• Arun Santhebennur

Lower IT costs with one ASR and App framework for IVRs & Bots

Updated: Aug 2

This article provides a strategy for enterprises to significantly lower software maintenance & IT support costs associated with an on-premise directed dialog telephony IVR. The solution is to modernize and use a standard web-based app framework and a single ASR that can support chatbots, voicebots and IVRs.

Directed Dialog IVRs are not going away any time soon!

When it comes to voice self service, enterprises are realizing that they would need to maintain and support their telephony based directed dialog IVRs for years to come.

Even as they deploy modern conversational chatbots and voice-bots, they still have to maintain and support these IVRs. This is because a significant portion of an enterprise's customer base has been trained over the years to interact with these directed dialog IVRs. So even as an increasing "digital-native" segment of the customer base prefers modern "Alexa-style" conversational bots, enterprises cannot do away with these IVRs for some time to come.

As a result, enterprise IT organizations have to incur significant ongoing licensing and support costs related to their IVRs while they have to also invest in new AI based chatbots and Voicebots.

Bots & IVRs use different ASRs, protocols and App tech stacks

ASR: While both Voice bots & IVRs require ASR/Speech-to-Text, the ASR technology that supports conversational voice bots like Alexa is quite different from the ASR used in directed dialog IVRs. Directed Dialog IVRs used grammar based ASRs. On the other hand, Conversational bots use large vocabulary Deep Neural Network based STT models.

Protocol: The protocols for communication between the ASR & App tech stack are also very different. An IVR App usually communicates with the ASR over MRCP which is now becoming obsolete; whereas Bot Frameworks talk to large vocabulary DNN based STT models over modern web-based protocols like Websockets and gRPC.

App Stack: Traditionally the phone menu tree of directed dialog IVRs is built on premise based contact center platforms. Popular vendors in this space Avaya Aura Experience Portal (AAEP), Cisco Voice Portal (CVP) and Genesys Voice Portal or Genesys Engage. This article explores this in more detail.

On the other hand, modern bots are built on Bot frameworks like Google Dialogflow, Kore.ai, RASA, AWS Lex and others. They are based on modern NLU technology to extract intent from freely spoken text. Bot Frameworks also offer sophisticated dialog management to dynamically determine conversation turns. They also allow integration with other enterprise systems like CRM and Billing. When it comes to voice bots, most enterprises just "voice-enable" the chatbot interaction logic by integrating with telephony - so use a phone number to "dial" the chatbot and interact using Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech.

Costs of maintaining a Directed Dialog IVR are significant

To summarize, the challenge with the current situation is that an enterprise IT organization has to incur the costs and complexity associated with supporting and maintaining two very different technology stacks for voice self service - one for Bots & one for IVRs.

The Solution: Use Voicegain ASR to support both IVRs & Bots

The Voicegain platform is the first and currently the only ASR/ Speech-to-Text platform in the market that can support both a directed dialog Speech IVRs and Conversational voice bots using a single acoustic and language model.

Cloud Speech-to-Text APIs from Google, Amazon and Microsoft support large vocabulary speech recognition and can support voice bots. However they cannot be a "drop-in" replacement for the ASR functionality in directed dialog IVR.

And traditional ASRs that supported directed dialog IVRs over traditional protocols like VoiceXML and MRCP (e.g. Nuance, Lumenvox etc) do not support large vocabulary transcription.

And our APIs support Bot Frameworks & Declarative IVR in YAML

In addition to core ASR functionality, Voicegain offers Telephony Bot APIs that can help organizations use a single App framework that is based on web callbacks to support Chatbots, Voicebots & IVRs.

Telephony Bot APIs are web callback style APIs that enterprises can integrate with a Bot Framework of their choice. We also easily integrate with with modern CPaaS platforms like Twilio, SignalWire and Telnyx to provide integration with PSTN telephony. With such an integration, callers can now have "dial and talk" to their chatbots over a phone number.

But here is another killer value proposition. Developers can also use the same APIs with a modern data representation language like YAML and modern web backend language (like Python and Node.js) to easily rewrite a directed-dialog IVR. You can reproduce the call flows and reuse the grammars. Here is some sample python code that does that.

Essentially, by using Telephony Bot APIs with Voicegain ASR alongside any Bot Framework and using the technique mentioned in the paragraph above, you can have the same App framework and ASR serve all 3 self service mediums - Chatbots, Voicebots and Directed Dialog IVRs.

This can result in significant savings especially for any enterprise that receives a million calls or more on their directed dialog IVR.

To explore this idea further, please send us an email at info@voicegain.ai

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