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Publication numberUS20040042592 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/230,708
Publication dateMar 4, 2004
Filing dateAug 29, 2002
Priority dateJul 2, 2002
Also published asUS6842504, US7379537, US7551723, US8131524, US20020196277, US20040006473, US20040032935, US20050078805, US20080313571, WO2004006092A2, WO2004006092A8
Publication number10230708, 230708, US 2004/0042592 A1, US 2004/042592 A1, US 20040042592 A1, US 20040042592A1, US 2004042592 A1, US 2004042592A1, US-A1-20040042592, US-A1-2004042592, US2004/0042592A1, US2004/042592A1, US20040042592 A1, US20040042592A1, US2004042592 A1, US2004042592A1
InventorsBenjamin Knott, John Martin, Robert Bushey, Gregory Edwards
Original AssigneeSbc Properties, L.P.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method, system and apparatus for providing an adaptive persona in speech-based interactive voice response systems
US 20040042592 A1
Abstract
A method, system and apparatus are provided for conducting a dialog exchange between an interactive voice response (IVR) system and a user. In general, the dialog exchange between the user and the IVR system is effected by the persona of the IVR system. The persona is selected from a library of personas in accordance with the user's personality or demeanor. To determine the user's personality or demeanor, the IVR system monitors the user's responses, verbal or otherwise, to system prompts and adjusts the IVR system's persona in response to changes in the user's personality or demeanor.
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Claims(31)
What is claimed is:
1. A method of operating an interactive voice response (IVR) system comprising:
establishing a communication connection with a user;
generating a first prompt, the first prompt operable to elicit a response;
communicating the first prompt to the user;
awaiting a response from the user to the first prompt;
analyzing at least one aspect of the response to identify at least one characteristic relevant to IVR system persona selection;
interrogating a library of personas to identify a persona which comports with the at least one identified characteristic;
selecting the identified persona from the library of personas;
activating the selected persona, the selected persona operable to generate and communicate one or more subsequent IVR system prompts directed to continuing a desired user transaction;
monitoring responses from the user to the subsequent IVR system prompts;
analyzing at least one user response to the subsequent prompts to identify a change in a user characteristic relevant to IVR system persona selection; and
modifying a style of the selected person in response to the identified change in the user characteristic relevant to IVR system persona selection.
2. A method for conducting a dialog exchange between an interactive voice response (IVR) system and a user comprising:
identifying at least one user personality trait;
selecting an IVR system persona based on the identified user personality trait; and
activating the selected IVR system persona.
3. The method of claim 2, further comprising:
generating, by the IVR system, a first prompt requesting a user response; and
communicating the first prompt to the user.
4. The method of claim 3, further comprising generating the first prompt based on at least one call characteristic.
5. The method of claim 3, further comprising identifying the user personality trait based on the user response to the first prompt.
6. The method of claim 3, further comprising identifying the user personality trait from at least one speech characteristic associated with a user's verbal response to the first prompt.
7. The method of claim 3, further comprising:
generating, in accordance with one or more IVR system persona parameters, at least one additional prompt, the additional prompt associated with continuing a desired user transaction; and
communicating the additional prompt to the user.
8. The method of claim 7, further comprising:
analyzing at least one aspect of a user response to the additional prompt; and
determining from the at least one aspect of the user response, whether a user personality trait associated with the user response suggests a change for the selected persona.
9. The method of claim 8, further comprising automatically selecting a new style for the selected persona in response to determining that the user personality train suggests a change for the selected persona.
10. The method of claim 8, further comprising automatically selecting a new IVR system persona in response to determining that the user personality trait suggests a change for the selected persona.
11. The method of claim 8, further comprising repeating the analyzing and determining steps during the prompt and response dialog exchange such that a new IVR system persona may be selected in response to an identified change in a user personality trait.
12. The method of claim 2, further comprising selecting the IVR system persona from a library of personas operably associated with the interactive voice response system.
13. An interactive voice response (IVR) system comprising:
at least one processor;
memory operably coupled to the processor; and
a program of instructions storable in the memory and executable in the processor, the program of instructions operable to generate and exchange dialog with a user in accordance with an IVR system persona selected from a library of personas and wherein the persona is selected according to at least one personality characteristic of the user.
14. The system of claim 13, further comprising:
a communications interface; and
the program of instructions further operable to select a first prompt based on at least one call characteristic, the first prompt operable to request a response from the user, and communicate the first prompt to the user via the communications interface.
15. The system of claim 14, further comprising the program of instructions further operable to identify the at least one personality characteristic of the user from the user response to the first prompt.
