Ticketek urges Justin Timberlake fans to speak up

New IVR will handle half a million callers a day

Ticketek has ditched its Interactive Voice Response (IVR) touch-tone overlay for a natural speech recognition module.

The new system hosts more than 40 percent of the call centre's 2 million annual call enquiries. Ticketek sells about 15 million tickets across its call centre, Web and cellular portal, and retail outlet channels.

Up to 13,000 annual events are sold each year which must be simultaneously available across all Ticketek channels as they become available for ticket purchases.

Ticketek chief operating officer Fiona Boyd said the surge created as buyers scramble for tickets formed part of the business case for the IVR system.

"Up to 70 percent of calls to our contact centres are inquiry, about events and ticket prices, and not cash sales," Boyd said.

"The rush of people trying to buy tickets creates surges; we had half a million call attempts to our contact centres when Justin Timberlake went on sale, and we would have needed 3000 agents to handle that.

"It is just not financially feasible to put on more agents to handle big spikes, and its not viable to allow our old infrastructure to handle mass spikes in terms of service."

The end-to-end transaction system allows users to purchase tickets and request ticket information such as location, seating availability and pricing without any touchtone input.

The system integrates caller identity functionality to offer events venues closest to the customer's location to cut down service times and allows purchases to be made using stored credit cards linked to customer identity numbers.

Local call handling times have dropped 25 percent and transaction success is higher than 95 percent, excluding zero-outs which allow customers to speak to agents. Boyd attributes the success in part to updating system event information daily rather than weekly.

The first of the three phase project replaced its old call centre infrastructure with outsourcer Salesforce between September 2005 and March 2006; the second established KPIs including call centre responsibilities, average handling times and speed of answer; and the final stage developed the natural language speech overlay and consolidated Ticketek's databases and CRMs.

Boyd said the project hit "major integration complexity issues" because of several concurrent projects involving database consolidation and changes to call centre operation.

The speech module went live in July this year, following almost eight months of design, build and testing.

The Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), host integration and call flow system, designed and built over eight months, followed a month-long data extraction process in May this year.

Boyd then conducted an two month user acceptance pilot and a series of tests over the following year.

"We future-proofed the system which will stand the test of time because we can build further features into the system," she said.

The IVR system, jointly built with VeCommerce, was built on a FirstContact speech platform linked into Genesys CTI and Nuance scalable speech ports. Monitoring and reporting data is stored between a Salesforce data centre and Ticketek's Sydney warehouse and a backup and disaster recovery centre in Adelaide.

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