Most probably, the debate on merits and demerits of using ASR ( Automatic Speech Recognition) would continue for some time to come, but in case of India, there are three compelling reason avoid using ASR where simple, old, robust and universally understood ‘keypress’ can do. While ASR can surely speed up and increase interactivity of an IVR system, in Indian scenario, it can be a big nuisance, specially for IVR vendors providing IVR to be used nationwide.
Here are my reasons:-
1. Poor Recognition due to background noise
With due respect to all ASR engines, India is a loud country with lot of noises all around! So, with lot of background noise, it is not possible to recognise words or phrases with high degree of accuracy. Indian cities are noisy with lot of noise pollution all around. Even Indian houses are not well ventilated. Indian villages are crowed with various domestic animal who create lot of sounds.
Because of this background noises, good ASR engines also fail to perform properly and end up with poor accuracy. But users will never appreciate the ‘genuine’ technical problems behind this, but the blame will fall squarely on IVR developer or IVR Vendor.
2. Languages and Accent
India is home to 1652 languages. Out of these, 29 languages are spoken by more than more than 1 million people and another 122 are spoken by more than 10,000. It has officially recognised 22 languages. English is widely spoken and understood all around the country but India also has more than 250 million illiterate people.
So with this statistics, one can easily figure out the changes in accents for speaking even English numerals, forget about English words or Phrases!
This lack of common accent for speaking out any word or phrase prevent any ASR engine detecting them accurately. But, everyone who has dialed into an IVR system, already know how to press a key from the telephone instrument or the mobile. So, in order to wider use of IVR as well as accuracy, ASR should be avoided.
3. Poor Mobile Signal
Most of the recent telephone users in India are mobile phone users. Apart from big cities, large areas as well as large pockets of cities too, have poor network signal and keeps fluctuating rapidly. Due to which, two human may be able to somehow communicate, but in case of IVR, there chances that it would miss some voices, part of voice which are vital for recognising a word or phrase by ASR.
So, even the best ASR would fail to detect words accurately resulting in caller dissatisfaction, call abandonment which will defeat the very reason for using an IVR system.
While there would be remedies, tricks and techniques to address these problems, but these are top reasons if some one wants to avoid using ASR in India!