Microsoft upgrades Tellme customer services to include VoIP

Microsoft promises savings and better voice quality to corporate users

A few years ago, Microsoft acquired voice recognition company Tellme, for a rumored US$800 million. After the deal, the Tellme team has remained relatively quiet -- until now. Microsoft has just announced improvements to the service that it says will bring savings and better voice quality to corporate users.

At its heart, Tellme lets companies use voice-recognition technology to answer calls from customers -- one example is Domino's Pizza, which offers automated pizza ordering in Spanish. Now, Tellme will offer not only to handle the calls, but also to serve as the phone company for customer service using voice over IP. Tellme claims the average call will cost only 40 percent of what another VoIP carrier would charge, since the call goes direct to Tellme's servers.

Another potential savings relates to the increasing use of mobile phones to place orders. Mobile phones eliminate the need for toll-free numbers for most customers, since it costs the same to dial an 800 number as it does to dial direct. "With the benefit of toll-free numbers diminishing," Tellme's press release claims, "having an alternative local number can save costs without affecting the consumer experience."

Tellme also announced two other product enhancements: Improved speech recognition, and more human-like computer speech for responses. This will create a "faster and more natural experience" for users, Microsoft says.

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