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How future IVR could use HD Voice

HD Voice ( Wideband Audio) is now reality thanks to three major developments in telephony industry. They are :-
1. 3G network is now widely available in many places in world.
2. Smartphone with HD Voice support is affordable, priced low under US$100.
3. 4G Network are also available now a days with many smart-phones supporting 4G.

HD Voice Usage in Future IVR

HD Voice Usage in Future IVR

Apart from that, cost for data services in wireless devices have gone down in recent times. So it can be expected that HD Voice would be a regular feature in future telephony and it would also have positive developments in IVR industry. I feel, such development will take place in speech recognition area.
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Airtel is one of the most reputed Mobile Operators in India and the largest in terms of mobile subscriber with more than 28% of the total mobile subscribers in India. While it offers many value added services and has very good network connectivity all across the country, it is also one of the most annoying telecom operators.

Airtel IVR Service

Airtel IVR Service

Airtel has many IVR services some are Value Added Service ( VAS), really useful for subscribers, some are promotional IVR services. Apart from that, Airtel also uses IVR service for many reminder services. One such reminder is, 3G Data reminder for pre-paid mobile subscriber which is an example of what is an annoying IVR Service.
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Choosing right CTI boards is difficult with lot of choices available in the market, at many attractive prices. For example, a digital CTI board with 1-E1 board can now be purchased at US$200 in India. And a four port E1 boards can be purchased at less than $800 in India. So, days of Dialogic costing $1000 for single E1 days are long gone now!

CTI Boards

CTI Boards

While prices seem very attractive, but how do these boards perform in real life ? While these boards have been in the market a while, still Dialogic, Donjin, Aculab boards are holding their forte! The pricing look so attractive with similar features, if this was the pricing in SmartPhone World, I feel, these brands would have got wiped out long back!

Personally, I would always choose Dialogic ( or Dialogic Equivalent) boards over any other boards. And this sentiment would be echoed by many in IVR industry. So what is that parameter which sets Dialogic apart from other low cost CTI Boards ? And that might be clue to how to choose the right CTI board for your IVR System.
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Benefits of Tollfree Numbers

TollFree numbers are those which starts with normally 1800 prefix in India ( its 800 in USA, and may vary according to country) which is accessible by through out the country and the caller is not charged for making the call to that toll free number.

While callers are not charged even if they make an outgoing call from their phones, it is charged to the owner of that toll free number. Every telecom operators can provide toll free numbers to anyone. Normally, these toll free numbers are terminated ( forwarded ) to a PBX with IVR System or some times its even forwarded to a fixed phone or mobile number.

There are many benefits of having a tollfree number for customers. Some of them are :

1. Brand Recognition and prestige
It is a prestigious thing to have a toll free number as it shows the company cares for its customer. It does not expect its customers to pay while calling up it for either support or information. This is a separating line between the company and its competitor.
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Recent market sentiments in India has positive effects on IVR Industry too. This traditional industry of CTI Boards, On-premise IVR System, was shrinking due to poor economic conditions as well as availability of affordable Cloud IVR Solutions in India. But, recently, it seems it is again looking up.

CTI Market India

CTI Market India

VAS ( Value Added Service) providers to telecom operators were the largest consumer of CTI Boards in India. With stagnant market and entry of low cost smartphones, now a days, telecom operators use VAS majorly to promote their essential services/features to its customers.
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Any Voice Application finally needs to get connected to telephone network or PSTN as we call them, so that it reaches real people. Now a days, it seems, PSTN is being replaced by Mobile Network as mobile phone users outnumber fixed-phone users. My own experience of looking at caller data of IVR systems installed in various industries, shows that at least 80% callers any any IVR System is from Mobile Phones.

IVR System Architecture

IVR System Architecture

Here are ways how an IVR System gets connected to real world telephone network irrespective of their wire-line or wireless nature.

1. Analog Lines
This is the Last mile solution to end connectivity to end user equipment. So, here instead of connecting this line to a Telephone Instrument, we connect those lines to Analog CTI Boards which in turn is installed inside a PC or a Server through a RJ1 connector. It uses the old protocol of connecting telephone which are basic as known/heard by anyone for signalling. It uses Ringing to indicate incoming call from telephone Exchange or switch to voice application, polarity reversal or battery reversal or even 16KHz tone for connection establishment connection. It has to detect all telephony related conditions by detecting audio pattern available in the channel, for example busy tone, engage tone, FAX Tone, DTMF etc which are exactly as we hear in telephone speaker.
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Once upon a time, Interactive Voice Response Systems and Dialogic was almost synonymous. If someone said CTI, it usually meant Dialogic. Dialogic D/4 PCI board was legendary, at least in India. People with remote connection with voice application development too knew/heard about D4 PCI board!

Dialogic PowerMedia XMS

Dialogic PowerMedia XMS

Well, that was many moons ago. With entry of low cost CTI boards in Voice Application world in the form of Chinese manufacturer, Entry of Asterisk, maturing of VOIP as technology and penetration of internet, things have changed for Dialogic as well for users. But Dialogic was always there and and I think now with Cloud Telephony picking up and people realising about convergence of technologies and its utility, one can hope, Dialogic with its PowerMedia XMS should become household name again, at least among cloud telephony service providers with vision for the future!
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I had some interaction with few mobile phone users whose work demands them to keep traveling across cities or inside cities as well as sit in office for some time and since I spoke them about benefits of cloud Telephony of hosted IVR, they came out with few situations which I thought, I should share here. Incidentally, any business people do, work in office most of the times and then visit others offices for meetings.

Cloud IVR As Call Management

Cloud IVR As Call Management

While there are cloud telephony services like hosted call center, virtual receptionist, do it yourself voice applications in the cloud, there is not just a proper product or cloud telephony service for vast individual who need just few simple features in their business phone system, which is easy to configure, manage and see reports occasionally. Or which can send them alerts regularly.
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What is IVR Usability ?

IVR Usability

What is IVR Usability ?
In a single line, IVR usability can be defined as ease of use to perform a task of either getting a desired information, lodge some message ( of complaint or anything) using an self service IVR system by a caller to the IVR System. The task performed could be different based on the purpose of the IVR. For example, in a Complaint management IVR, caller should be able to lodge a complaint with correct complaint category at the shortest time to have better IVR usability. The task could be different for different type of IVR System deployed.

IVR with poor usability will not only increase cost of the IVR, it will also frustrate caller ( who could be customer of the company owning the IVR System).

Why IVR Usability testing is important before its deployment?

IVR is intended to automate “routine tasks” in self service mode. It is supposed to perform certain tasks without human intervention. But when this tool becomes difficult to use by its callers, it fails to do desired task it is intended for, or deployed for.

It gives wrong message out the callers/customers about the company that it does not care. It installs an useless gadget which does not perform its intended task thereby wasting money.

It may result in loss of customers and reduce quality of customer service. Reduced customer satisfaction would send away them to competition.
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Toll Free Number has become popular, easy to get and affordable now a days after Cloud Telephony Service providers started selling it to even small businesses. Having a toll free number for customer support as well as other enquiries for a business or organisation is considered brand multiplier.

Toll Free Number India

Toll Free Number India

When Toll Free Number is provided by Cloud Telephony Companies, they always bundle it with many advanced IVR ( Interactive Voice Response) features like call hunting, voice mail system, SMS alert, intelligent call routing based on time of the day, etc.

But apart from Toll Free Numbers provided by them, many businesses have Toll Free Numbers which are forwarded to on-premise PBX, landline PRI number, or even a mobile number.
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