Sticking to the Script

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2004-03-26 Print this article Print

However, Bruce Balentine, vice president of speech technologies with Enterprise Integration Group, a design consulting firm in San Ramon, Calif., responded that humans usually intuitively know thats not an optimal way to respond to an IVR system. Designers also understand that IVR systems need to give the humans a limited range of possible responses.

One approach to increasing the interactivity of speech systems is to carefully script them so they can react to a wider range of questions and responses but at the same time provide a clear guidance for the human users, he said.

Designers shouldnt try to add conversational aspects to speech systems if they are only going to encourage users to get off the beaten path of giving and getting information, he suggested.

However, the deployment of speech systems wont be restricted by the current state of the art, Balentine said. In the short term, natural language speech systems will make steady progress without sophisticated conversational capabilities, he said. "We are going to see a rapid penetration over the next three years or so" of natural language speech applications, primarily in telephone-based IVR systems where they havent typically been seen, Balentine said. Most IVR systems are more primitive systems that offer a limited number of simple command options.

"What will happen as a result of that is that more and more people will become accustomed to simple machine behavior," and it will provide a base to build on for the future, Balentine said.

Its certainly true that people dont expect much when they are forced to deal with IVR systems. In fact, they dont want to deal with them at all.

It will be a major advance if these systems work well enough so that we impatient and arrogant humans arent instantly prompted to pound the telephones zero key in quest of a human voice as soon as we hear an IVR system kick in.

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John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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