Powerful Integrated Voice

Vocantas IVR Blog

Disaster Relief: How an Information Line Can Help You Prepare for the Chaos

In a disastrous situation, the number one commodity is information – whether you are a member of the population needing access to essential food, shelter, and first aid, or whether you are an official trying to assess how well these essentials are being provided. In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Vocantas launched an IVR solution in partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross to provide vital information to Haitians.

The IVR enabled Haitian residents to access information on critical issues such as shelter, health, family planning and disaster preparedness. The interactive inbound call was also able to conduct anonymous surveys, gathering information on peoples’ needs and opinions. An initial survey monitored respondents’ experience of violence in Haiti, providing important information that the Red Cross and others used to help improve personal security. Vocantas worked closely with the IFRC to provide an interactive communication solution that has taken millions of calls to date from Haitians seeking life-saving information. These phone calls help Haitians connect with shelters, report abuse, get healthcare information and survey the effectiveness of the local Red Cross efforts.

For effective disaster relief, a solution like Vocantas’ interactive voice response information line, is critical to keep the population informed; and for maximum effectiveness, it must be implemented before disaster strikes. Panic and poor decision-making can be significantly reduced if the population knows right away how to get access to critical information, such as where to find food and shelter. Vocantas also offers an Interactive Emergency Broadcast Notification System (I-EBNS) that can send specific instructions to select groups, such as volunteers or employees, and request that each recipient confirms that they have received and understood the message.

Disaster relief is always chaotic; but with accessible lines of communication in place to handle routine inquiries – for example access to shelter, food, and first aid, as well as news updates – responders can focus on complex issues, knowing that the majority of critical inquiries will be handled by the automated information line.

Posted November 22, 2016


The Best Policy: Make Honesty Easy for Telephone Survey Respondents

If you want to get a high response rate for a healthcare survey – whether for patient satisfaction, appointment follow up, or even a research study – you can still do no better than telephone. A phone call is interruptive, meaning that respondents cannot “put it off until later” and forget or simply move on. A phone call requests an immediate response from the call recipient, and fortunately for those gathering the information, most call recipients adopt a might-as-well attitude to this kind of interruptive technology, prompting a higher response rate than any other type of survey.  

However, it is crucial that your respondents answer truthfully; exaggeration and euphemism can lead info gatherers to draw conclusions that are at best flawed and at worst false. It’s a classic attribute of human nature; when interacting with other humans, especially strangers, people find it difficult to be completely honest – especially about topics as intimate as personal health and habits. Respondents fear that the caller asking them questions will judge them, pity them, have human reactions to whatever responses the call recipient gives – so they fudge the truth a little to appear less flawed.  

According to a study published by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, however, there is a way to achieve both the high response rate by deploying a telephone survey and an accurate survey sample, despite human nature. Interactive voice response (IVR) technology can deploy a telephone survey that is still interruptive in nature, but removes the imperfections or inconsistencies introduced by a human interviewer. An IVR survey can be cheerful, warm, and friendly, with recorded prompts from professional voice actors, but respondents are still able to respond truthfully, knowing that the automated system cannot judge them – and it works!

Check out the study to see how an automated survey can get you accurate results in no time!

Posted July 5, 2016


Millennials: "Help Me Help Myself"

Millennials are officially America’s largest generation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As millennials enter the workforce and begin to claim their lion’s share of purchasing power, it becomes more and more important to offer them the customer service they expect as a generation that has grown up with the immediate satisfaction of the internet.

Online Community Breeds Independence

Although it may seem paradoxical, millennials are as independent as they are relational in their online pursuits. When considering a purchase, this tension plays out in the following manner: the millennial consumer will look online to see how other people feel about the product, read reviews, and compare features and prices to alternate options. Then, when they are satisfied with the evidence they’ve gathered, they return their verdict independently. This entire rigmarole can take place anytime, anywhere from the consumer’s smartphone. Millennials are their own detectives, researchers, and judges when making their purchasing choices.  

What Does This Mean For Customer Service?

