Posts Tagged ‘IVR’

Televoting and what else?

Carriers that host a televoting solution in their network tend to face one dilemma. They have a very powerful platform that is able to handle several thousands of call attempts per second (CAPS) but very often the platform is only active and earning money when there is a televoting event going on. These are the times you have a sudden peak in calls and a lot of traffic on the platform, using its full capacity.

Most of the time the platform is probably idle. For an extremely robust system this is a pity. So if you want it to earn money in times when there is no televoting event going on, you should consider running another service on the platform. Thanks to ECT technology, this is easy because we enable multiple services on the same platform. If you’re smart you offer a service that you need anyway for the televoting like IVR. Televoters use it to participate in shows, so why not use it for other premium rate services? This is a good way to get traffic on the platform which would otherwise stay idle. The additional investment to upgrade the IVR is small but the profit you as a carrier can generate is high.

Can corporate customers who use the IVR on the televoting platform also have the service when there is a televoting event going on? Sure, why not. The platform is designed to stomach many thousand of CAPS, so a few more IVR callers during the peak wouldn’t make a difference. Of course, you would use the same service creation environment for both services. With the televoting you also get our effECTive® Visual Call Flow Builder and a special set of icons. These additional icons plus the IVR give you a really good business case to market both services separately.

Another way to leverage the platform capacity is with Outbound. You can make seasonal Software-as-a-Service offerings, for example, during the current holiday season. For a selected time period, your customers can opt to get a dialer from you including IVR, hosted on the televoting platform. It could be for a fundraising campaign that’s only going on for a few weeks or to market special holiday offers, your customers take advantage of the Outbound solution which they can rent with all the features they need.

Since the platform is multi-service you can easily host other applications like network-based contact centers or ring back tones on it. Thanks to the televoting, you have a really robust infrastructure that ensures a very stable service. Do you have any other ideas how to take advantage of a powerful televoting platform during idle times? Let’s discuss.

What is an Icon?

We’ve been talking about icons a lot recently in this blog, so I thought it might be time to explain what an icon is and what you can do with it.

We’ve all experienced IVR in one way or another: mostly when you’re calling a company for support and are asked something like: “for support press 1”, “for sales press 2”, etc., there is logic in the background in the form of a routing plan or call flow.

For example, such a routing plan could look something like this:

  • You call a number and hear a “welcome” announcement (Prompt – icon).
  • The system checks what time you are calling (Time icon)
  • For callers within opening hours, we play a menu (Menu icon)
  • For callers outside opening hours, we play a message and disconnect (Prompt icon)
  • Callers who select sales will be sent to the skill-group “Sales”  (Destination)

Our icons are end-user building blocks and represent a pre-built feature set based on the mode that is chosen for that particular icon.  Icons are graphic elements that you can use to build routing plans or call flows. We have packaged the most frequently used functions in IVR service creation and created numerous icons for our Visual Call Flow Builder (VCB). As a result, we now have over 30 pre-defined icons such as “Menu”, “DTMF”, “Http”, “Prompt”, “Destination”, “SOAP”, “String” etc.

In everything we do, we aim to make communication simpler, so rather than programming call flows, we offer a fully web-based graphical user interface in which icons are configured and connected: if you understand the logic of the call flow, you can create it. To check the parameters of an icon, you just need to double-click on it and can then make adjustments to suit your requirements.

Here are some screen shots of our VCB and the available icons.

This is an example of the logic for a credit card payment.

Call Flow - Credit Card Payment

Pre-defined Icons

Pre-defined Icons

If you want to know more about our icons and how to build call flows quickly and easily, then please get in touch.

The VoiceXML Icon

One of the reasons we developed our Visual Call Flow Builder in which you arrange complex routings by just dragging and dropping icons is to spare users the hassle of programming in VoiceXML. Usually, people who administer a company’s Interactive Voice Response system are not programmers, so they don’t know how to write VXML code. To enable them to do their daily work with the IVR, we offer the Visual Call Flow Builder, a graphical user interface over which users arrange icons over the browser of any PC.

Each icon contains certain functionalities e.g. “SOAP request” or “database request”. It makes writing code in VoiceXML superfluous. The underlying code of every icon is in VoiceXML and our own ECTXML®. This XML language, which is also our core intellectual property, is fully compliant with CCXML 1.0 and VoiceXML 2.1.

