PBS&J Drives Caller Satisfaction with Voxeo-Powered 511 Phone Applications

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1 CASE STUDY: Prophecy IVR Hosting PBS&J Drives Caller Satisfaction with Voxeo-Powered 511 Phone Applications PBS&J provides experience in engineering, program management, and information technologies to assist state and local governments in the implementation of 511 phone systems. 511 offers real-time information on road construction, traffic, weather conditions, and more. Voxeo s Prophecy IVR Hosting powers PBS&J 511 phone systems in Virginia and North Carolina. Solution Highlights 100% standards-based IVR solution Highly scalable IVR hosting On-demand overflow capacity with full functionality on every port 100% Uptime Guarantee Speech recognition and synthesis Voxeo Designer for easy and fast application development Easy to use administration interfaces Background In July 2000 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established 511 as the nationally designated abbreviated dialing code for real-time travel information. Prior to 511 there were more than 300 different phone numbers providing some level of highway or public transportation-related information nationwide. With nearly 3,900 employees and 80 offices throughout the United States and abroad, PBS&J, provides expertise in all aspects of transportation planning, program management, design, traffic operations, construction management, and operations and maintenance. Since 1960 PBS&J has supported every aspect of the development, expansion, and rehabilitation of thousands of transportation projects for both private and public sector clients and is a leader in 511 system planning and implementation. The Challenge While 511 makes it easier for travelers to access information, state and local governments still face the challenge of integrating data from multiple agencies from lane closures and incidents to drive times and congestion. The need for seamless support across diverse urban and rural areas further complicates the issue. 511 user adoption hinges on the ability of the speech-driven Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to provide callers with intuitive access to accurate traffic information. Behind the scenes the system must be designed and tuned to recognize a large, complex repository of road names and local terminology. Administrators must also have the tools needed to quickly and easily update applications with important messages and alerts. The ability to reliably address uncontrollable fluctuations in usage triggered by weather conditions, holiday travel, and events is equally critical to the success of a 511 system. During emergency evacuations or severe weather, call volume

2 can increase by several hundred percent. System failure or unavailability during a major event may result in a loss of credibility and permanently damage user adoption. Managing unpredictable costs tied to factors such as call volumes, system expansion, call transfers, and ongoing administration is difficult for state and local governments. PBS&J realized early on that many of the challenges to deploying a 511 system could be eliminated using hosted IVR. They also learned that not all hosted IVR systems offer the functionality, flexibility, or control required to meet client needs. PBS&J needed to replace their previous solution with a hosted offering that would address these requirements and give them a competitive edge in the market. Solution PBS&J expertly manages the various components involved in the design and delivery of 511 solutions. This includes partnering with Voxeo to provide clients a best-in-class speech-driven IVR system. Voxeo Prophecy Hosting is a 100% standards-based, on-demand IVR solution that lowers the cost and complexity of 511 development and deployment. The platform seamlessly integrates with PBS&J systems to provide 24x7 speech access to real-time information from safety service crews, construction crews, traffic cameras, pavement sensors, police, public transportation agencies, and the National Weather Service. Voxeo-powered PBS&J applications use proven automated speech recognition (ASR) and speech synthesis (TTS) technologies. Large, complex grammar databases enable users to naturally interact with the system by saying key words such as highways, public transportation, or weather. Callers can also switch between using speech recognition and touchtone. Voxeo Prophecy Hosting is the largest worldwide standards-based IVR hosting platform and the first to offer a 100% Uptime Guarantee Service Level Agreement. The proven and reliable solution includes two U.S.-based data centers to ensure PBS&J clients have high availability, on-demand scalability, and cost-effective bursting during call volume spikes. Voxeo removes the burden of having to provision extra hardware and software to accommodate massive fluctuations in call volume. Easy Management Voxeo and Voxeo s application development partner, ICOA, worked closely with PBS&J to ensure they could easily manage the IVR application and maintain control of changes and enhancements for their clients. The solution includes a web- and phone-based management tool that enables recording of new messages and alerts for placement in the IVR call flow. Previously, PBS&J s clients had to record their message for each location in the IVR menu where they - 2 -

3 wanted it to be heard. With Voxeo, they can now record a message once and add it to multiple locations within the application. The solution also greatly improved PBS&J s ability to record and place floodgate messages, which alert callers to important information such as road closures and AMBER alerts, at virtually any point in the IVR system. PBS&J 511 systems use a highly modular and abstracted scheme, allowing for quick enhancements, easy maintenance, and on-the-fly configuration. Minor changes to the back-end database, such as reordering the playback priority of incidents or adjusting report content, do not affect callers in the system and can be done with as little as a few minutes notice. Solution Highlights Voxeo s patented architecture, backed by multiple load-balanced hosting centers and the industry s first 100% Uptime Guarantee, ensures high availability and the capacity required to handle massive, unpredictable bursts in call volume. Speech recognition functionality with touchtone backup is provided on every port. Other vendors provide extra port capacity for failover and bursts in call volume, but with limited functionality

