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Nuance - Blog Page 9

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Why navigation systems shouldn’t require more than just simple spoken words

Last week, my wife and I drove to Berlin for the weekend, and when we tried to find ‘Hotel Bellevue’ all the high-end navigation system in my  premium brand car could tell us was ‘nothing found.’ This made me panic for a moment, afraid, that I made a reservation at a non-existing hotel (this was my wife’s immediate assumption), but I realized that was not the case and eventually we found the hotel and spent a lovely weekend in Berlin. Still, it made me think, why did that happen?

Today’s connected car navigation systems allow access to a variety of different location based content services (LBS). Some of the content resides within the car and some of the content sits in the cloud. Location based cloud content (‘off-board’) typically includes Hotels/Restaurants, Fuel Stations, Parking, Traffic, etc., whereas the on-board content includes the navigation map, which is augmented with a complete destination address list and a limited set of POIs (Point-of-Interests). What’s happening here is important: the cloud resources are extending the on-board capability by a long list of POI categories (such as restaurants, train stations, hospitals, medical doctors, schools, tourist attractions, landmarks, etc.) and individual listings by name like Hotels/Restaurants, Landmarks, Amusement Parks, and so on.

The problem is that cloud and on-board content are accessible via different menu items in my car’s navigation menu. Before performing a POI query, I have to specify which type of search I want the system to perform. For the user, this means a breach in the user experience. It’s inconsistent and leads to confusion. As a consumer, I don’t know if the information that I’m looking for resides in the vehicle or in the cloud, and I don’t even want to bother. Now going back to my weekend trip… It turns out my wife had chosen the on-board menu path when searching for the Hotel in Berlin. Can you blame her? How is she supposed to know that this information is only available via the cloud?

Voice is the most natural interface so I am using the voice recognition feature a lot in my car. But, current voice recognition applications still require that drivers first say, “POI Search” followed by the query, such as, “Hotel Bellevue” or “Fuel station nearby.”. We need to fix this: remove the gate command (“POI Search”) and instead, just say what you want – no extra steps. For example, searching, “Hotel Bellevue in Berlin” with voice technology, which is partly embedded and partly in the cloud, will return the desired result. The voice system needs to have the hotel name in its vocabulary and be able to classify the search query as a POI/hotel search. To solve this technological challenge, access to and deep knowledge of big LBS databases is essential. Therefore, Nuance recently signed partnerships with major providers of POI and address data including industry giants like HERE, Infogroup, Factual, and AutoNavi.

But let’s not stop there: future in car voice user experiences will need to go even beyond what LBS can provide. Music and radio as well as news, other entertainment, and even CRM services should be incorporated into the voice experience. The All-In-One menu is the goal here. The user can enter his query haptically, by gesture, or by voice, and without following hierarchic voice menus or using gate commands like POI Search, Radio or Address Entry. The technology will classify the query into the right context.

Voice technology and content need to grow together to create smart, contextual and, ultimately, proactive experiences for the driver. Technology that finally adapts to the personal needs of the user – isn’t that what we all want?


Publish Date: May 3, 2016 5:00 AM

Three simple tips to reduce customer effort

We have all been through that frustrating moment: a website or IVR asks you for a password and you have no clue what it is. You type or say a likely string of letters, numbers, and special characters, but it fails. Maybe you run around looking for the scrap of paper on which you scribbled it down. This experience is stressful.

Stress is a part of everyone’s day to be sure, but companies should not be adding to it. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, companies need to design customer touchpoints that minimize what psychologists sometimes call “microstressors.” In an ideal world, companies would provide products, services, and support so effortless that customers never need to contact them at all.

A recent Temkin report on Experience Ratings sheds some light into the companies and industries at the top and bottom of the customer experience spectrum, looking at the specific component of “effort” within those experiences. Temkin describes effort as the ease in which a customer can complete an interaction. While we agree with this stance, we would extend the goal to minimizing stress in general. Stress shares the similar physiological manifestations as effort, such as increased heart rate and increased sweating. One can think of heightened effort as a driver of stress, or at least being highly correlated with it.