This self-reliance applies not only to purchasing, but to maintenance of their purchases and investments. For problems with their tech products and tools, millennials turn to search engines – or interactive voice apps like Siri. For problems or routine inquiries into their services, including utilities, phone service, and banking, millennials still want to self-serve, to solve their problems and make their decisions independently. Automated customer service, then, still holds an important place in meeting the needs and preferences of the largest generation; and their youth means that automated customer service will be relevant for a long time.

Customer Satisfaction in Self-Service

While millennials like to problem-solve and find answers on their own, they are also used to the immediate gratification of the internet. This applies to self-service as well, and companies looking to deploy customer service communications platforms should consider something else about millennials – this generation scores much lower than previous generations in terms of brand and customer loyalty. If you disappoint millennials, they will leave – and they may never be back.

For companies, these trends boil down to one critical aspect of millennial behaviour: they want satisfying self-service. Poorly organized, badly worded, confusing automated phone systems are unacceptable – your company will risk not only the expensive consequence of a customer transferring to a live agent, but you risk losing the customer altogether.

Logical, easy to use automated systems; multiple modes of communication; feature-rich but intuitive interactive self-service – make sure your customer service platform meets these criteria, and your millennial customers will keep coming back.

Posted May 17, 2016


Go Ahead, Eat Some Cake: Quality Customer Service without Compromise

At Vocantas, we believe that good communication extends further than the strength of our handshakes or the quality of our eye contact. For over a decade, we have worked on developing interactive voice response solutions that communicate not just with customers, but with other solutions – for example, Customer Information Systems, payment processors, and electronic bill presentment systems. When these solutions communicate well together, customer experience is exponentially improved.

Many companies cannot, or do not, consider the holistic experience, and this leads to compromise. A utility, for example, may want one solution to perform a variety of jobs; a CIS that offers an IVR on the side with a built-in payment processor. But a company that specializes in producing a slick CIS does not necessarily specialize in IVR, and the natural conclusion is end user frustration, no matter how convenient this solution may be. Or, a company wants a good CIS, a good payment processor, and a good IVR – but if these solutions do not communicate well, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. The end user is no happier.

Fortunately, synergy that leads to satisfied customers is not a pipe dream. Vocantas has spent over ten years developing best-in-class IVR solutions, and then finding the best of the best in payment processing, electronic bill presentment, and more – and integrating. Seamless, smooth, invisible to the end user; you can have a one-stop-shop solution that specializes in everything. Convenient and efficient for you, effective and easy to use for the end user – that is what we call good communication!

In addition to integration with any PBX via standard telephony protocols, here are some of the solutions we integrate with to assist companies in offering customer service that satisfies:

CIS/Billing Systems:

  • Oracle CIS
  • Cogsdale
  • Meditech
  • InvoiceCloud
  • Harris Advanced Infinity CIS
  • NorthStar CIS
  • SAP
  • Oracle CC&B
  • Ventyx/ABB


  • Avaya
  • Shoretel
  • Mitel
  • Cisco

And many more!

Posted January 26, 2016


When Automated Speech Became Fancy

From the Desk of the VP of Marketing and Business Development, Keri Fraser

It’s 1999. The dreaded millennium countdown is on. Will my debit card work on January 1, 2000? Will my computer turn on? Will the stores be closed because retail systems will shut down at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999? Ack!!! Stock up, buy water, hunker down – all is lost, all is LOST!!

Fear not – our beloved computers found a way! Oh ye of little faith – we (the IT gurus, developers, coders, programmers) – we knew all along there was nothing to worry about. Move along. Next topic. So we cleared that hurdle – whew. But look at where we have come since then. Fifteen years; and where are we now?

Well… our computers are smaller (and thank goodness our monitors no longer take up half our desks); they process faster, hold more data, and connect to more wireless networks; Outlook finally got it together, and even PowerPoint seems to cause fewer help desk queries these days. Oh, and of course Apple took over the world, and our cell phones became the brains of the operation (and the price of our first car). We touch our screens, carry one device (no more palm pilots, pagers, car phones), and expect to be connected in every coffee shop, airport, and mall.