But what if you have VoiceXML code in use which is good and you want to keep using it with the Visual Call Flow Builder? Then I can offer you the VoiceXML icon. This is a blank icon which you can link to existing code that defines a certain functionality and integrate it into your call flow.

And again, users without programming knowledge can do this. You don’t need to change the existing code, take it as it is and link it to the VoiceXML icon with just one click. Many companies are reluctant to switch to a graphical user interface which makes them discontinue working with their tried-and-true VoiceXML code, however, the VoiceXML icon gives them the opportunity to use their own code within a graphical service creation environment.

Would you like to integrate your own code in a graphical SCE? Contact us and we’ll show you how to do it.

The Call Flow Map

In the contact centers of large companies, such as airlines, call flows can become very lengthy and extremely complex. Whenever you look for a particular functionality in your call flow, e.g. to make changes, you can easily get lost in your own routing plans because they’re so extensive. Despite using our icon-based IVR trees, it is possible to lose track of your own call flows just because of their mere size. When you have over 500 icons, things can get tricky.

So what can you do if you want to find a specific icon or functionality in a complex routing plan? Why not try our search function? You type in the name of an icon, the icon type (e.g. database) or any other property of the icon you’re looking for and click search. The result you get shows all the locations of the icon or icons which could match within the call flow.

This makes it much easier to change functionalities. For example, if you want to change a prompt; you locate the respective icon via the search function and select a new prompt from a drop-down menu. That’s it! You don’t have to do anything with the call flow; you just open a backdoor via the icon. To cut a long story short, the search function helps you to implement changes quick and easy.

Another option to find a specific icon in a complex routing is our locator. It is like a map of the call flow. You can zoom in on a certain area in the call flow and click on icons there to access them in the routing logic. Again, by clicking on one icon there, you can change the functionality for the entire call flow.

And just incase you’ve forgotten; all this happens without any local installation. The search function and the locator are all part of our web-based service creation environment. All you need is a browser and internet connection.

What do you think is the best way to keep track of complex routings? Would you like to learn more about the locator and the search function? Then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Service Creation Environments – Let’s Be Open

Open source is one of the most popular topics in the entire IT and telecoms world. You can’t succeed if you’re not open. This recognition is also valid for contact center and IVR technology. I think our service creation environment for Interactive Voice Response and our Icon Development Kit are good examples.

Our service creation environment enables you to integrate many CRM systems and external databases using our SOAP/ XML interface. The IVR sends a SOAP request to a database or CRM system and retrieves the information desired by the caller. The logic for this is represented by an icon. The system is so open that in most cases it can interface with smaller-scale databases that do not support SOAP interaction. These should be accessible without any additional programming effort. A “database” icon with underlying script in VoiceXML or ECTXML® does the job. For larger systems, there is an icon for “SOAP request” or “http request”.

There is another aspect regarding openness with our icons; you can develop your own if you wish. You just need to be familiar with basic programming principles and be able to use VoiceXML and CCXML. These newly developed icons are 100 per cent compatible with our Visual Call Flow Builder and work together with other pre-defined and user-defined icons.

For even more openness, there are very interesting business models. You develop your own icon and share it. We deliver the Icon Development Kit with low-level building blocks and libraries. Your customers can use it to design their icons. As a carrier or provider of the solution you can even resell the icon developed by another party. It’s the same principle that Apple uses for open app development.

Honestly, can you be more open than that? If so, please tell me.

Interactive Voice Response: Harmony Matters

I would like to share with you a thought on IVR harmonization that came to me after some customer meetings. Over time, many companies have implemented vertical solutions  from various vendors, i.e. several systems which include IVR for different functionalities. Carriers, for example, may have one Interactive Voice Response for SIM card activation, one for pre-paid/pay as you go card top-up services and one system for customer care.

Vertical solutions are also often acquired along with companies during mergers. Enterprises bought other companies that had other vertical solutions in place. They had different systems from different vendors, which resulted in heterogeneous IVR solutions.

This has downsides: They have to pay various vendors, they have different service creation environments to set up IVR trees, they have to pay maintenance fees to all their vendors and there are many different platforms. It doesn’t really matter if any of these systems are cloud-based or premise-based; it’s expensive and just not practical. At the same time companies want to be profitable with the service. Well, good luck.