16. The system of claim 15, further comprising the program of instructions further operable to identify at least one speech parameter of a verbal user response to the first prompt and determine the at least one personality characteristic of the user from the identified speech parameter.
17. The system of claim 13, further comprising the program of instructions further operable to identify a desired user transaction, generate at least one additional prompt directed to completion of the desired user transaction and communicate the at least one additional prompt to the user.
18. The system of claim 17, further comprising the program of instructions further operable to interrogate a user response to the additional prompt and determine, based on the interrogation, whether the user response to the additional prompt suggests a need for an IVR system persona change.
19. The system of claim 18, further comprising the program of instructions further operable to select a new IVR system persona in response to the suggestion of a need for a new IVR system persona and activate the new IVR system persona.
20. The system of claim 18, further comprising the program of instructions further operable to automatically select a new style for the selected persona in response to determining that the user personality characteristic suggests a change for the selected persona.
21. The system of claim 13, further comprising:
a component systems interface operably coupled to the processor;
at least one component storage system operably coupled to the component systems interface; and
the library of personas stored on the at least one component storage system.
22. A dialog exchange system comprising:
at least one processor;
memory operably coupled to the processor;
a communications interface operably coupled to the processor, the communications interface operable to communicate dialog between a user and the system via a communications link;
a component systems interface operably coupled to the processor, the component systems interface operable to transmit information to and receive information from at least one storage device;
a library of personas stored on the at least one storage device, each persona in the library corresponding to one or more user personality traits; and
a program of instructions storable in the memory and executable in the processor, the program of instructions operable to identify at least one user personality trait and activate a dialog exchange system persona selected from the library of personas according to the at least one identified user personality trait.
23. The dialog exchange system of claim 22, further comprising the program of instructions further operable to generate one or more prompts directed to completing a desired user transaction and analyze one or more selected user responses to the one or more prompts to determine whether the selected dialog exchange system persona should be changed.
24. The dialog exchange system of claim 23, further comprising the program of instructions further operable to change the dialog exchange system persona in response to a determination that the selected dialog exchange system persona should be changed, and monitor user responses to prompts generated in accordance with the changed dialog exchange system persona such that a determination may be made as to the need for yet another change to the dialog exchange system persona.
25. A computer readable medium encoding a program of instructions, the program of instructions operable to:
select an interactive voice response (IVR) system persona based on at least one personality trait identified in a user response; and
conduct a dialog exchange in accordance with the selected IVR system persona.
26. The computer readable medium of claim 25, wherein the program of instructions is further operable to select the IVR system persona from a library of personas.
27. The computer readable medium of claim 25, wherein the program of instructions is further operable to create a user persona from a plurality of IVR system persona characteristics.
28. The computer readable medium of claim 25, wherein the program of instructions is further operable to monitor user responses to subsequent IVR system prompts to determine whether a change in one or more user personality traits suggests a need for changing the selected IVR system persona.
29. The computer readable medium of claim 28, wherein the program of instructions is further operable to:
select a new IVR system persona in response to the suggestion of a need; and
conduct a dialog exchange directed to completing a user desired transaction in accordance with the newly selected IVR system.
30. The computer readable medium of claim 28, wherein the program of instructions is further operable to automatically select a new style for the selected persona in response to detecting the need for changing the selected IVR system persona.
31. The computer readable medium of claim 25, wherein the program of instructions is further operable to select an IVR system persona from a plurality of user personality traits identified in a verbal user response.
Description
TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates generally to customer service delivery and, more particularly, to providing adaptive customer service delivery via interactive voice response systems.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] In many telecommunications based customer service departments, interactive voice response (IVR) systems are employed to handle customer calls which may not require a human operator's assistance. In typical IVR systems, the caller or user and the IVR system generally proceed through desired transactions using a series of dialog exchanges. Such exchanges may include IVR system prompts and user touch-tone responses, voice responses or some combination thereof. Due to the cost savings of IVR system use, typically through the reduction in customer service staff, IVR systems continue to enjoy widespread use. However, IVR system technology has yet to be perfected.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0003] A more complete understanding of the present embodiments and advantages thereof may be acquired by referring to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference numbers indicate like features, and wherein:

