Up until the ‘80s and ‘90s, most companies needed to hire receptionists to answer and transfer customer service calls. Receptionists would answer basic questions, take messages, or direct customers to employees who could provide alternate assistance. As the revolution in speech recognition technology unfolded, more and more companies were able to automate many of these processes by employing virtual customer service technology. But what exactly is it?
The origin of speech recognition
In 1925, American Telephone and Telegraph (better known today as AT&T) created Bell Laboratories, after working with Western Electric company to create the very first communications network in America. The goal of Bell Labs was to continue improving equipment and the network so that AT&T could remain a leader in communications technology.
In 1952, a team of researchers at Bell Laboratories created a system called AUDREY, the very first analog computer capable of recognizing spoken numbers. AUDREY’s abilities were very limited, and it took an enormous amount of electricity and computing power to complete a task that was simple for a child. Still, speech recognition technology would continue to develop over the next 65 years into the sophisticated virtual assistance programs we take for granted today.
What can virtual customer service do for you?
Virtual customer service comes with a wide array of capabilities using a combination of pre-recorded messages, as well as artificial intelligence and speech recognition software to accurately determine your customer’s needs. Gone are the days of customers becoming stuck in endless phone tree loops; these days, customer conversations with virtual customer service systems are almost as natural as a conversation with a live operator.
Today’s programs are capable of understanding a wide range of languages, accents, and colloquialisms and have a sophisticated decision-making AI framework to deliver the best possible customer service experience. Here are just a few capabilities that employ the use of interactive voice response (IVR) technology:
- Hours, directions, store locations, and holiday closure information: Even if you have employees able to answer and direct calls, you can help reduce their workload by offering your customers an initial array of automated IVR options to answer their most basic questions. These features are available 24/7, whether your business is open or closed.
- Perform surveys: If you need to complete a customer satisfaction survey after a purchase or service, or you want to poll your customers about future offerings, IVR software can provide the framework for your survey as well as written transcripts with your customer’s responses.
- Provide multilingual customer service: Virtual customer assistance programs are able to rapidly respond to the ever-increasing reality of language diversity, so that your company can provide the best possible service to all of your customers.
- Calendar management: Virtual customer service systems can work with your customers to set up appointments during their customer service call and even generate text or email messages to your employees as well as confirmations to your customers.
- Virtual agreements: Virtual customer assistance can even save your employees time by obtaining formal verbal consent for agreements or contracts after moving through specific data points.
With all these features and more, a virtual customer service program can significantly enhance your company’s responsiveness to customers and increase the efficiency of communications, all while saving your employees time and money. As this technology continues to grow and evolve, the options available to business owners will keep expanding at a phenomenal pace.
Utilizing virtual customer service technology can help you expand the capabilities of your customer service employees without increasing their hours or hiring additional staff. This technology can help answer your customer’s questions while your business is closed or the phone lines are busy, and it can alleviate workflow by taking care of many repetitive tasks.
Looking at how far the technology has come in a mere lifetime, one can only imagine what IVR and speech recognition will be able to accomplish in the decades to come.