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News

Speech recognition for billing service.

Fluency Voice Technology : 01 May, 2007  (Application Story)
Bristol Wessex makes use of Fluency voice recognition technology to improve billing system for Wessex Water and Bristol Water.
Fluency Voice Technology has announced that Bristol Wessex Billing Services (BWBSL), the combined billing service jointly owned by Bristol Water and Wessex Water and serving its 1,100,000 customers, is enjoying reduced call costs, improved customer service levels and a 24 hour, 7 day a week payment line with Fluency's packaged speech recognition solution delivered as a hosted service.

When Bristol Water and Wessex Water rationalised their billing process into one joint billing service its customers enjoyed immediate benefits; one bill irrespective of the provider. Bristol Wessex Billing Services was created to manage the billing process and payment collection for the 1,000,000+ households. As the call volumes increased year on year the team, led by Mike McGowan, BWBSL's Head of Customer Service, recognised the need to take some of that volume away from live operators in its call centre and streamline what is a repeatable straightforward task to a speech recognition system. There was also a growing need to allow customers to pay when it suited them and so an 'always on' payment system was appealing but unfeasible using live agents for cost reasons.

Mike explains, "We had little exposure to speech recognition technology until we came across Fluency and we were immediately impressed with their offering. Fluency clearly demonstrated expertise and knowledge of the Utilities payment process and using Payment Capture as part of its packaged VSA (Virtual Speech Agent) Suite as a hosted offering which comprehensively guides our customers through the payment process, step by step, through to a successful transaction." Mike continues, "This has made a marked difference to the service that we offer to our customers and has taken 5.500 calls last month alone away from our call centre agents. "

This represents a significant saving to BWBSL as Mike explains, "Each payment transaction lasts between 4 to 5 minutes which is valuable time that we are releasing from our call centre agents enabling them to handle more complex queries. Our cost per call with Fluency is approximately 38p which is 75% less than if taken by a live agent, so the savings mount up pretty quickly."

Bristol Wessex Billing Services opted for the Fluency hosted solution thereby enjoying a simple, cost effective buying experience with no infrastructure or set up costs. Customers have taken well to the system and many are using it outside the hours offered by the call centre (8:00 to 8:00 Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 2:00 Saturday) which extends customer convenience and improves the service experience but at no extra cost to BWBSL. Approximately one third of calls taken by the automated speech service are outside of call centre hours.

Philip Padfield is CEO of Fluency Voice and comments, "The success and satisfaction levels being experienced at Bristol Wessex Billing Services is a fine example of packaged speech recognition technology being applied to a repeatable, simple and measurable process. We have developed significant experience helping utilities companies to automate their payment collection processes and this investment has paid dividends as we are now the single largest provider of packaged speech-enabled bill payment services amongst UK water companies." Philip adds, "We look forward to continuing our service to Bristol Wessex Billing Services to extend the use of our technology to other parts of their business."
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