And minimizing stress and effort is no longer a nicety, it’s a requirement for businesses to succeed in a customer-centric world. That’s because reducing customer effort has become imperative to achieving positive business results. Eighty-seven percent of consumers agree that customer service has a significant impact on their decisions to do business with a company.

A poor experience can easily be avoided by creating a seamless, effortless, and speedy experience for the customer. But that’s a lofty goal. How does one create an effortless experience?

Here are three ways we suggest approaching your customers to provide a stress-free journey and reap the positive business results:

1. Be conversational. Poorly worded menus can cause customers to end up going to the wrong place.That menu takes 26 seconds to play out. Even worse, imagine you were calling about a bank account you were trying to access online. Might you have chosen option 1 by mistake before hearing that option 4 existed? Imagine you had called to open a new bank account. Might you have chosen option 1 before hearing that option 6 existed? Say you wanted to know if your local branch was open. What option would work? Making such decisions takes cognitive effort and can lead you to the wrong self-service or call center agent.

Instead, whenever you have a problem or a question or want to buy a product, a conversational IVR allows you to simply ask the automated, conversational interface for what you want and have the system respond appropriately. And it should work the same, whether you’re on the phone, using a mobile app, or on a company’s website.

2. Get personal. In today’s hyper-competitive business environment where the consumer is overwhelmed by choices at every turn, personalized service is a necessity, no matter your industry, if your company is to survive and thrive. Revisiting the password example from earlier, one can also minimize customer effort by doing away with typed passwords entirely. Have you ever called a friend or family member who knows your voice so well that all you have to do is say “Hi” into the phone and they know who’s on the other end of the line (even without Caller ID)? In those cases, your voice is your unique identifier. That is the reasoning behind voice biometrics, which allows your customers to authenticate using the sound of their voice.

3. Measure how effective you are. It would be cool if we could regularly track a customer’s heart rate and pupil dilation as they interacted with an IVR, getting a direct measure of their effort level. For now, duration is a key factor in measuring effort. The number of steps required in a task and the difficulty of each of those steps can both be by tracking the amount of time a customer is on the phone with your company. Companies should make every effort to minimize a customer’s time on the phone with your IVR, your queue, and with an agent.


Publish Date: April 29, 2016 5:00 AM

Network print management: It’s not about the printers

This post is designed to deliver helpful information related to optimizing your infrastructure. More specifically, this content will help network and server managers optimize IT infrastructure for network printing.

Today, print management is undergoing a revolution. Historically focal areas have been centered on reducing the “cost per page” metric. Examples include applying authentication at printers/MFPs, reducing print volumes and utilizing cost effective printers, and eliminating excessive high cost devices. This approach only addresses part of the issue.

If you expand the scope of the problem, you will find that IT organizations continue to wrestle with increasing costs associated with the explosive growth of data, including supporting ever growing print streams and document rendering activities. There are opportunities to optimize computing, storage, and network assets while ensuring users printing needs are met.

This series will explore the most common way network printing is deployed in large organizations. In addition, we will take a look at alternative solutions that will lower TCO and optimize CPU and network resources, while maintaining user performance and security requirements. A strong partnership between the printer and server management teams can yield significant benefits for users, as well as position IT as a value- add partner to business units.

How Moore’s Law affects network printing

The growth of data is outpacing the decline in processor, networking, and storage costs historically brought about by innovation.

Businesses are struggling to scale up their networks and data centers to keep pace with the explosive growth of data. Until now advances in network, processor and storage technologies have enabled businesses to absorb increases in data volumes with relatively inexpensive infrastructure upgrades. However, the rate of technological advances in data processing, storage and compression is slowing while the growth in data continues to accelerate.