[0004]FIG. 1 illustrates a block diagram showing a system incorporating teachings of the present invention; and

[0005] FIGS. 2-4 illustrate flow diagrams depicting a method incorporating teachings of the present invention for conducting a dialog exchange between an interactive voice response system and a user.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0006] Preferred embodiments and their advantages are best understood with reference to FIGS. 1 through 4, wherein like numbers may be used to indicate like and corresponding parts.

[0007] In most IVR system implementations, a single persona may be assigned to the IVR system. However, according to behavioral research, users of automated systems tend to view automated systems more favorably when the persona or personality of the system matches the user's personality. For example, a recent study suggests that introverts and extroverts tend to be more satisfied with, likely to trust and likely to make a purchase from an automated system possessing voice characteristics similar to their own. Similarly, evidence exists showing that many IVR system users prefer an IVR system having a system voice matching their own gender.

[0008]FIG. 1 generally illustrates one embodiment of a customer service delivery solution incorporating teachings of the present invention and operable to provide automated or computer based customer service to callers using an interactive voice response (IVR) system. System 10 of FIG. 1 preferably enables an operator of a customer service call center, for example, to achieve, among other benefits, greater numbers of favorable responses to system prompts by matching the active persona of the IVR system 12 to one or more personality traits or characteristics of a current caller into the call center.

[0009] As depicted in FIG. 1, system 10 preferably includes at least one IVR system 12. In one embodiment, IVR system 12 may include one or more traffic handling devices 14. Traffic handling devices may include, but are not limited to, such devices as routers, switches, hubs, bridges, content accelerators, or other similar devices. As depicted, one or more traffic handling devices 14 may be coupled between communications link 16 and computer system 18. Communications technologies which may be used as communications link 16 include, but are not limited to, a PSTN (public switched telephone network), the Internet using voice over IP (Internet Protocol), such mobile technologies as satellite and PCS (personal communication service), as well as others.

[0010] In an embodiment of IVR system 12 having a component or storage system 20 which is maintained separately from computer system 18, as depicted in FIG. 1, one or more traffic handling devices 14 may be included and coupled between computer system 18 and such a storage system 20. As described below, storage system 20 or portions thereof may be incorporated into computer system 18, according to teachings of the present invention.

[0011] Computer system 18 may be constructed according to a variety of configurations. Preferably, however, computer system 18 includes one or more processors or microprocessors 22. Processors or microprocessors 22 may include such computer processing devices as those manufactured by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Motorola, Transmeta, as well as others. Operably coupled to microprocessor(s) 22 are one or more memory devices 24. Memory devices 24 may include, but are not limited to, such memory devices as SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory), RDRAM (Rambus dynamic random access memory), FLASH memory, or other memory device operable to functioning with the microprocessor(s) 22 of choice.

[0012] Also operably coupled to microprocessor(s) 22 are one or more communications interfaces 26. Communications interface 26 may employ wire-line and/or wireless technologies. For example, wire-line based communications interfaces 26 may include, but are not limited to, such wire-line technologies as PSTN (public switched telephone networks), Ethernet, Token-Ring, coaxial, fiber optic, as well as others. Examples of wireless technology based communications interfaces 26 may include, but are not limited to, such wireless technologies as Bluetooth and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) 802.11b, as well as others.

[0013] One or more component systems interfaces 28 are also preferably included and coupled to microprocessor 22. According to teachings of the present invention, component systems interfaces 28 preferably couple one or more component systems to microprocessor(s) 22 such that microprocessor(s) 22 may access the functionality included therein. Examples of component systems include storage system 20, video displays, storage devices, scanners, CD-ROM (compact-disc-read only memory) systems, input/output devices, etc. Component systems interfaces 28 may include, for example, ISA (industry standard architecture) connections, PCI (peripheral component interconnect) connections, PCI-X (peripheral component interconnect-extended) connections, SCSI (small computer systems interface) connections, USB (universal serial bus) connections, FC-AL (fibre-channel arbitrated loop) connections, serial connections, parallel connections, Ethernet connections, IEEE 802.11b receivers/transmitters, Bluetooth receivers/transmitters, as well as others. In addition, component systems interfaces 28 may be provided to couple one or more components system internal to computer system 18, such as hard disc drive (HDD) devices, CD-ROM read/write devices, etc., to microprocessor(s) 22.

