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August 11, 2006

Do we really need more best practices?

SpeechTEK 2006 started out on an interesting note this week, since the first keynote speaker was Paul English, the guy behind www.gethuman.com.  You probably have heard of him even if you aren't in the industry - his website lists all the automated telephone systems that he can find and tells you what to press or say to get to a live person.

Surely this is the number one frustration for most people who encounter an automated system.  I've always advocated to our customers that they should make it easy for people to get out to a live person.  I've stood up on soapboxes at conferences for years and begged the people making these decisions to not assume their customers are stupid, because even before www.gethuman.com most people could figure out how to get to a human.  The easiest way, unless you were tied tightly into a relationship, was to just hang up and find a different company to do business with.

It turns out, thanks to Paul and others, that the industry is taking notice.  We'll see if it takes, but Paul has suggested that there be a standard for letting people know how to escape out to a live human.  Microsoft and Nuance have already pledged support and I expect we will too very shortly.

I was invited by Opus Research to be on a panel discussion called CEOs Survey: No Smooth Seas Here at SpeechTEK 2006, the speech recognition industry's event where vendors and customers come together to talk about and learn about speech recognition.  Sure enough, one of the discussions was about how the industry needs to collaborate and promote Best Practices.  My comment was something like, "I think we all know how to build great, or at least very good, speech recognition applications.  The problem is we're not doing a good enough job convincing our customers to always implement the best practices."  You see, as developers of these systems we hate it when a system is held up in public as being unfriendly or hard to use.

I've written about this before, but I have renewed hope that we can keep making the caller's experience better.  I encourage the analysts and people like Paul to keep giving our customers concrete evidence that it is better for business in the long term if they let us build easy-to-use systems for them.  I encourage the people who are buying these systems to add a little CST (a term I heard from Tim Walsh at Walsh Media).  CST stands for Common Sense Technology. Ask yourself, would you want to use your system?  If the answer is no, then your customers won't either.  If you're not sure how to fix it, [shameless plug for Gold Systems here] then call me.

August 11, 2006 in Speech Recognition | Permalink

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