Auto Attendant At City Hall's Beck And Call

PBX telecommunications

DTC was able to leverage its position to sell the city a speech-enabled auto-attendant system, increasing its own revenue while meeting the need for a better solution to handle City Hall's incoming calls.

"The residents were not pleased when the city went from a live operator to an auto-attendant tree, and clearly people weren't waiting to dial extensions or bothering to learn extensions—they were just dialing zero," said Ray Maccani, vice president of sales at DTC.

The city of 55,000 was already using switches from NEC, so Maccani brought in Active Voice's Seven speech-enabled auto-attendant system and demonstrated to the city's information systems manager, Lee Pratt, how it could revolutionize the way City Hall handles incoming calls. Active Voice is a subsidiary of NEC, so the product would integrate easily into the city's existing infrastructure.

"We looked at the speech-enabled auto-attendant solution and Ray sold it. Bottom line: Ray sold it. He talked to me about it, he demonstrated it, and I went to a presentation by Active Voice over in Anaheim [Calif.] ... and then I got the city manager to agree with me to give it a try," Pratt said.

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The first step was setting up the menus and making sure calls were directed as the city's departments required. After a week of internal testing, on May 8 the city went live with the speech-enabled answering system.

Now, when callers dial City Hall, they are prompted to say the name of the person or department they are calling, and the Seven system transfers the call accordingly. When the system cannot understand two consecutive utterances by a caller, it transfers the line to Pratt and Information Services. The system also can transfer internal calls at City Hall, saving the cost of an operator.

"We're now averaging around 3,000 calls a month on the system, and between 92 percent and 94 percent are connected within the first try," Pratt said.

With assistance from Active Voice's engineers in creating a database for the city, DTC was able to have the system up and running with little complication.

In addition to the system, which cost just over $20,000, the city also received four hours of online training with an Active Voice engineer and support from DTC. The voice-mail upgrade also cost in the $20,000 range.

"I'm an IT manager with 250 users, and I have a two-person staff. We are extremely busy. [DTC] made this happen. They trained us," Pratt said. "There were no problems on the hardware and no problems on the servers. You couldn't ask for a better solution."

For DTC, an NEC partner, adding the Seven system to its roster has opened sales opportunities for both old and new customers. In most cases, customers are seeing ROI within six to nine months, Maccani said, and the product is well-suited to vertical markets like government and health care.

"The first speech products were very limited, and some of them didn't last long. You had to be very specific with what you were saying. The technology has really arrived," Maccani said. "And when the technology arrives and it works and you know that there is a market for speech acceptance you've got to jump on it and you've got to get it out to your client base and really work hard to be the main source of distribution within your area. In our business, when it works, you've got to be all over it."