[0014] As illustrated in FIG. 1 and mentioned above, one or more traffic handling devices 14 may be coupled between computer system 18 and storage system 20. In an alternate embodiment, however, storage system 20 may be included within or internal to computer system 18. In such an embodiment, storage system 20 or one or more components thereof may be directly coupled to the one or more component systems interfaces 28.

[0015] Component or storage system 20 may include a variety of computing devices and is preferably not limited to one or more types of storage device. In the embodiment of storage system 20 illustrated in FIG. 1, a plurality of storage devices, preferably storing one or more applications and databases for use in accordance with teachings of the present invention, may be provided. Specifically, component or storage system 20 may include one or more hard disc drive (HDD) devices 30, digital linear tape (DLT) libraries (not expressly shown), CD-ROM libraries and/or one or more storage area networks (SAN) 32. In yet another embodiment of IVR system 12, one or more HDD devices 30 may be included in computer system 18 with one or more SANs 32 included in storage system 20.

[0016] As with many computer systems, a variety of applications 34 may be used to leverage the functionality or processing capability of computer system 18. In the present invention, a plurality of applications 34 may be effectively included in storage system 20, on one or more HDD devices 30 and/or on one or more SANs 32. For example, one or more communications applications operable to establish a communication connection with one or more users via communication link 16 may be included in storage system 20. In addition, one or more speech recognition or voice analysis applications are preferably included on HDD devices 30 and/or SAN 32 for use as described below. A variety of additional applications 34 may also be included on one or more of HDD devices 30 and/or SANs 32.

[0017] As will be described in more detail below with respect to one embodiment of a method according to the present invention, one or more persona libraries 36 are preferably included on storage system 20. Persona libraries 36 preferably include a plurality of IVR system personas, one or more of which may be selected for use during a transaction with a given user. In one embodiment, the personas stored in persona libraries 36 may be pre-existing, i.e., a complete persona or one having a defined gender, rate of speech, system prompt menu, etc., needing only to be selected and activated for use in the IVR system. Each persona in the library may also include a number of styles or strategies. For example, within a persona designed to communicate like a calm, caring, mature female (i.e., a motherly persona), the library may include a first subset of prompts or scripted dialog designed to help novice callers, a second subset designed to help expert callers, a third subset designed to sound sympathetic and soothing and a fourth subset designed to be more abrupt. These different subsets or styles may be produced by altering characteristics of the persona such as speaking rate, choice of formal or informal words, use of terse or verbose utterances, etc. As described below, IVR system 12 may dynamically change from one style to another in response to detected changes in the speech characteristics of a caller.

[0018] In an alternate embodiment, persona libraries 36 may contain a plurality of IVR system persona components, such as gender, rate of speech, tone, inflection, prompt menus, etc. An overall IVR system persona may be selected and compiled from selected components to create an IVR system persona which has been determined, according to teachings of the present invention, to be the persona most likely to elicit favorable responses from the user as well as to achieve other benefits.

[0019] Also as described below with respect to one embodiment of a method of the present invention, one or more user persona profiles 38 may be stored on HDD devices 30 and/or on SANs 32. According to teachings of the present invention, when a repeat user contacts IVR system 12, the IVR system 12 may be implemented such that the user can be identified, e.g., from one or more call characteristics, and the user's preferred or most recent IVR system persona may be initiated by the IVR system 12. As will be described in more detail below, one or more responses from the user to prompts from the user's stored persona 38 may initiate a change in the persona used to complete the user's desired transaction.

[0020] Referring now to FIGS. 2 through 4, a method for conducting a dialog exchange between a user and an IVR system 12 is generally depicted. In general, method 50 preferably identifies one or more personality traits or characteristics of a caller or user and activates an IVR system persona likely to put the user at ease during the user's interaction with the IVR system 12, elicit desirable responses to IVR system 12 prompts, such as sales prompts, as well as achieve other benefits.