But we knew all of that was coming, right? I mean, what was the high tech bubble really about if not to employ us to build every component of the computer and smart phone smaller and smaller until it fit on the head of a pin? And improve the speed of processing and storage until we couldn’t fit one more iota of data on the end of a pencil? And of course build out the wireless networks to every nook and cranny of our living space?

Does anything really surprise us anymore? I recently attended a healthcare technology showcase where a talking robot approached me and asked me how I was. When did that happen? Robots, yes – but talking robots that ask us how we are? When did intelligent two way automated speech get so fancy? Well let’s see.

We no longer expect when we dial someone’s phone to get a live voice. We anticipate automated voice at the self-serve check out at the grocery store, auto attendants, at our banks, utilities, airlines, schools, offices, hospitals, voicemail, and more. In fact, if someone does answer live, we aren’t prepared. I know I have been caught stammering “oh, uh hello, I didn’t expect to get you”!

More importantly, we’ve gotten used to talking back. Automated speech is now commonly two way. Not only do we hear it, we respond, and it in turn talks back. Think – Siri; your car; “say ACCOUNT for your account information”. We didn’t just build menus for our customers to find what they are looking for, we built systems that listen, and truly interact like a human would. Human intelligence is fluid, artificial intelligence is not. We program it – it responds as it has been told. The power of this tool is just beginning to be harnessed. The future of applications that make our lives easier and our customers’ businesses more efficient is bright. So many possibilities are still to be uncovered.

Where will ASR take us in another 15 years? Will our children even remember touch screens? Or will they simply talk to their watch, phone and tablet and expect them to respond? Will they speak and the washing machine will turn on, the fridge will close, the lights will dim, the gas fireplace will start and the TV will change channels?

Speech automation is the come-from-behind underdog that I vote most likely to cause the next wave of technology disruption in the coming generation.

Stay tuned and listen up!

Contact the author of this blog at: info@vocantas.com

Posted January 13, 2016


IVR: What’s the Fuss?

From the Desk of Professional IVR Services Director, Paul Turenne

Responding to customers quickly has never been easier with the latest interactive voice response solutions. Customers are now accustomed to using an IVR to book a flight, make an appointment for an x-ray, check their bank balance, submit an insurance claim, and much more. Businesses can streamline customer service like never before with a cost effective interactive voice response solution that meets their customers’ needs.

But what if my customers won’t use the system? What if they just “zero-out” and want to speak to a live agent? Well… human behavior is an interesting thing. For better or worse, we tend to choose the path of least resistance. If your customer has a choice – push 1 to pay their bill now using an automated tool, with no chit-chat and no wait times, versus pushing 0 to wait in a queue (who knows how long that will take) to speak with a live agent to perform the same routine task – 10 to 1 will choose the automated tool.

In our fast-paced lives, chances are that your customer is calling to make an inquiry or bill payment while watching their child play soccer, or making dinner, or in between business meetings. The faster they can get a response, and perform this routine account transaction, the happier a customer they will be.

But be warned; if it’s not designed right, your customers won’t use it a second time and your money is wasted on a piece of technology. What I mean is that you have bought an IVR in name only. You must ensure that it is easy to use, truly interactive and predictable. The secret to an IVR is not the technology but the call flow, options and ease of navigation; the human factor.

This is not as simple as it sounds; we take for granted the design of the roads we drive on but how many people realize the planning and design work that has gone into our transportation infrastructure by seasoned, professional engineers? You may have the best technology behind your IVR but if it does not interact effectively with your customers you’re placing a barrier in your own road to profitability.

Don’t disappoint your customers with long wait times and no option to quickly perform routine account transactions. The sooner your customers have access to an “interactive” voice response solution, the sooner the fuss will be over.

Contact the author of this blog at: info@vocantas.com


IVR:  What’s in it for me?

