We are all familiar with IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems - these have been around for a few years and users have by and large become accustomed to use of self-help systems. Technology has now advanced enough and allows for affordable inclusion of voice recognition thereby eliminating the cumbersome use of keypad, further enhancing customer usage.

Airlines, Banks, Brokerages, etc are adopting voice technology to provide key services to their customers.

A voice portal can be a stand-alone 'self-help' system or act as a primary interface for your callers. If, for example, you run a business such as a travel agency with high-call volumes - a great number of calls are rudimentary in nature, asking for special fares or seat availability or schedules - the self-help voice portal can effectively handle these requests. If you believe that a person that gets into checking seats availability is a serious prospect, the call can be transferred to a live agent at that point - any such trigger can be built-into a voice portal. Your voice portal can be extended to connect to your reservation systems, database. Information can be provided off your website, Intranet or most any electronic information base.

A well planned voice portal creates an optimal balance between reducing generic call loads without sacrificing on potential sales.

There are services and tools available today that minimize the cost and complexity in creating and managing voice applications. Some of these methods make voice portals a viable option for even small businesses. From basic self-help queries to complex interactive business transactions can be efficiently conducted using a voice portal - making it possible for businesses to serve a portion of their customers, vendors, and employees more effectively, more affordably.

As businesses grow, a voice portal helps extend the reach to elicit or disburse information - the content can be based on the Internet or be located on your LAN or WAN.

A key consideration in creating a voice portal application should be the 'human factor' - it must be designed to interact in a manner that humans are accustomed to interacting when speaking with the people the call, and the desired responses should be along the lines one would expect. This is less of a technology issue and more of a planning issue - you must provide inputs in the design of the Voice Users' Interface (VUI).

There are choices for deploying a voice-enabled solution, and these are all viable based on the specific resources a business may be willing to deploy.

Build and deploy the solution in-house

 Purchase a system from a technology vendor
 Have their solution externally hosted

The following queries must be posed in considering a system or a vendor.

 Is the solution based on open standards?
 Can it be scaled up?
 Can the system be modified by a vendor other than the author?
 Can the vendor provide appropriate support through the application life cycle?
 Any questions specific to business needs
Cost advantages
 Reduce customer support costs by offering high quality voice self-service minimizing the need to interact with live agents
Additional Revenue Potential
•  Use the access of telephone to enter new markets
•  Offer value-added services to new and existing customers.
•  Enhance customer loyalty by offering enhanced customer care.
Enhanced User Benefits
•  Allow telephony based access to information systems
•  Connect to business critical data from anywhere at anytime.
Helpful Terminology
•  VXML - Voice XML, a leading open voice standard approved by W3C, with lead
   support by IBM
•  SALT - A growing open standard for voice applications, also being considered by
   W3C with lead support by Microsoft
•  VXML/SALT Browser - A software interpreter that will link the voice application with
   telephony server
•  Voice Host - A hosting service provider that specializes in hosting of voice
•  VUI - Voice Users' Interface
•  Speech Engine - The engine that will take voice commands and provide voice
•  ASR - Automatic Speech Recognition, a part of a speech engine
•  TTS - Text To Speech, typically synthetic sound provided as speech engine output
•  Port - In this instance port will likely mean telephone lines, the number of 'ports'
•  PSTN - Public Switched Telephone Network
•  POTS - Plain Old Telephone System
•  VoIP - Voice over Internet Protocol
Infynita Services for Voice

Infynita maintains resources for design, development and deployment of intricate voice solutions based on web models. Our subsidiary, Speech Desk Inc also provides SpeechBench, a breakthrough voice authoring tool and SpeechFirst, a desktop Voice Users' Interface.

case studies
 Speech Bench
  In the earlier days, voice enabling was achieved by complex TAPI programming. As things progressed, several markup languages appeared and the standard that took hold for voice was Voice XML (VXML), an XML based markup language.
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