Voice recognition hoot for Qld motorists

Queensland motorists
Written by Steven Deare, Contributor

The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) is implementing an AU$2 million voice recognition system to handle the estimated three million calls it expect from members this year.

The rollout comes after RACQ's earlier decision that voice recognition call systems had matured enough to handle the large volume of inbound calls. Survey feedback from members had showed acceptance of voice recognition systems had greatly increased over the last couple of years as the technology had improved.

In the next two to three months, callers to RACQ will be asked the nature of their query by a voice recognition system. Once the caller's speech is analysed, he/she will be forwarded to the appropriate department.

Currently callers must navigate through menu options by pressing the buttons on their phone's keypad.

RACQ general manager, shared services, Bruce Rice, said keypad navigation was time consuming for many members.

"You have limited options and a lot of customers get lost," he said.

"We expect the caller experience to be a major gain by their no longer having to traverse a menu structure, and [we can] speed access to the best call centre agent to satisfy their request."

RACQ has around 450 call centre agents.

Rice viewed the almost AU$2 million spent on refreshing its IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems as a normal progression to better customer service.

"We had reached the stage of needing to at least refresh our touch tone IVRs and, while the additional cost of the voice recognition features was high, the opportunity to improve the effectiveness of our operation and improve the customer experience helped justify the move," he said.

Voice systems integrator Information Technologies Australia supplied the new system using an Intervoice IVR system running software from Nuance Communications.

Not all calls will be handled by the voice recognition system, however. Member calls for roadside assistance, for instance, will still be handled by a consultant, while members will still pay their bills via the touch-tone system.

Aside from handling inbound calls, RACQ will also use text to speech conversion for its road condition reporting service this month.

The phone service, also available online, allows Queensland motorists to hear the condition of main roads throughout the state.

RACQ staff collate government and police data on road conditions and then record messages for the phone service.

Peak calls periods come during tropical storms, where hundreds of roads can be flooded and RACQ staff try to record updates for each road every 30 minutes.

"It's a horrendous manual task," said Rice.

The text to speech capability will see RACQ staff no longer need to voice messages. Instead, staff will type road reports and the IVR system will read them to callers.

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