From the Desk of Professional IVR Services Director, Paul Turenne

Communication is KING in our new world of endless texts, emails, tweets and posts.  In fact I bet you can’t remember how you got through a day before your phone was permanently attached to your hip. We seem to be reaching a critical point in the volume and number of forms of personal communication we are engaged in.  Amongst the torrent of communication we all encounter in a day - how do you cut through the noise?  How do we get our customers to listen, and provide them an opportunity to be heard?

We ask the same questions when we look at the true interaction involved in Interactive Voice Response solutions (IVRS).  Will your IVR just create more noise for your customers?  Will your system simply be a glorified dialler or an auto attendant or will it actually be effective and interactive?  Will people actually like to use it?  How many customers will just “zero out”?

We’ve discovered a simple yet powerful answer.  To rise above the noise and be heard with your IVR, the caller must gain something of value by using your system.  The value could be as simple as saving time; perhaps paying a bill is 30 seconds faster using the IVR than with a live attendant or on your website.  Or, the value could be in the recent nature of the information.  Perhaps a customer calling their local utility can access the most up-to-date outage information via IVR which is not yet available on the website.

In the new world of constant communication here are just a few things we’ve learned that might help you create value in every call for your customers and help you get the most out of your IVR.

  • Be concise.  Don’t offer 25 choices; what are the main transactions your customers want to complete or the key areas of information they seek?  (Notice I said your customers, not your company.)  You can’t save customers time if the IVR script goes on and on.

  • Give them options early.  Don’t bury the IVR behind a cheerful operator who asks, “How are you today”.  Remember that customers are here to save time; they just want to pay their bill or confirm their appointment and get on with their busy lives.  Getting to the transaction option fast will minimize the impulse that customers have to “zero out”.

  • Respond promptly.  Build your interactive solution to actively respond to every customer input with intelligent follow up choices.  (HINT - this is a function of the quality the speech recognition engine in your system and of the quality of development of your IVR technology and script – be sure to work with an IVR provider that has lots of experience in your market space).
  • Encourage interruptions.  Ensure your IVR solution offers “barge in” technology which allows customers to respond to prompts without listening to the entire command and will again save time for your customers.

  • Jump the queue.  Ensure your IVR system offers immediate follow up with a live representative once the routine transactions have been completed using the IVR.  Best case scenario here is to push your IVR customers to the front of the queue for a live attendant when they need it.   Remember to reward your customers for using the IVR for everyday transactions like bill payments, by quickly getting them to a live attendant for escalated issues.  There has to be something in it for the caller!

Outbound IVR solutions have their own unique set of additional interaction do’s and don’ts.

  • Don’t surprise them.  Tell customers ahead of time that your IVR will be in touch with them.  If customers know that you use an effective interactive solution as part of your full suite of customer service outreach tools, they will be much more likely to respond positively.

  • Personalize the call. Your script should get to the point – and quick!  Use your outbound IVR in a concise, clear manner and provide the customer effective options to listen to information and promotions that are tailored to them.  They must perceive value in the call.

  • Use talent.  Studies show we all respond better to certain voices and specific accents are more pleasing than others. Choosing the right voice talent is key to guaranteeing your IVR’s success.  (HINT - this is another area where the right IVR provider is worth its weight in gold – don’t set yourself up for failure by partnering with an IVR company that doesn’t have human behaviour expertise and proven successful script writing and voice talent).

  • Change the rules. Ensure that the IVR can call alternate numbers for the same contact or retry the call depending on whether there is no answer or it gets voicemail. (These are called business rules and the IVR platform should make it easy to tweak these.)

Working closely with leading hospitals, colleges, utilities and many other organizations has given the team at Vocantas an edge when it comes to successfully deploying IVR solutions that LISTEN. We use our knowledge of human behaviour to deploy IVR solutions that are truly interactive customer experiences.  Our proven successful solutions take the guess work out of building an IVR that works.  Our IVR systems return value to the caller which guarantees that our customers see great ROI.  By putting the “interactive” back into interactive voice response Vocantas solutions deliver results.

Contact the author of this blog at: info@vocantas.com