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IBM beefs up speech recognition

IBM's new call center services are designed to reduce the number of calls handled by an actual operator.

2 min read
IBM has announced new speech recognition services designed to bring its ViaVoice technology to company call centers.

IBM has developed telephony applications for its speech recognition technology that allow companies to direct calls based on verbal cues from callers. Additionally, the company has developed applications for financial services companies like brokerage houses to enable trades and other transactions over the phone, using natural language recognition.

Although it has been slow to catch on in large numbers, voice recognition software has been touted for its ability to allow users to dictate, rather than type, documents, emails, and basic commands and provide a natural way for users to interact with their computers.

To date, speech recognition business applications have not been as widely implemented as their desktop counterparts. In fact, though IBM has marketed its ViaVoice applications for individual users for years, these are the first enterprise applications for speech recognition the company has introduced.

IBM's new services are designed to reduce the number of calls handled by an actual operator. Using specific verbal cues, the ViaVoice Directory Dialer automatically routes calls. The Web-based Directory Dialer can store over 250,000 names, according to IBM, and reduced 80,000 internal employee calls in a pilot trial at Prudential Securities earlier this year.

"The technology eliminates the delays callers experience while waiting for an operator, or opening an online directory," said Vincent Campagnoli, senior vice president of communications at Prudential Securities, which participated in the pilot program, in a statement. Western Connecticut State University and Lotus Corporation, a subsidiary of IBM, also participated in the pilot program, an IBM spokesperson said.

IBM is also offering natural language recognition applications for financial services firms, which allow brokerage houses to process trades and other transactions over the phone, using a computer. These applications allow callers to request transactions via a "natural" conversation with the computer on the other end of the line, IBM says.

Automated call systems "used to be like a tree--when the branch died that was the end," an IBM spokesperson explained. "Now it's more like a bush: It can go in many directions, and is not contingent on one set branch. The computer starts to ask you questions back."

IBM's natural language application for mutual funds is already available, and the company will start shipping ViaVoice Directory Dialer next month. IBM is testing additional voice-based applications for airlines and academic organizations.

Pricing has not been disclosed, but is based on the size of the directory used. The services are targeted at medium to large multinational corporations, an IBM spokesperson said.