In the not-too-distant future, we will begin seeing unified
customer support platforms that allow companies and their customers
to communicate seamlessly via the Web, telephone, and wireless
devices. In this article, we will learn how two evolutionary trends
are creating a new generation of unified customer
The lines between a phone customer and a Web customer are going to blur.
Whether a customer is using a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) telephone, a
Voice over IP ( VoIP) telephone, or a VoIP
connection on their computer, may not make much of a difference in the future,
because all connections will be initiated over the Internet
and voice calls will travel over a VoIP connection, accessing the same customer database as
all other customer channels. This unification will enable companies
to provide higher quality customer support through a single
The two trends that are driving this innovation is the move from
Public Switched Telephone Networks (PTSNs) to Internet-based VoIP.
This trend will converge voice and data networks and provide a new
range of unified services. The second trend is the adoption of
wireless devices as an alternative access mechanism to Web browsers.
This trend has driven software developers to create more flexible
software designs that enable multi-model access to applications.
This change in design philosophy has created new opportunities to
expand application access to a myriad of devices including the
IP will replace the Public Switched Telephone Network
The widespread adoption of the Internet has spurred companies like AT&T
and Qwest to invest huge sums of money into upgrading their networks with
high-capacity fiber. Since the demand for this new capacity has fallen well
below expectations, telecommunications providers are looking for new ways to
generate revenue with their IP networks. Carriers and managed service providers
have been bulking up their Voice over IP (VoIP) capabilities over the past
couple years. A survey of VoIP equipment vendors conducted by Miercom reveled that
an estimated eight percent of telephone calls
currently placed over IP networks will increase to 30 percent within 5 years. WorldCom
is one carrier that is moving forward with VoIP service, which will
enable its IP Communication customers to plug a Pingtel or Cisco IP
phone directly in their LAN.
VoIP has been gaining popularity for a number of reasons. First, with VoIP,
telephones and computers use the same connection and network infrastructure.
This simplifies the cost and complexity of running two separate wires for the
network and telephones. Secondly, a converged voice/data network simplifies
management of network resources. Third, using VoIP to contact remote offices
instead of regular long-distance service can reduce costs by eliminating
Even though the value-proposition for VoIP is strong, especially for
companies that are upgrading their network or moving into a new office, the quality
of VoIP falls short of most users’ expectations. Vendors are working to
solve this problem. In the short term, companies are using VoIP for
inter-company long-distance calls and for customer support calls that originate
from the Web.
In the longer term, as carriers begin to offer VoIP service, the
need for separate phone and data lines may become unnecessary. With
VoIP, carriers can carry voice and data traffic over a single line.
Telephone numbers can be terminated at the carrier and routed
directly to your IP phones. New phone numbers can be provisioned
without having to wire new lines to a phone block. The challenge for
the carriers will be creating an appropriate pricing model that
doesn’t cannibalize their existing revenue streams.
Running voice and data traffic on an all IP network means that
customers can interact with customer support applications and be
transferred to an IVR or customer support representative (CSR)
anytime, anywhere; whether they’re at a computer using a Web browser
or on a cell phone using a WAP browser. With technologies like VoIP
and SIP, the transition between data and voice interactions will be
commonplace and seamless.
Companies will begin deploying multi-model applications
Multi-model applications provide access to multiple devices.
For example, a new account management application may be accessible from a Web
browser, WAP phone and telephone. The wireless revolution that started building steam in 2000 didn’t provide
the ground-breaking consumer adoption that some expected. That was due in part to the
limiting factors of a telephone keypad as an input mechanism. Nevertheless,
companies are increasingly deploying Web applications that are also accessible
from cell phones, PDAs and two-way messaging devices like the RIM Blackberry.
The technique of designing and implementing
multi-model applications has been around for a few years and is now being
extended to the telephone through VoiceXML. Technology vendors including Oracle,
HP, Microsoft, IBM and Motorola have also been supporting this trend by
providing consolidated development tools that can output interface files for the
Web, wireless devices and telephones.
As the discipline of multi-model application development becomes more widely
used, companies will begin seeking new ways of extending their enterprise
applications to new devices. A natural extension from the Web is the telephone,
because of its ubiquitous
What the future may bring
The days of maintaining telephone support separate from Web and email
support are numbered. Companies like Cisco and WorldCom are forging ahead
with a product vision that integrates customer communication channels into a
single platform running on an IP network. Furthermore, with the insurgence of
multi-model applications, the quality and consistency of business/customer
communications may see a significant improvement in the coming years. These new
developments will provide additional ways for companies to improve customer
support while reducing the cost and complexity of managing multiple customer
About Jonathan Eisenzopf
Jonathan is a member of the Ferrum Group, LLC which specializes in Voice Web consulting and training. He
has also written articles for other online and print publications
and WDVL.com. Feel free to send an
email to [email protected]
regarding questions or comments about the VoiceXML Strategy series,
or for more information about training and consulting