PV Kannan, CEO and Founder of /7, reached out to chat about how Big Data is helping his company create better, more intelligent voice response systems. I was all prepared to hate him and his company because voice response systems are the bane of doing business with big companies today. In spite of myself, I was fascinated by what the company is doing to take the anger out of working those systems.
One of the key issues facing customers today is that big companies want their business, but really don't want to expend the energy or resources to speak with them one to one. It simply is too expensive to do that. So, they deploy voice response systems in the attempt to automate their communications with customers and, thus, reduce overall costs of doing business.
Unfortunately, the technology works well in only a small subset of customer engagements. Another way to say this is that they suck. All it takes is a bit of noise on the line or a customer's way of speaking to cause these systems to make mistakes and misunderstand what the customer is trying to say.
Rather than helping customers do business with the company, many of these voice response systems have become a major liability. Customers hate them. During my discussion with PV, I was reminded of "conversations" with voice response systems used by Comcast, Delta Airlines, my insurance company and Verizon that seemed to be designed to be as complex as possible and to deny me access to the people who could help me get what I wanted accomplished. I've found myself shouting at the system because it couldn't understand what I wanted and turned a simple request for information into a painful exercise. I've stopped doing business with a few companies because the only way I could contact them was a really badly implemented voice response system
7 is doing its best to fix this by making the systems more intelligent, more responsive and really become a useful way for customers to engage with companies.