Hooking IVR up with VoIP helps cut call centre costs

Some exciting innovations in Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems have recently come about as a result of both cheaper long distance rates and new services from voice over IP (VoIP) technologies. Incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) have had an advantage in pricing telephone services. But

now, smaller, leaner companies are able to anticipate solutions to problems that come about from converged networks.

At a recent conference on Web-enabled contact centres, several managers weren’t as excited about the ability of IP to reduce their telecom costs as they were about the potential the technology has to improve information for call routing and IVR. They are looking for more customer self-service and a way to make minor improvements in their internal operations. Here, the telecom world is borrowing from Extensible Markup Language (XML) technologies that have become a mainstay in electronic commerce platforms.

Several VoIP startups are launching new services that combine IVR and voice XML. The vendors want to put more control into the hands of their customers so that there is greater customer satisfaction and less time required from customer service reps.

When a customer calls the VoIP-enabled contact centre, IVRs are automatically accessing databases to collect information based on customers’ responses. By automatically attaching information collected from those databases with the packetized voice call, routing a customer around the contact centre network can help smaller companies remain competitive without spending the money necessary to manage a full-blown contact facility.

While it is easy to see how busy a contact centre is by simply walking around the floor, it’s a little more difficult to see IVR and IP technologies benefits without getting into a “”putting cart before the horse”” scenario.

Small firms are developing new marketing techniques to get the attention of potential customers, as many from the voice world are having a hard time wrapping their head around challenges that are popping up in the IP world.

Take Qovia, a startup developing VoIP monitoring and management tools. They created a spam tool for voice calls that bombarded enterprise voicemail systems, much like e-mail spammers are clogging up corporate e-mail systems. Customers couldn’t understand what VoIP spam is or how much of a problem it could cause.

Startup creates voicemail spam

To get its message across, Qovia created a spamming tool that clogged up a customer’s voice system with more than 1,000, voice mail marketing messages. While Qovia may have helped kick-start the VoIP spam market, their prediction of new IP-related problems is definitely benefiting their enterprise customers.

Whereas much is written about the benefits and cost savings of converged networks, many companies have not yet realized the implications of the problems that will arise. Many companies are investigating the potential impact by setting up VoIP private branch exchanges (PBXs) based on open source, such as Asterisk, with which they can use XML configuration files, with the comparable ease of administering a Web server.

At the end of the day, companies need to be able to control the amount of technical risk they incur when implementing technologies that will improve their processes. With wholesale services and bandwidth arbitrage becoming less of a competitive advantage, companies marrying IVR and VoIP technologies will be able to innovate quickly.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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