[0021] Method 50 may be implemented in a variety of ways. For example, method 50 may be implemented in the form of a program of instructions storable on and readable or executable from one or more computer readable media such as floppy discs, CD-ROM, HDD devices, FLASH memory, etc. Alternatively, method 50 may be implemented in one or more ASIC (application specific integrated circuits). In a further embodiment, method 50 may be implemented using both ASIC and computer readable media. Other methods of enabling method 50 to be stored and/or executed by a computer system, such as system 18, are contemplated and considered within the scope of the present invention.

[0022] Alternative embodiments of the invention also include computer-usable media encoding logic such as computer instructions for performing the operations of the invention. Such computer-usable media may include, without limitation, storage media such as floppy disks, hard disks, CD-ROMs, read-only memory, and random access memory; as well as communications media such as wires, optical fibers, microwaves, radio waves, and other electromagnetic or optical carriers. The control logic may also be referred to as a program product.

[0023] Specifically referring to FIG. 2, method 50 begins at 52 where IVR system 12 is preferably initialized. Upon initialization of IVR system 12 at 52, method 50 preferably proceeds to 54.

[0024] At 54, method 50 preferably remains or loops in a wait-state where a call from a user may be awaited. As with many computer-based systems, IVR system 12 may perform additional tasks, i.e., multi-task, while in a wait-state at 54. In other words, IVR system 12 may perform one or more other computing or data processing functions while awaiting an incoming call at 54. Method 50 preferably maintains IVR system 12 in a wait-state at 54 while there is no call detected or being received on communications link 16. As with many computer-based systems, one or more escape routines may be run alongside or in conjunction with method 50 which will enable a system administrator or other IVR system 12 operator to interrupt method 50 and thereby free up one or more resources of IVR system 12.

[0025] Once an incoming call is detected or being received at 54, method 50 preferably proceeds to 56 where a communication connection between IVR system 12 and the user's communications device 40 may be established. User communications device 40 is preferably operable to allow a user to submit voice, touch-tone or other responses to prompts communicated from IVR system 12. Examples of user communications devices include, but are not limited to, telephones, mobile phones, PDAs (personal digital assistant), personal computers, portable computers, etc.

[0026] As mentioned above, a user may contact IVR system 12 via communications link 16. Establishing a communications connection by IVR system 12 can include initiating a program or software sequence operable to accept an incoming call from a calling user. Alternatively, IVR system 12 may include functionality operable to permit IVR system 12 to initiate contact with one or more users. For example, IVR system 12 may be configured with auto-dialer type capabilities. Other methods of establishing a communication connection between IVR system 12 and a user communication device 40 are contemplated within the scope and spirit of the present invention.

[0027] In one embodiment of method 50, IVR system 12 may be configured to evaluate or identify one or more characteristics of the call or communication connection from the current user at 58. For example, if the user dialed into a specific one of a plurality of IVR system 12 access numbers, the specific number dialed might be associated with users from a specific geographic region, a specific service, sale, lease or use of a specific product, etc. In addition, IVR system 12 may also be configured to determine whether the user is calling during a holiday, at a particular time of day, etc. IVR system 12 may be further configured with automatic number identification (ANI), enabling IVR system 12 to identify one or more personal, geographic or other characteristic of the user from their calling number by referring to a customer database.

[0028] Using either the information gathered from the user's incoming call or from one or more IVR system 12 configurations and settings, method 50 preferably then proceeds to 60 where a first prompt for the user may be generated. Preferably, the first prompt generated by IVR system 12 includes a request for a user response. Further, the request for a user response will preferably encourage the user to respond with a spoken or verbal response. Depending on the type of communications link 16, and user communication device 40, the request for a user response may assume other preferred constructs. The text, voice, gender, rate of speech and other characteristics of the first prompt may be determined or dictated by the information gathered from the user's incoming call, from one or more IVR system 12 settings, as well as from other factors.

[0029] In one embodiment of the present invention, IVR system 12 may identify the user from one or more communication link characteristics of the user's incoming call and accesses a stored user persona profile for the calling user, such as a persona from stored user persona profiles 38. For example, ANI information may be used to identify the caller. The stored user persona profile may contain the IVR system 12 persona used during the user's last call, for example. The first prompt may be generated based on one or more speech parameters identified in the stored user persona profile.

