A new financially strong airline industry, hotel industry, and rental car market, combined with ongoing developments in hybrid call center technology, presents a major U.S. business opportunity. This technology based opportunity provides a greatly improved customer experience which fosters customer loyalty at lower operating costs. The required technology improvements related to call centers may be eligible for federal and state R&D tax credits. This article covers the big three company names in the travel reservation industry and describes the hybrid human agent/ machine based technology opportunity.
Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed the bill extending the R&D Tax Credit for 2012 and 2013 tax years. As of this writing, both the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means have recommended extension of the R&D tax credit.
The travel industry as a whole is now internet based and increasingly relies on big data. Virtually all of the travel websites as well as the leading airlines, hotel chains, and car rental companies, have analytics departments typically headed by a Director of Analytics.
With the success of travel booking websites, automated ticket kiosks, and mobile phone ticketing the airlines industry knows that technology based solutions can provide better customer experiences. Hotel brands garner a wealth of information about customers' personal interests including eating habits and in room entertainment preferences. With today's GPS systems, car rental companies know the customers vehicle preferences and driving patterns.
The technology solutions firm Sabre works within the travel reservation industry providing services for data intelligence, mobile, distribution, and Software as a Service applications. Sabre's Vice President Harald Eisenaecher says Sabre estimates a traveler's digital footprint is much larger than the 1 TB (terabyte) per year average. Travelers generate data from shopping travel, mobile and social check-ins, travel companion apps such as TripCase, shopping requests for events, ground transportation, restaurants, and social activity.
It is critical to realize that for the first time in modern American business history we have a travel industry that is strong in all three functional areas at a time when machine communication is greatly improving. Therefore, hybrid call center innovation is needed and can be funded.
The three big travel reservation components are as follows:
The current travel market can benefit from further innovation, especially with the integration of big data, which is expected to exceed an annual average of 5 TB per person by 2020. Call center services can particularly benefit from innovation as hybrid human/machine technologies are further developed and implemented.
Given today's technologies and the numerous ways to interact for support and service, one would expect phone communication to decrease in favorability. There are e-mail, web self-service, automated phone systems, and web chat contact methods yet the majority, 79%, of consumers still prefer phone contact.
Call centers can utilize the following technologies to innovate and improve efficiencies:
Artificial intelligence has come a long way in recent years, particularly in the speech recognition front. Technology has greatly improved in recognizing natural speech and is well on its way to becoming even better.
In a travel industry call center environment, speech recognition software is the key to accurate call routing. The enhanced performance of recognition software such as Siri and IBM's Watson has lead to larger expectations for call center speech technology quality. The traditional Dual Tone Multi Frequency (DTMF) response system in which customers 'press 1 for sales, 2 for billing' is no longer going to cut it for call centers.
Current smartphone speech recognition differs greatly from the automated speech recognition (ASR) in call centers. Figure 4 below illustrates the differences between the two systems.
IBM, Google Voice, Nuance, and Microsoft, among many others are making advancements in the speech recognition and natural language processing field. Waveform Communications, an Indiana startup, is developing a digital code that corresponds to vowel perception and production. SRI International has developed speech recognition tools that use speaker adaptation, microphone adaptation, end of speech detection, distributed speech recognition, and noise robustness and can be used for English as a Second Language (ESL) applications.
Nuance Communications offers natural language systems for a wide range of industries. Nuance offers speech enabled self-service options and voice biometrics verification services.
Spoken offers interactive voice response (IVR) services that combine automated speech recognition with background human intervention for increased accuracy. Spoken integrates human agents or 'Silent Guides' that run in the background of ASRs to correct customer speech that would normally fail to be recognized. Using this hybrid approach, Silent Guides can handle 8-10 calls simultaneously, only intervening when the ASR fails to recognize a speech utterance.
Although speech recognition technology is on its way to further innovation, companies want to retain the customer option of a human agent, particularly for certain population groups including senior citizens and ESL speakers that prefer human conversation over an automated system. Using a hybrid human/machine approach, call centers can incorporate IVR technology and human agents to provide more efficient customer services.
A hybrid call center method can also address some of the most common customer complaints such as having to repeat voice responses with automated systems and having to repeat the exact same fact patterns and inquiries to different representatives when transferred. Hybrid call center systems using today's innovation can provide running account information and background for each caller.
Another common complaint when using call center ASR is customer identification. In order to verify that customers are who they say they are, ASRs typically conduct a series of authenticating questions which can be time consuming. Using a combination of caller ID and IVR systems, a customer's phone number can be matched in the company's database and the IVR system can follow up with one to two more identifying questions, significantly reducing the customer verification time.
