Will voice technology change the customer service game?

The New York Times

This instructive US Airways’ Wally case study was included in this New York Times story about Nuance.  Please particularly note the highlighted parts:

MEMBERS of US Airways’ frequent-flier program who have registered their mobile phone numbers are greeted by name by “Wally,” an interactive voice system that Nuance created for the airline.

One day last month, Wally was talking to Kerry Hester, a senior vice president at US Airways, who had called to check on her own flight.

“Hello, Kerry, I’ve matched your mobile number to your Dividend mileage account,” Wally said. Her flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles, Wally reported, unprompted, was “still scheduled to depart on time at 11:20 from Gate A23.”

If Wally’s voice sounds familiar, that’s because it belongs to Wally Wingert, the announcer on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” who prerecorded all the words that callers hear.

US Airways introduced Wally last summer, as part of a relocation of its offshore customer service call-in operation back to the United States.  Nuance designed the system to anticipate callers’ requests.  Wally, for example, can automatically tell frequent-flier members their seat assignments or report whether they have received upgrades.  It also converts people’s speech to text, so that, should customers ask to speak [to] a live operator, they don’t have to repeat their original request.

Wally, Ms. Hester says, has reduced the number of customers who ask to speak with agents, as well as the average length of customer calls. “Without the system, we would have had to hire a couple hundred more agents,” she says.

Wally, which never lets on that it is an automated system, seems so personable that many people say “thank you” before hanging up, Ms. Hester says.

“I think that tells us that they were satisfied,” she says. “I think it tells us that they felt they were interacting with a person.”

Will voice technology change the customer service game?

About Arie Goldshlager

Customer Insight, Customer Strategy, and Innovation Consultant
This entry was posted in Customer Experience, Customer Service and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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