[0030] Upon generation of a first user prompt at 60, method 50 preferably proceeds to 62. At 62, the first user prompt may be communicated to the user. In general, IVR system 12 preferably communicates the first prompt to the user over communications link 16 to user communication device 40 via communications interface 26. The first prompt may be generated using one or more speech generation applications and/or hardware devices and according to the IVR system persona then in effect, e.g., a default IVR system persona or an IVR system persona identified from one or more call characteristics.

[0031] Upon communication of the first prompt to the user at 62, method 50 preferably proceeds to 64. At 64, IVR system 12 preferably awaits a user response to the first prompt. To avoid trapping IVR system 12 in a loop waiting for the current user to respond to the first prompt, if no response is detected within a reasonable delay after prompting, method 50 preferably proceeds to 66. At 66, a determination is made as to whether a predetermined amount of overall or total wait time for a user response has been exhausted. If the predetermined amount of overall or total wait time has not been exhausted, method 50 preferably loops at 66 until such an amount of time has lapsed or passed.

[0032] Once the predetermined wait time has been exhausted at 66, method 50 preferably proceeds to 68. At 68, IVR system 12 may determine whether a predetermined number of first prompt communication attempts have been exhausted. Again, to aid in the avoidance of locking IVR system 12 in a loop waiting for a user response, a limit to the number of first prompt communication attempts may be implemented in method 50.

[0033] If at 64 a user response has not been received, at 66 the predetermined wait period for the most recent first prompt communication has been exhausted and at 68 the number of first prompt communication retries have not been exhausted, method 50 preferably returns to 62 where the first prompt may again be communicated to the user. Upon re-prompting the user, method 50 preferably reiterates through the processes indicated at 64, 66 and 68. However, if at 68 it is determined that the number of first prompt communication attempts has been exhausted, method 50 preferably proceeds to 70 where the communication connection with the current user is preferably severed. Once the communications link between the current user and IVR system 12 has been severed, method 50 preferably returns to 54 where the next user call may be awaited. Alternative implementations of preventing IVR system 12 from being trapped in a loop awaiting a user response to an IVR system 12 prompt are contemplated and should be included within the spirit and scope of the present invention. For example, at block 70, IVR system 12 may transfer the caller to a human operator.

[0034] Referring now to FIG. 3, a flow diagram depicting one embodiment of the continuation of method 50 is illustrated. Method 50 preferably proceeds to 72 of FIG. 3 as a result of the detection of a user response to the first IVR system prompt at 64 of FIG. 2.

[0035] At 72, the detected and received user response is preferably interrogated or otherwise analyzed to identify one or more of its characteristics. For example, if the user response is verbal or spoken, IVR system 12 will preferably identify one or more speech characteristics associated with the verbal response. The characteristics of speech which may be analyzed by IVR system 12 include, but are not limited to, the speaker's gender, rate of speech, fundamental frequency, frequency range, and amplitude. According to behavioral research, for example, an introvert can be discerned from an extrovert by analyzing the rate, fundamental frequency, frequency range and amplitude of the speaker's speech. Many other speech characteristics may be identified from a speaker's speech and used in the method of the present invention. The delay between an IVR system 12 prompt and the user response may also be monitored and analyzed by IVR system 12, for example, to determine whether the current user is a novice or experienced IVR system 12 user. Additional characteristics or parameters of a user's responses to IVR system 12 prompts may be monitored and analyzed without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

[0036] In one embodiment of method 50 of the present invention, IVR system 12 may begin processing the user response at 74 generally concurrently with the analysis of the user response at 72. For example, if the first prompt generated by IVR system 12 at 60 presented a plurality of transaction options from which the user was to select one, processing the user's response and selection of a desired transaction at 74 would allow IVR system 12 to initiate the desired user transaction. Alternatively, if the first prompt generated by IVR system 12 requested the caller's IVR system 12 user identifier, for example, any information associated with the user identifier stored by the IVR system 12 may be retrieved at 74 before, after or generally concurrent with the analysis and identification of the speech characteristics of the user's response at 72.