In addition while using a hybrid system, speech recognition software can detect frustration and anger while using an automated system and is able to route the caller to a human agent. Distinguishing anger with speech recognition technology involves acoustic, linguistic, call quality, and caller frustration history analyses. Software can estimate the emotional state of callers for each analysis category and determine if the caller is angry or non-angry. Anger and frustration are mostly detected in the acoustics of a caller by examining auditory levels, increased word isolation, pitch, and intensity. Software then analyzes a caller's emotional state by looking at the linguistics and word usage because words similar to frustration are commonly used to express anger. Figure 5 below illustrates the higher energy frequency of a caller's acoustics after being misunderstood by a speech recognition system.
Figure 5: Caller Acoustic Frequencies
Source: "Advances in Speech Recognition: Mobile Environments, Call Centers and Clinics", Amy Neustein, Page 201.
Travel reservation call centers can greatly benefit from the use of big data collection. By looking at big data, travel reservation companies can enhance caller experience by pinpointing their top 100 questions, analyzing the topics and complexity of caller concerns, and adjusting their training accordingly. By knowing the most common customer inquiries, companies can train agents to focus specifically on those concerns.
The airline, hotel, and rental car industries rely on customer service and call center technology. As big data sources increase and innovative speech recognition is continuously developed, the newly restructured travel reservation industry call centers may be eligible for federal and state R&D tax credits. R&D tax incentives can also further help the restructuring of this industry.
Charles R Goulding Attorney/CPA, is the President of R&D Tax Savers.
Andrea Albanese is a Project Manager with R&D Tax Savers.
Jacob Goldman is the VP of Operations at R&D Tax Savers.
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Blockchain for Supply Chains|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Physical Security Technology|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Driverless Cars|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of SaaS Start-Ups|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Emotion-Recognition Technology|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of AI in the Insurance Industry|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Emerging AV Trends|
|Enhanced R&D Tax Credits for Specialized Co-Shared Spaces|
|Ethereum's Impact on Digital Contracting Creates R&D Tax Credit Opportunities|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Geofencing|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Distribution Center Automation|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Law Firm Artificial Intelligence|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Avionics|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Telemedicine|
|State & Local Tax Jurisdictions Address Media Streaming and Cloud Services|
|Federal Government Provides Faster Approvals and Tax Credits for Consumer FinTech Products|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Voice-Activated Software|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Artificially Intelligent Hedge Funds|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of LiDAR|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Educational Technology (EdTech)|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Cyber Security Start-Ups|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Construction Industry IoT|
|R&D Tax Credits Provide New Opportunities for Artificial Intelligence Start-Ups|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of NYC Start-Ups|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Virtual Reality Technology|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Water Analytics|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Artificial Intelligence Robo-Advisors|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Natural Language Processing (NLP) Innovation|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Video Compression Technology|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Automated Coding|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Payment Technology|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Restaurant Technology|
|R&D Tax Credits and the Second Wave of Cloud Adoption|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Data Storage Startups|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Cyber Security|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Mobile Applications|
|R&D Tax Credits for the Modern Insurance Industry|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of the Internet of DNA|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Modern Dental Labs|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of IoT Communication|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Near Field Communication|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of the New FDA Mobile Apps Requirements|
|Tapping the Power of Big Data and R&D Tax Credits for Utility Companies|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of the Medical Software Industry|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Computer Enabled Human Identification|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of New York City's Engineering Education and Googlization|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Software Modeling Analytics|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Logistics Software and Process Innovation|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Cameras of the 21st Century|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Network Security|
|R&D Tax Aspects of DNA Identification|
|R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Cyber Security and Homeland Protection|
|Financial Product Trading Platform Artificial Intelligence R&D Tax Credits|
|Gig City Startups and R&D Tax Credits|
|The Internet of Things Creates R&D Tax Credit Opportunity|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Mobile Banking Applications|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of In-Image Advertising|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Advertising Science|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Data Science|
|R&D Tax Aspects of Radio Frequency Identification|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Advanced Driver Assist Systems|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of the Internet of Residential Things|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Web Television|
|R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Medical Robotics|
|R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Industrial Robotics|
|R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Service Robotics|
|Yes Alice, Patents and R&D Tax Credits Remain Available for the Internet of Things!|
|How Salesmen Can Use R&D Tax Credits to Sell Today's Software Products Engagements|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Cloud Computing|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Hybrid Call Centers for Health Insurers|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Robot Software|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Innovation|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Financial Technology Services|
|Beacons Create R&D Tax Credit Opportunity|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Retail Technology|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Improving Virtual Reality Technology|
|Now Every Business is a Software Business|
|The R&D Tax Credit Opportunities for Mobile Devices|
|The R&D Tax Credit Aspects of Wearable Technology|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Big Data|
|R&D Tax Credit Fundamentals|
|Los Angeles Tech Boom Creates Large R&D Tax Incentive Opportunities|
|The R&D Tax Aspects of Software Development|