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Traditional IVR faces extinction

As open standards like VoiceXML and SALT emerge, call centers will slowly begin phasing out traditional touch-tone IVR, according to a recent report.

Traditional interactive voice response (IVR) is in its twilight years, according to a recent report, and as it makes its way off into the sunset, it's making way for open standard platforms.

According to Datamonitor, a London-based research firm, the revenues for proprietary touch-tone IVR in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, will decrease by more than 35% through 2009. Organizations are increasingly moving toward open standard IVR platforms like Voice Extensible Markup Language (VoiceXML) and Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) to leverage Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

"Slowly, divestiture is going to occur," said Daniel Hong, voice business analyst at Datamonitor. "It just makes sense to go to VoiceXML. Within the enterprise, the whole infrastructure is becoming antiquated and being taken over by VoIP."

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Because it's based on proprietary languages, traditional IVR produces vendor lock-in, and requires costly maintenance and complex back-end integration. Companies paying maintenance and support fees on traditional IVR will quickly find the advantages in the total cost of ownership of open standard platforms, Hong said. Through 2009, spending on traditional IVR will dip from $277 million to $179 million, while open standards spending will grow from $166 million to $332 million, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the promise of speech-enabled technology is capturing the attention of call centers and researchers everywhere. Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality announced this week that it undertaking an in-depth study of how speech recognition technology affects customer satisfaction, operational efficiency and effectiveness in comparison to touch-tone operations. Some preliminary survey results have found that 50% of call centers that are not currently speech-enabled plan on implementing the technology within the year.

The major IVR vendors are recognizing the emergence of VoiceXML and will slowly begin phasing out their traditional applications over the next several years, Hong predicts.

Some best practices have begun to emerge in speech-enabled technology. Call centers should still proceed with caution when investing in the technology, because there are risks.

"It's expensive if you implement speech," Hong said. "If you don't invest enough money, the ROI will not be there. You also have to have the right talent pool. There's a limited number of experts out there."

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