Moore’s Law, the well-known adage in the semi-conductor industry where, in effect, the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years increasing computational power or performance exponentially without diminishing returns, has been documented as slowing down.

Yet silicon is approaching its limits for transistor density. Soon CPU manufacturers will need to deliver compute power using next-generation technology, such as quantum or molecular computing, which will inevitably make computing, storage, and networking technology relatively more expensive for a given amount of processing power.

As a result, the growth of data is outpacing the decline in processor, networking, and storage costs historically brought about by innovation. Therefore, businesses can no longer count on an ever-cheaper supply of network bandwidth and server CPU cycles to handle an ever-expanding volume of data.

Now businesses must look for more economical solutions that decrease the demands placed on networks and data center servers. Network printing is one area that places very high demands on networks and servers. New approaches to organizing network printing components have emerged that eliminate the demand for server CPU cycles, that eliminate print traffic on WANs and that cut LAN print stream bandwidth load in half.

The most common network printing architecture

It also worth taking a closer look at the most common network printing architectures, what roles the print servers play, and explain how print streams affect WAN and LAN network traffic and print performance.

Traditional network printing over a LAN or WAN requires print servers. In a large office environment with thousands of users, there are often dozens of print servers deployed within the corporate LAN infrastructure. When a branch office or retail store is considered, a Wide Area Network (WAN) connects the main office to the branch offices. Within the branch office, LANs support the local network traffic.

Since network printing streams can take up large amounts of bandwidth, print servers are often placed within the branch office to optimize WAN bandwidth, which is usually considerably lower speed and more expensive than LAN bandwidth. Occasionally, print servers are located in the corporate IT center to send print jobs to remote printers across the WAN. While this type of deployment provides central management, performance issues such as latency can make this an unacceptable option to users.

The role of the print server

The primary role of the print server is to be a traffic cop. It manages where the print jobs go, as well as queuing to ensure print jobs are prioritized appropriately. Print jobs from desktop clients are sent to an assigned print server, along with the proper “directions” for the specific print job and target printer. Print drivers are often maintained on the print server, and then downloaded by users on individual desktops.

If a print server is deployed within the LAN to support remote printers, it must send print streams across the WAN to the remote printer in the branch office. Depending on user requirements, this may not be a cost effective use of WAN bandwidth, causing many IT organizations deploy print servers locally within the branch office where it utilizes the LAN to distribute print streams.

When you look how documents are printed and routed to the network printer, the desktop application initiates a printing request and sends the request and print stream to the print server, which in turn puts it in a queue and assigns it to the proper printers queue. The print server uses the “directions” dictated by the desktop print driver for the target printer. Print data streams can vary in size from very small (small page counts with minimal formatting) to very large (hundreds of pages with embedded images). Deploying print servers to serve users’ needs should be carefully architected based on printing requirements and planned bandwidth requirements.

WAN bandwidth is much smaller and more expensive, which makes it a poor choice for sending large scale print streams from a print server housed in a data center to a large scale printer at a remote branch office. In this case, it is better to deploy the print server locally in the branch and service the users across the LAN, which optimizes less expensive ample bandwidth. This way the users get the performance they need using cost-effective network bandwidth. What happens when you have lots of branch offices with small numbers of desktop PCs, such as bank branches, or retail stores?

Total cost of ownership

IT departments are always trying to lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their hardware and software assets. TCO includes not only the acquisition price, but also the maintenance of both the hardware and software that resides on it. In addition, per unit support costs (i.e., help desk) can also be applied to desktop PCs and servers, as well as each unit share of power, cooling, and heating costs. According to Gartner, the average annual TCO for a server is estimated to be $6300.

When you take into account the average annual TCO costs of servers, this presents an interesting dilemma to IT managers. Is it cost efficient to deploy network printing using the traditional print server architecture in these types of environments?

In future articles, we will explore an emerging alternative to the traditional print server architecture that optimizes less expensive computing resources as well as network bandwidth.