4 Support for multiple ASR technologies provides PBS&J and its clients with flexibility, cost advantages, and access to new technologies as they become available without ongoing license upgrade costs. The completeness of Voxeo s solution provides PBS&J the option to deploy managed web application servers in Voxeo s hosting facilities, giving PBS&J and its clients total application control without the hardware and management expenses associated with deploying application servers in-house. Designer, Voxeo s built-in graphical development tool, simplifies and speeds service creation, enabling PBS&J to perform many development functions in-house and engage a partner like ICOA for more complex development and integration projects. Standards such as VoiceXML and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) ease development and integration with PBS&J s backend systems. Additionally, investments in integration and application logic can be leveraged for web-based 511 applications. Implementation Spotlight Virginia The Commonwealth of Virginia has been at the forefront of the travel information revolution. 511 Virginia currently covers 330 roadways, over 600 cities and towns, 16 metro areas, 20 bridges and tunnels, all rest areas and welcome centers within the Commonwealth, and over 50 public transportation providers. Virginia 511 updates callers and website visitors with information about road construction, traffic and weather conditions, traffic incidents, road segment-specific alerts, and travel impact forecasts. The system can also report AMBER Alerts or homeland security warnings across the entire state or to a particular region. Recognizing that user satisfaction is key to the success of a 511 system, Virginia 511 offers a reliable service with 24x7x365 access to real-time information, plus: A hybrid of natural speech and directed dialog technology that enables speech-directed barge-in at any point in the call to speed information access for repeat callers. A highly tuned speech interface that addresses localization issues such as the use of nicknames and varying pronunciations. For example, the system is designed and tuned to - 4 -

5 support local nuances such as the fact that I-495 in Virginia is simply known by many as the Beltway. The ability for callers to report an incident to traffic operations staff. The Virginia 511 system demonstrates the passionate problem solving that Voxeo and PBS&J partner to deliver. Information for Virginia s tunnel system was previously provided through a separate toll-free information line that is not part of the Virginia 511 application. The team that provides the tunnel reports contacted PBS&J after their proprietary black box system broke, leaving them without the ability to make any modifications. PBS&J worked with Voxeo to quickly RESPORG, or transfer control, of the tunnel information numbers to PBS&J. With the flexibility and control needed to respond quickly to client needs, PBS&J was able to create a tunnel reporting system. Using the new interface, the tunnel management team is able to create on-the-fly messages and announcements something they could have never done with their old system. Today, callers using the legacy toll free number can access tunnel reports from Virginia and West Virginia and then be dropped into the larger 511 system for access to additional information

6 Results PBS&J, working with Voxeo, provides highly effective 511 systems that improve transportation efficiency, incident management, and roadway safety, while facilitating the delivery of alerts and severe weather warnings. Voxeo s patented IVR hosting solution enables PBS&J to bring solutions to market faster, at less cost, and with greater functionality. On-demand bursting allows PBS&J to solve the challenge of event-driven usage eliminating the need for clients to build a solution to meet peak traffic requirements and ensuring high availability with full functionality on every port. Access to pre-deployed, proven infrastructure and the use of standards-driven tools and functionality speeds time to market. PBS&J has reduced the average time it takes to develop and deploy a 511 system by nearly 50 percent. Hosting enables PBS&J clients to better manage budgets with more predictable costs and fewer unexpected expenses while ensuring affordable access to the latest technologies. PBS&J has the control needed to quickly respond to client requirements without having to involve Voxeo. The management interfaces also significantly simplify application administration by centralizing tasks. Voxeo s long track record of innovation and feature-rich platform ensures PBS&J can quickly capitalize on future market requirements. For example, Voxeo s support for multiple customer interaction channels enables PBS&J to take advantage of technologies such as SMS and the mobile web. Because the solution doesn t use proprietary extensions or tools, Voxeo-powered PBS&J applications are open and portable at any time, for any reason. Voxeo s Customer Obsession team provides PBS&J with fast response to all support needs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. PBS&J associate vice president, Todd Kell, says, The entire team at Voxeo has been great to work with. They care about the products they offer, and stand by them with fantastic customer service and technical staff. For more information about PBS&J or Voxeo, see our contact information below. Voxeo Corporation USA: Europe/UK: Germany: Asia: PBS&J W. Todd Kell, AICP

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