Enterprises that want their IVR to be really profitable need to harmonize the various solutions they have in place i.e. go for a horizontal solution. They need one application that runs on one platform. Additionally, set up and administration should be easy, intuitive and in real-time. This calls for a graphical user interface for the service creation environment. Ours is icon-based. Users set up call flows by arranging icons over the browser-based GUI. This is so much easier and less costly than programming everything manually in VoiceXML and even users without programming knowledge can arrange and change call flows in real-time. That would be  impossible with a VoiceXML solution.

The other advantages of a harmonized IVR solution are obvious: maintenance and updates are only necessary for one system and everything comes from just one vendor. Plus there is only one service creation environment users need to be familiar with. For those who really want to save money and offer state-of-the-art IVR services at the same time, I recommend a network-based solution. This is an area we are specialized in and we have deployed such solutions for major carriers worldwide.

How many different IVR solutions do you use? Don’t you dream of having one solution on one platform for all scenarios? If you want to make things easier and more cost-effective, contact us and let’s talk about IVR harmonization. We could just make your dream come true.

A Voice from the Cloud – Network-Based Interactive Voice Response

One of my favorite ECT products is our Interactive Voice Response (IVR). We use it for various ECT products, for example, as a user interface for Ring Back Tone or for network-based contact centers. Due to the market demand we also sell it as a stand-alone product.

To be honest, IVR has become a commodity and there is an abundance of products on the market, all providing more or less the same user experience. End-users don’t care what kind of IVR they call as long as it gets the result they want.

For a contact center, or any other company that uses Interactive Voice Response, the difference can be huge. Ninety per cent of the equipment in the market is enterprise systems, i.e. premise-based. You buy very expensive equipment hook it up to your landline and configure it. In addition to the price for the hardware and software, there are considerable maintenance costs. So, if you want an IVR, you end up paying for three different things although you bought just one product. If you’re really unlucky, you may even end up having a solution that’s really difficult to configure. All this makes the discussion about ROI purely academic.

Well, I wouldn’t bother you with all this if I didn’t have an alternative to offer, would I? Our Interactive Voice Response comes out of the cloud. You don’t buy it from a company selling enterprise equipment instead you get the IVR as a service from the operator.

Rather than installing enterprise equipment, you set up the IVR over the browser of your PC. No programming skills are needed, just access to the internet. You get a set of pre-defined icons and use these to build the call flow. If you’re a service provider or operator yourself, you then simply make the IVR available to your customers. You don’t need to download or install additional software and you can do everything yourself using any internet browser, so that also saves you money.

If you want to change the call flow, it works just the same way. It’s easy to use, you save a lot of money compared to enterprise equipment. This Interactive Voice Response on demand makes it really easy to add new functionalities. As an end user you order them from your service provider who makes them available to you at the flick of a switch. Try that with enterprise equipment.

If anybody knows of any IVR functionality available with enterprise equipment that you can’t have in a hosted solution, please let me know. Our developers will make it happen…

ECT and Ericsson team up on televoting and IVR

Even though we announced it already, it’s with a certain pride that I can tell that the partnership between Ericsson and ECT has been extended and now comprises sales, maintenance and service for the ECT effECTive® product portfolio.

Our partnership with Ericsson has been fruitful and mutually beneficial in the past, so extending it was a logical thing to do. The ECT effECTive® products complement the Ericsson product line well and have been popular with our clients, the carriers and their corporate customers. Leading companies such as Belgacom, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Versatel and Virgin Media are all earning good money with our solutions. They appreciate our combination of a comprehensive feature set with an easy to use graphic user interface to set up inbound service logic.  The mere fact that Ericsson wanted to partner with us on our effECTive® suite shows the immense quality of our products.

The effECTive® product line includes services such as Number Translation Service (NTS), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Mass Calling and Participation Media (or Televoting) and a full blown network-based contact center. It’s a great thing that we can now increase the success of our flagship product outside of Europe.

Personally, I’m happy that this deal makes me travel around the world and see places I haven’t seen before. While you read this, I just came back form Plano, Texas where I gave detailed trainings on our effECTive® products to the Ericsson folks there.