[0037] Once the IVR system 12 has identified one or more characteristics or parameters of the user response relevant for its determination of the user's personality or demeanor at 72, method 50 preferably proceeds to 76. At 76, IVR system 12 may interrogate one or more of the persona libraries 36 preferably stored in storage system 20 on HDD device 30 and/or SAN 32. One goal of the persona library 36 interrogation at 76 is for IVR system 12 to identify a persona available in a persona library 36 which best comports with or matches the current personality or demeanor of the user. Alternatively, IVR system 12 may be configured to select from a plurality of persona characteristics to create an IVR system persona which best matches the current personality or demeanor of the user. By activating an IVR system 12 persona that comports with or matches the current personality or demeanor of the user, according to teachings of the present invention, the user's interaction with IVR system 12 is more likely to be relaxed and the user is more likely to favorably respond to IVR system 12 prompts.

[0038] According to teachings of the present invention, the personality or demeanor of a user may be defined in a variety of ways. For example, a user personality or demeanor may include IVR system 12 analysis to determine whether a user is likely a novice or experienced IVR system 12 user. Further, according to aspects of the present invention, a user's personality or demeanor may include the gender of the caller, whether the caller may be characterized as an introvert or extrovert, whether the user is agitated, seems confused or is questioning the system. For example IVR system 12 may be configured to identify when a user is struggling with the system by recognizing that a user has increased the duration and amplitude of their speech. Further, IVR system 12 may be configured to identify tension in a user's voice. Other categories or types of user personalities or demeanors are considered within the scope of the present invention.

[0039] After interrogating one or more of the persona libraries 36 preferably included on one or more HDD device 30 or SAN 32 at 76 to identify at least one preferred or optimal IVR system persona, an IVR system persona is selected or created at 78. Upon selection of an IVR system persona at 78, the IVR system 12 persona may be activated at 80. Activation of an IVR system persona may include, but is not limited to, loading one or more person characteristic, i.e., gender, speech rate, etc., into a memory accessible to voice generation software or hardware. Once the selected IVR system 12 persona is activated at 80, method 50 preferably proceeds to 82.

[0040] According to teachings of the present invention, the persona of IVR system 12 can have a significant impact on the responsiveness of a user. Accordingly, selection of a preferable, optimal or appropriate IVR system persona and the subsequent dialog exchange with the user in accordance with the IVR system persona provide computer-based call centers an advantage over single persona IVR system 12 based call centers.

[0041] Generally at 82, a plurality of user prompts may be generated by IVR system 12 in accordance with the IVR system persona selected at 78. For example, if it is determined that the current user is an experienced IVR system 12 user, quick, brief system prompts may be included in the preferred persona. Similarly, if it is determined that the user is a novice user or is struggling with system, slow, detailed instructions may be provided in accordance with the selected or created persona.

[0042] The plurality of user prompts generated at 82 are generally directed to completing a user desired transaction, i.e., the purpose for which the current user contacted IVR system 12, such as to check a balance or pay on an account. Upon the generation of one or more user prompts directed to completing a desired user transaction, method 50 preferably proceeds to 84 where the one or more user prompts may be communicated to the user. For example, if IVR system 12 determines at 72 that the current user is a shy male seeking to check an account balance, the selected IVR system persona may have the characteristics of being a soft spoken male that prompts the user for an account number, asks whether the user would like an account statement mailed to his address of record or whether the user would like his balance spoken to him over the communications link, etc.

[0043] Once the next user prompt has been communicated to the user at 84, method 50 preferably proceeds to 86 where a user response to the prompt is awaited. In the event a user response is not detected within a reasonable delay after prompting, method 50 preferably proceeds to 88. At 88, a determination is made as to whether a predetermined overall or total wait period for a user response to the IVR system 12 prompt has been exhausted. In the event that the predetermined time period has not been exhausted, method 50 preferably loops at 88 until the predetermined time period has been exhausted. Once the predetermined time period has been exhausted, method 50 preferably proceeds to 90.

[0044] At 90, a determination is made as to whether a predetermined total number of IVR system 12 prompt retries has been exhausted. If the predetermined total number of IVR system 12 prompt retries has not been exhausted, method 50 preferably returns to 84 where the IVR system 12 prompt directed to completing the user desired transaction is preferably repeated to the user. However, if at 90 it is determined that the predetermined number of IVR system 12 prompt retries has been exhausted, method 50 preferably proceeds to 92 where the communications connection with the current user may be severed or a bail-out to a human operator effected. Upon severance of the current user's communications connection at 92, method 50 preferably returns to 54 where the next incoming call from a user is awaited.

