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Chapter One. On Telephones, Touchtones, ... > Speech Recognition Versus Touchtone ...

Speech Recognition Versus Touchtone Functionality

Speech recognition helps companies overcome the limitations of touchtone systems, which are often difficult to use for anything other than the most rudimentary applications. Nearly all of us have had at least one experience of being trapped in touchtone menu hell—unable to accomplish tasks or escape, except by hanging up. The frustration caused by these experiences often leads to customer disenchantment and ill will. As a result, many companies have found themselves needing to support unsuccessful touchtone systems by hiring additional—and costly—call center representatives, negating one of the motivations for purchasing a touchtone system in the first place.

Unlike impersonal touchtone systems, speech-recognition systems give companies a greater power to bond with their customers. Not only does the nature of conversational interaction enable a more natural experience for the caller than a touchtone system, but speech-recognition systems can also make some complex tasks easier to automate, thereby reducing the cost of handling routine matters. Imagine what it would be like if the customer service representatives at United Airlines had to personally answer thousands of calls each day from people seeking basic flight departure and arrival information. It is unrealistic to expect even the best customer representative to treat a caller with the same high level of courtesy and respect that he showed the previous 1,000 callers that day. But with a well-designed speech-recognition system, a company can treat every one of its customers as if the very best representative was serving them—promptly, efficiently, helpfully, and unobtrusively.


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