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Self service voice technology assists New Zealand Ministry

VeCommerce : 22 September, 2009  (Application Story)
The Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand is making use of speech recognition technology for which the Ministry and Salmat VeCommerce receive telecoms award
Salmat VeCommerce, a supplier of voice self-service and speaker verification solutions says that UK public sector organisations could learn some valuable lessons from New Zealand's Ministry of Social Development when it comes to handling calls more efficiently using self-service voice technology.

The New Zealand Ministry of Social Development (NZMSD) and Salmat VeCommerce have won a 2009 Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) Award, following the introduction of speech recognition technology into its Work and Income contact centre. The centre receives approximately 6.5 million incoming calls annually, fielding enquiries that range from simple to complex assessments. The voice-enabled technology provided by Salmat VeCommerce has increased the call capacity and enhanced the service to clients.

EMEA General Manager at Salmat VeCommerce, Brett Feldon says, "With increased pressure on the public sector to cut costs and meet new improved service delivery targets, the work at New Zealand Ministry of Social Development demonstrates how local authorities and government departments can effectively use technology to more efficiently manage contact with the general public on the phone. The adoption of self-service voice technology can identify and route calls to the right person quickly, leading to better customer service, better use of human resources and reduced waiting times especially during busy periods."

'In particular, a key concern of local authorities and government departments is eliminating waste calls and focusing on the true purpose for which the customer is calling. By focusing on why the customer is calling these new solutions enable more callers to get to the right person first time, so minimising the waste and delays of unwanted call transfers. The project at NZMSD epitomises how technology can be used to understand how the public wants to communicate and in turn transform the way that services are delivered.'

The initial phase of the deployment, which was completed earlier this year, has enabled NZMSD to automatically and securely identify clients and their reason for calling. As a result, clients are gaining faster access to specialised services and benefiting from speedier resolution of calls. Average call waiting times have been reduced significantly, as much as halving in peak times.

The system was designed following extensive research into the standard words and phrases used by clients, the reasons for calls and the type of assistance typically required. This knowledge enabled development of audio prompts to help guide client responses ensuring that callers only have to answer a minimum of questions before being connected to a contact centre agent.

Since going live more than 500 Work and Income clients have been surveyed to gather feedback and to help NZMSD to continue to refine and improve client usability of the system.

'The new system means we have a better understanding of why clients are calling and we can get down to business quickly and work out how we can help,' said Barry Fisk, Work and Income On-line Services and Technology Director at New Zealand Ministry of Social Development

'We are always looking to improve our service and make it better for our clients. This technology is helping us achieve that.'
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