Despite not quite being where Back to the Future predicted we would be at this point in time (or yesterday to be exact), it’s fair to say that technology has developed at an astonishing rate, with some inventions that have completely changed the way we interact and socialise in modern day.
We often take for granted the ease of the taking a picture, making a call and checking our emails all on one device, when once upon a time you’d have needed three separate ones. Now we’re able to call a company and without even speaking to an operator we can get to the person we need.
The first electronic speech synthesiser was created in 1936, so speech recognition is nothing new. Following on from rapid developments and growth in the telephone industry the Bell System (a continuation of Alexander Graham Bell’s work) unveiled a system which could dial dual tone, multi-frequency audible tones, this was in 1962.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was to change the way call centres and businesses operate and connect with their customers, serving as a bridge between the customer and the company to direct them to the most suitable place. Brian Bischoff (who was once a part of AT&T which eventually became the Bell System’s parent company) highlighted how the development of the internet hasn’t dented the popularity of speaking on the phone “Is Web traffic up? Yes, definitely. Is phone traffic down? No, not really”
IVR has developed along the way to become more accurate, less sensitive to background noise and much easier to navigate nowadays. There are several options available to those using IVR.
·Natural Language; After a prompt is read the customer responds as though talking to a human
Touch Tone; The customer can either make their selection by pressing a number on their phone or by saying the option they want
Directed Dialogue; This works by the customer using keywords to access the department they wish to speak to.
The aim for IVR has always been to improve customer service, refining the speed and ease at which customers can reach their desired department or contact. Technology has developed to allow IVR systems to detect and understand a range of accents, vocabularies and pronunciations. There’s less need to enunciate each individual word when prompted, meaning if an IVR system was to use natural language, the response of the caller could be an unbroken sentence of continuous speech.
IVR technology has developed so far that gone are the days of trying to book cinema tickets for a specific film and time and ending up with the complete opposite of your request. Gone are the days of even needing to speak to someone to pay a bill. IVR has developed so far that thousands of tasks are performed using the tech every day, from placing an order to tracking it, paying a bill, using a directory to reach a specific contact, checking schedules, the list goes on!
With the IVR industry spanning decades, improving rapidly and being available in our pockets in the form of Siri, Cortana and OK Google it’s no wonder the industry is worth £14 Billion annually in revenue and growing at a very healthy 10.7%!