Video is fast becoming the hottest topic in the communications sector.  However, the challenge remains to develop a model to monetize video, either through real increases in ARPU (Average Revenue Per Customer) or ARPT (Average Revenue per Transaction) on the carrier side, or through breakthroughs in self-service delivery, by creating new up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, or by boosting agent productivity at the enterprise level.  There is also an exceptionally complex set of technical issues to deal with when implementing a Video solution.

In this Blog Entry, we look at Interactive Voice/Video Response Systems (IVVR),  which we feel is the most straight forward application of video available to the enterprise.

IVVR is the next evolution in customer self-service and self-help.  Certain problems, (such as those of product assembly or repair) lend themselves more readily to being solved by "showing" the solution rather than by "telling" the solution.  Anyone who has dealt with products marked "some assembly required" understands this situation.  Following written or spoken instructions (Put Tab A into slot B) with poor illustrations can prove very frustrating.  Often times we think, if, "I could just SEE someone put this together, I know I could do it."  This is a problem to which video is the answer.   

Some have suggested that the best mode for the delivery of this kind of self help is the PC, not the Video-Enabled Telephony Handset.  However, the immediacy of the delivery of the information is critical in this case.  Even with the ability to deliver video, think of the steps that one has to go through to access this information:  put down the work in progress and go to the computer, access the company webpage, identify the product with which they are having difficulty, search for a appropriate video, watch (and remember) the solution to their problem, and then return to their project and see if they can remember what they just saw. 

When delivered as an IVVR, a user can take out a mobile phone and dial the help number (that is hopefully prominently displayed on the printed instructions) and with just a few button presses (or voice commands) within a well designed IVVR, access the help that is needed, right at the location at which it is needed.  No shuttling between the PC and the work piece.  They get the help they need, when they need it, where they need it.

IVVR may also be the best method to deliver certain information that is needed specifically to mobile callers.  Think about a mobile user who wants to change a seat assignment on a flight.  Rather than having to ask for certain relevant information, "what row am Iin? Is there anyone sitting near me?"; an IVVR can show them the current seat map for the flight.  Maps to navigate unfamiliar airports or show the best place to park at an arena or stadium are examples of applications where visual presentation of information is far superior to voice.

These are just a few ideas about how IVVR can deliver on the promise of being the next evolution in customer self help.  As this technology becomes more pervasive with the telecom infrastructure and it becomes easier for developers to create and deploy IVVR solutions, we are sure to see more customized and innovative of the technology.  For those of you already developing IVR applications using Asterisk, you can easily migrate your skills to creation of IVVR systems using the DiaStar(TM) Server (www.projectdiastar.org).

If you have ideas for other practical applications of IVVR, please feel free to share them here.