Speech app cuts costs at Premier Travel Inn

Office equipment supplier Danwood has used mobile technology to link to its suppliers and improve customer service.

Premier Travel Inn has gone live with a fully automated reservations system based on speech-recognition software. The firm expects the system to significantly reduce its call centre costs.

Called Tina (Travel Inn Now Automated), the system enables customers to book a room in any of the company's 460 UK hotels.

The speech recognition system allows customers to check room availability and then make and confirm a booking.

It can take as little as three minutes to make a full hotel reservation, said Premier Travel Inn, which was formed by the merger of Travel Inn and Premier Lodge. Once a reservation has been made, customers can ask Tina to send a confirmation text message to their mobile phone.

The system, from ScanSoft, differs from other voice recognition systems because it can understand a broader range of phrases, according to the supplier.

Trevor Elliott, development manager at Premier Travel Inn, said he expects the system to grow over the next 12 months to handle up to 750,000 calls each year, generating 200,000 hotel bookings.

Elliott said it was too early to calculate the cost savings from the system, but added, "Of the 25% of the total customer base that currently enquires and books through the central Customer Reservation Service, about 20% will be effectively handled by the new system, bringing real savings and a swift ROI."

The speech recognition system was developed by ScanSoft and built on VoiceGenie's Nexuspoint voice platform, which uses a variation of XML called VoiceXML.

ScanSoft's Openspeech Recognizer application, which resides on the Nexuspoint platform, can understand a broad range of words and phrases spoken in conversational speech. It does this using statistical language models and statistical semantic models that determine what a caller means as well as recognising the words they said.

The system also allows the caller to interrupt the application at any time.

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