[0045] Referring now to FIG. 4, a continuation of method 50 as illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, is shown according to teachings of the present invention. Method 50 preferably proceeds to 94 of FIG. 4 in response to detection or reception of a user response to the IVR system 12 prompt directed to completing the desired user transaction communicated at 84.

[0046] At 94, one or more parameters or characteristics of the user's response are preferably identified, analyzed or otherwise isolated. In one embodiment of the present invention, each user response to an IVR system prompt may be evaluated for a change in the user's personality or demeanor. In a further embodiment, only selected user responses to IVR system prompts may be evaluated for a change in the user's personality or demeanor. As mentioned above, generally concurrently with or after receipt of a user response, IVR system 12 may process the user response in furtherance of the desired user transaction, as indicated at 96.

[0047] At 98, IVR system 12 preferably compares or otherwise determines whether any differences exist between the user's current personality or demeanor and the personality or demeanor previously detected, e.g., at 72 of FIG. 3. Specifically, according to teachings of the present invention, IVR system 12 is attempting to monitor the user's personality or demeanor to determine whether a new IVR system persona or change in style of the current persona is likely to elicit more favorable responses from the user, put the user at ease, or otherwise enhance the user's interaction with IVR system 12. In addition, IVR system 12 may be configured to detect whether the user is having difficulty using or interacting with the system and to access and communicate one or more help prompts to aid the user in such instances.

[0048] If at 98 a change is detected in the user's demeanor or personality, method 50 may return to 76 of FIG. 3 where the one or more persona libraries 36 may again be interrogated to identify one or more IVR system personas which best comport or match the user's current demeanor or personality. Alternatively, as mentioned above, the style of the current persona may be changed or one or more persona characteristics may be compiled to create an overall IVR system persona which best matches or comports with the user's present demeanor or personality. Upon a return to 76, method 50 preferably again proceeds through selection at 78 and activation at 80 of a new IVR system persona or style. If at 98 there is no detected change in the user's demeanor or personality detected, method 50 preferably proceeds to 100.

[0049] At 100, IVR system 12 preferably determines whether the desired user transaction has been completed, i.e., whether the user has received all desired information or whether the user has provided all of the information requested by IVR system 12. If it is determined at 100 that the desired user transaction is incomplete, method 50 preferably returns to 82 of FIG. 3 where the next prompt in the sequence of prompts directed to completing a desired user transaction may be generated for communication at 84.

[0050] However, if at 100 it is determined that the desired user transaction has been completed, method 50 may proceed to 102. In one embodiment of the present invention, personas for users of IVR system 12 may be stored for use during subsequent transactions or dialog exchanges with the user. In such an IVR system 12, the persona for the last transaction with the current user, for example, may be stored in one or more stored user persona profiles 38 on one or more HDD devices 30 or SANs 32. As mentioned above, such stored user persona profiles 38 may be used by IVR system 12 in those instances where the caller can be identified prior to the communication of the first prompt to the user as well as in other instances.

[0051] After the persona for the current user has been stored, method 50 preferably proceeds to 104 where the communications link with the user may be severed. Once the communications link has been effectively severed, method 50 preferably returns to 54 of FIG. 2 where IVR system 12 may await the next incoming call.

[0052] In an embodiment of the present invention, a stored user persona 38 may be used to implement one or more security measures. For example, if a stored user persona 38 is supposed to be used by only one user, when IVR system 12 detects a suspect voice pattern a security alert may be generated. Such a security alert might prompt the user to enter an additional password. Alternatively, such an alert might notify IVR system 12 personnel of the potential breach and leave the matter for the personnel to address. Alternative embodiments of securing a user account using teachings of the present invention are contemplated and considered within the scope hereof.

[0053] Although the disclosed embodiments have been described in detail, it should be understood that various changes, substitutions and alterations can be made to the embodiments without departing from their spirit and scope.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification379/88.16, 379/88.04
International ClassificationH04M1/24, G06F9/44, G09G5/00, H04M3/22, G06Q10/00, H04M3/00, H04M15/00, G10L15/18, H04M11/00, H04M1/64
Cooperative ClassificationG10L15/1822, G06Q10/10, H04M15/00, G06F8/20
European ClassificationH04M15/00, G06F8/20, G06Q10/10, G10L15/18U
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