Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lessons learned: Educate the management, pt. 2

In an earlier post, I mentioned several things that business managers need to know before you dive in and develop a speech IVR for them.
  • Strengths and weaknesses of speech rec technology. Pity the poor VUI designer who starts a project whose stakeholders have been educated about speech only by slick sales presentations and glossy brochures. I've been there - it's no fun. Part of the challenge of design is to work within the constraints of current recognition technology, like the ability to discriminate between letters in the "e" group and between the letters s and f.
  • Skills required to implement a good speech IVR. Speech IVRs aren't just another IT shop application. The learning curve for speech rec development and testing is very steep. The learning curve for effective dialog design is very steep. Companies that hand complex speech projects to an internal group need to appreciate that and build in a lot of time for training and development of people before the first speech project even begins.
  • Persona isn't just about the system's voice. This one is a little controversial, but I can say from experience that managers tend to spend too much time selecting the perfect "voice" for the IVR in the belief that this "branding" exercise makes or breaks customer satisfaction with the system. The sound of the voice - the way the prompts are delivered, in particular - is important, but the design and proper functioning of the application is equally important.

If a management group "doesn't have time" to participate in a level setting meeting I'd recommend pushing back on that very hard. Spending a little time before a project kickoff talking to management about speech projects in general can save a lot of thrashing later on.

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