Paradigm Speech System Cuts Costs

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Marketing agency Paradigm Direct reduced its inbound teleservices costs with a speech recognition system that lets consumers get information without contacting a live telephone agent.

Paradigm Direct, which handles fulfillment for some of its clients, sought an interactive-voice response system earlier this year to help customers who want to check the status of a shipment. The company wanted to minimize teleservices costs without affecting the quality of consumer service, said Sam Gumins, vice president of Paradigm Direct, Fort Lee, NJ.

The agency brought in call center technology firm Shoptalk, Chicago, to provide a customer self-service system. Shoptalk's IVR system uses Paradigm's existing database and can tell consumers the time frame that they can expect their packages to be shipped.

"We kind of went in thinking we could automate a third of our costs," Gumins said. "That was our goal."

Paradigm Direct exceeded its goal, Gumins said. Though he declined to disclose exact cost savings, he said his company reduced the money it paid to outsource its teleservices by as much as half.

Paradigm Direct first used the Shoptalk technology with client AT&T Wireless and has expanded to other clients. The agency recently updated to the latest version of the Shoptalk system, which was released in early December.

The Shoptalk IVR system lets customers use the familiar touch-tone method of replying to the system if they choose. However, many consumers find the speech-recognition system -- which lets consumers speak responses to the IVR's queries rather than reply by touch-tone -- easier to use, Gumins said.

"We perceive it as more user-friendly," he said. "The concept is that someone as much as possible can interact with a live voice."

In addition to customer service, Paradigm Direct is using the speech-recognition technology to assist in third-party verification for its wireless customers. Wireless companies, which must provide recorded verification from a third party when they switch customers to their service, use the automated speech-recognition system rather than a live agent to confirm that a customer has chosen to use their services.

Paradigm Direct had explored other, cheaper ways to automate its customer services. But the agency didn't want to skimp too much on the customer experience, Gumins said.

"There are lots of ways to cut costs here," he said. "We probably could have taken a tape recorder and done it more cheaply. But we wanted to go the customer-oriented route."

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