Avaya Unveils Interactive Voice Response 9.0

Avaya has unveiled Interactive Voice Response 9.0, its latest contact center self-service application.

It is the first major Avaya IVR product that has completely embedded the open-standard, voice-extensible markup language 2.0, or VXML, into its platform, Avaya CRM evangelist Lawrence Byrd told CRM Buyer Magazine.”Like all standards, [VXML] is now making the transition from early adoption to mainstream use,” he noted.

The release of IVR 9.0 is meant to show Avaya’s commitment to this standard, Byrd said, adding, “We are one of the first IVR vendors to ship VXML 2.0, as opposed to earlier experimental versions” of the standard.

Among other benefits, the open-standard protocol streamlines development and implementation of voice-browser applications that make Web content accessible by phone.

Other features in the release include enhanced development tools and tighter integration with speech recognition providers Nuance and SpeechWorks, as well as integration with Siebel 7, Java, Avaya Interaction Center, Avaya Predictive Dialing System and multiple communication switches.

Investing in R&D

Avaya’s IVR 9.0, which provides speech-enabled capabilities through cooperative relationships with Nuance and SpeechWorks, provides a good illustration of the rapid advances made recently in speech recognition software.

In general, such technology is getting more robust, Mike Trotter, executive director of Purdue University’s Center for Customer Driven Quality, told CRM Buyer.

For example, recent developments have allowed users to overcome such critical language problems as dialects and voice inflections.

Rising Demand

Despite the relatively lackluster economic performance of contact center application providers in recent months, innovations in this space are expected to continue over the long term.

The advent of such new technologies as natural-language understanding, and the adoption of such new standards as speech-application language tags (SALT) and VXML, will keep firms heavily invested in research and development as demand for speech technologies continues to rise, according to Frost & Sullivan.

According to the research firm, the North American speech recognition technologies market generated US$121.6 million in 2001 and could reach $2.18 billion by 2006. This estimate is in line with IDC’s prediction that the core speech technology market will be worth $2.5 billion in 2005.

VXML Leads the Way

VXML, in particular, has invigorated the IVR market, according to Frost & Sullivan analyst Ronald Gruia. He said the technology “will foster a plethora of new services — any function that can be carried out on a Web page can now be accomplished over the telephone.”

Widespread adoption of VXML will drive third-party application development further, he added, not to mention attracting new users that might have been reluctant to invest in proprietary products in the past.

More uses of VXML include hosted IVR services and custom applications. For its part, SALT should help improve integration of IVRs into wireless applications.

Market Movement

Other vendors are moving toward this standard as well. Earlier this month, Alcatel announced it would acquire Telera, a privately held company that provides a voice-to-Web platform that uses VXML. And Verizon has said it will deploy the VoiceGenie Gateway application, also based on VXML, in its call centers.

Byrd noted that demand for customer-friendly IVRs will not be satisfied by VXML alone. “Speech applications are becoming increasingly sophisticated,” he said. “For example, they must also make it easy to access and integrate enterprise data.”

Avaya IVR 9.0 can be purchased as a software upgrade for existing Avaya IVR systems or can be implemented as a standalone hardware and software product. Pricing for a complete Avaya IVR 9.0 system, with software and natural language speech recognition capabilities, is typically $3,000 to $5,000 per channel. VoiceXML can be added to new and existing systems for approximately $5,000 per system.

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