.

Maya has resolved many of these issues. Schober says theapplication, enables him to get in touch with colleagues anytimeand from any place. “Now all I do is get on the phone, dial310-MAYA and say the person’s name and location.”

The Bell executive says Maya cuts in half the time it takes toconnect with a contact.

Such a streamlined process, says Forrester, translates intobetter customer service. She said it’s too early to estimate thedollar savings Bell Canada will reap from Maya, as the applicationis still in its initial stages of deployment.

However, cost savings are not the only, or even necessarily theprincipal, benefit. Maya saves Bell Canada staff a great deal oftime and trouble as well.

Previously, with no auto-attendant system in place, Bellemployees attempting to contact co-workers were bogged down bytouch tone “spell by name” or complex extension number retrievalsystems, or the need to wait for an operator.

In addition, a caller who went through a cumbersome process toretrieve a colleague’s desk phone number (for instance) would haveto repeat that process to access that person’s mobile phone orpager number.

By contrast, Nuance SpeechAttendant serves as a single, unifiedaccess point, according to Richard Martel, general manager ofauto-attendant solutions at Nuance. He said the system “storesmultiple numbers for each employee” and makes them available tocallers.

The application supports English and Canadian French.

According to Martel, Maya’s ability to recognize the speaker’slanguage and continue in that language is one of its mostattractive features.

Such capabilities, says a Canadian telecom analyst, is takingIVR technology to a new level.

“Five years ago, it was primarily touch tone prompts, [and]voice recognition quality was not there,” says Fox, principal ofthe Canadian IT and telecommunication consultancy firm Fox GroupConsulting in Markham, Ont. “Now applications can recognize accentsand are more intuitive.”

Fox says implementation of IVR is becoming more widespread.While the technology has been productively used by enterprises forthe past 20 years, it’s only in the past few years that [falling]prices have made it possible for mid-market firms to invest in thetechnology.

She said having a top of the line application is not enough. Youneed to know how to use it right to keep your callers from zeroingout or hanging up.

“Eight levels might be too much for a caller to remember ornavigate through and having to spend 15 minutes in IVR jail bringsout strong negative feelings.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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