I did my internship in IDC(Industrial Design Center) at IIT Bombay. My guide was Prof.Anirudha Joshi, Associate Professor, Interaction Design, IDC. It was a 5 week internship. The project was – Providing visual support to an existing IVRS (interactive voice response system) in the Indian Context. Since the prices of smart phones have come down considerably in the last few years, the demand for such phones has increased and technologies like IBM WebSphere Voice has advanced a lot in the voice response domain
IVRS is a pretty old concept. It works on the simple principle of identifying DTMF(dual tone multi frequency) tones and responding to these tones through audio message. But the main problem with IVRS is its Bad Usability. Users usually have unsatisfactory experiences with IVRS. This may be due to the nature of medium of IVRS – audio – which is a time-based and linear medium. Users have to listen to all the options before making the apt choice. Unlike text where users can quickly glance through all the options and decide which option to go for. One more difference is that unlike text(which stays on screen) – audio moves with time hence user has to be alert while listening to the options – which is adding load to user’s intellect and memory. Due to these factors users usually end up in wrong level of options and moving from one level to another causes lot of anxiety. Most of the users want to directly talk to the Customer Support (i.e. Human Assistance) so that they can get the solution immediately.
Inspite of all these disadvantages – IVRS has huge untapped potential. A few advantages of IVRS are:
- Technology Penetration – The penetration of mobile phones is much larger compared to the penetration of Internet (especially in India)
- Usage on-the go: IVRS can be used in while travelling using a mobile
- Low setup cost – The setup cost for IVRS server and phone line(s) on part of the organization is very less.
- Low cost equipment (user) – Basic Land line or mobile phone is enough for the user to use IVRS
- Low dependence on literacy – Using computers / internet requires users to be both literate and have computer knowledge. But in IVRS such prerequisites are not necessary – However here the user should be able to identify numbers.
- Simplicity – Few options, placed one at a time. Yes, it is time consuming. But IT IS simple.
- Privacy: The maximum number of bookings of products sold through television (E.g. Telebrands or Teleshopping) happen on phone. Especially while booking products like Hair-loss solution, slimming belts, fairness creams – users feel comfortable talking to a “machine” rather than to a person. It avoids them from being uneasy about buying such product.
Now the initial hack was done. I could call up the HDFC Phone Banking through my phone and at the same time opened up the flash file in my mobile. Now my phone’s full screen was covered by the application and the audio of HDFC was playing in loud speaker. I could traverse through the options in the IVRS and the corresponding screen appered on my screen. It was fun ! This prorotype was working in sync with HDFC’s IVRS without HDFC know anything about it (smile).
However, This was just the initial prototype which I tested it myself and with a few users. The icons and the text on screen helped the users navigate much effectively.
I am still working on a few things which needs to be addressed- How do you build the conceptual model of IVRS in user’s mind using the Visual Support? How do you add the sense of security to this system so that users can perform banking transactions without any fear? How do you help users understand and remember the basic structure of the HDFC’s Phone Banking tree?
Here are a few screen shots of my prototype and how we reached there