Publish Date: April 28, 2016 5:00 AM

The secrets of a successful IVR deployment

If you’re a consumer electronics company, life isn’t always easy. From callers checking their order status and rescheduling installations, to customers inquiring about member rewards or tech support, those companies’ IVRs have a lot to handle.

With so many customers and demands, one leading electronics retailer is tasked with managing more than 1.8 million calls every month! To efficiently manage this high number of calls and help customers get the answers they need, the retailer chose a Conversational IVR from Nuance.

We spoke with Nuance’s Principal Project Manager Jim Stoeckel, who oversaw this particular IVR deployment, and has more than a decade of experience working with companies in this exact situation – high call volumes, increasing customer expectations, and an antiquated IVR that’s not up to the task. Jim shared key learnings for how other companies can have a successful implementation.

What drove this electronics retailer to upgrade its IVR? What was the problem and why did it need to be solved?

The retailer’s previous IVR was made up of several individual applications, each set up to address specific reasons a customer might be calling. Depending on the number you dialed, you had a different experience and could complete different tasks. Nuance streamlined the process by providing one application that would allow callers to accomplish any task, from one place.

The Nuance-hosted application also deployed a Natural Language menu, to allow for a more conversational and friendly application, while also enabling callers to be connected to the right agent as necessary. And because different product categories need different handling, Nuance deployed Natural Language technology to assist with product selection. Nuance’s conversational approach spurred more human-like exchanges like this:

IVR: “What can I help you with?”

Caller: “I want to buy a TV.”

IVR: “Sure, what TV are you looking to buy?”

Caller: “Samsung 40-inch smart TV”

IVR: “I’ll get a team member to help you out.”

In the old IVR application, callers had to sit through a list of options and then select “Sales” or “Purchasing” from maybe two or three menus down, then have to select a category such as “Appliance” or “Home theatre.” This resulted in a longer caller experience which often led to callers reaching the wrong department or being misrouted.

Is the retailer using any kind of data to be predictive?

Yes, the IVR knows who’s calling and will predict the reason for their call, such as an upcoming order or appointment. This helps callers reach their desired resolution with less effort than traditional IVR menus could provide. We did this using an upfront proactive notification functionality, in partnership with the company’s existing customer information systems, in an attempt to predict the reason for a customers’ call. We find that having even small amounts of data – such as past purchasing history, membership reward information, upcoming order or appointment information, as well as current subscription service status – allows our predictive technology to more accurately assist callers.

Are you seeing any metrics that show the success of this deployment?

While we’re currently in the process of reviewing metrics for the last six months, we have some key metrics around one of their busiest weeks. Overall, the application was focused on reducing misrouted calls (improving routing with NLU), improving self-service, and increasing containment. Once the application was deployed, we saw a 30 percent reduction in service agent transfers, as well as an improvement in routing – meaning callers are getting to where they want right away. In addition, all tasks for self-service showed improvement from the previous application, the repeat callers dropped from 35 percent to 25 percent (reducing overall call volume), and containment stayed positive.

While we’re currently in the process of reviewing metrics for the last six months, we have some key metrics around one of their busiest weeks. During that week we saw a 30 percent reduction in service agent transfers, as well as an improvement in routing – meaning callers are getting to where they want right away. In addition, all tasks for self-service showed improvement from the previous application, the repeat callers dropped from 35 percent to 25 percent (reducing overall call volume), and containment stayed positive.

What made this a successful implementation?

People, people, people. The retailer was very knowledgeable, in terms of both the business and in the IVR sector. The company understood what was needed and allowed the Nuance team to provide recommendations and use our expertise to help guide them in the right direction. By having a true partnership with the customer, we were able to combine our deep experience in creating powerful IVR applications with the retailers’ knowledge of its’ own business to deploy an application that produced positive results for both customers and the business.


Publish Date: April 28, 2016 5:00 AM

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