School Bulletin Board
Event notices commonly sent home with children (and lost, misplaced, or never read) can be recorded to the system and out-dialed to lists of parents. These can include sporting events, performances, school photograph days, weather closings, permission slips due, PTA meetings, fund raisers, etc.
Parents can find out whether their children have been assigned homework by calling a Computer Telephony system. They enter a special identification code and listen to a recorded message telling them about the work assigned. Teachers can enter this information easily by calling the system and recording their comments for each class they teach.
Report Card Hotline
Parents dial in and enter an identification code to obtain their child’s grades and listen to comments from their teachers.
Financial Aid Information
Students identify potential financial aid sources by dialing an on-line information service. Callers are prompted to answer structured questions about themselves and their financial resources. The system plays specific recordings on the basis of their responses. A fax response system sends more complete information if the caller has a fax machine.
Substitute Teacher Availability
School systems have teachers call in and register their availability for substitute teaching. The system compiles a list of available teachers, their phone numbers, and the days they are available. This system can help the school secretary when a teacher calls in sick by dialing a pool of available substitute teachers until one agrees to accept the assignment.
A Computer Telephony system is used to route callers seeking help with their schoolwork to a group of tutors. Callers listen to a menu of subject categories where help is available and make a selection by pressing touch tone digits or by saying the appropriate word or number.
Dining Hall Menus By Phone
Students at colleges or boarding schools dial in and find out daily or weekly menus.
A touch tone or voice-activated system allows students to register for courses without waiting in long lines. Callers are prompted to enter their Social Security number so that their enrollment can be verified. They are then prompted to enter course numbers and are told if a course and section are open or closed. The system repeats each choice for verification after a selection is made. When done, a copy of their completed course schedule is faxed or sent by mail. Payment is made via credit card.
The names of students who do not report to school are entered into a database along with the day and date of their absence. A Computer Telephony system uses the list to place telephone calls automatically to their parents. Parents who answer these calls are prompted to enter a special code. They hear a recording that informs them of their child’s absence. If parents authorized their child’s absence, they can so indicate by entering a touch tone digit. If not, the absence is noted in the student’s record.
Pre-Paid Student Calling
College students who live in dormitories and wish to have a telephone are asked to deposit a security fee and are then issued credit. Each time they initiate a call, they are prompted to enter a personal identification code. (A voice recognition system can be used for greater security.) The cost of the call is deducted from their account. Once a caller has reached his or her prepaid limit, no more calls can be placed.
[label type=”important”]Electronic Media[/label]
A Computer Telephony system is programmed to receive calls from viewers who wish to vote on issues raised by a television program; or, the outcome of a program can be determined by viewer choice. 800 numbers, or a per-call charge, can be used to generate revenue from these services.
Cable television stations can provide their viewers with an easy way to select and purchase pay-per-view programming. Viewers call a number and are connected to a computer that prompts them for customer information and takes their order. This information is forwarded to the cable company’s computer, which unscrambles the signal for the subscriber at the proper time and prepares the bill.
Radio stations can use Computer Telephony systems to handle the large volume of calls generated by talk show formats and on-air contests. For example, listeners dial into a system that asks them to record a joke of the day; or they are asked to record their opinion on a topic of current interest. Personnel at the radio station review responses when they have free time and the best answers are edited for airing at a later date. Using a conference bridge, live talk can include several callers along with the host.
Televised home shopping programs can automate their order taking by using Computer Telephony. Customers dial a toll-free number and enter their customer code and the order number of the item they are interested in purchasing by pressing touch tone digits. The system verifies their entry by playing a recording that describes their selection. They can be prompted to enter a credit card number and shipping information in the same way. Callers are given the option of transferring to an operator at any time if they are uncomfortable with the system or if they have any questions.
Cable television systems are beginning to experiment with video-on-demand services that allow viewers to order and watch selected movies from a library of videos maintained by the cable company. The ordering, selection, and billing procedures for such services can be automated via Computer Telephony. Viewers dial a number and are presented with a menu of available movies. They can select a movie by entering the appropriate touch tone digit or by speaking. Billing is automated by identifying the calling party’s telephone number (Automatic Number Identification) and associating it with an existing account.
Electronic Yellow Pages
The traditional, printed Yellow Pages is a listing of businesses categorized by products and services that is normally distributed by the local telephone company free of charge to all homes with a telephone. Each listing contains the phone number and address of the business and (for a fee) some information about available products and services. Because these listings are updated annually, they do not include time-sensitive information about sales or new products. A CT-based, electronic Yellow Pages can provide this kind of information and be updated much more easily, and can go a step further by placing calls out to the advertiser selected by the caller. The two kinds of directories can complement each other: Each listing in the printed Yellow Pages can provide an associated telephone number. Callers who dial this number hear a customized message that contains information about current sales or special events.
Callers dial a number and are asked to enter their personal identification codes. They are presented with a menu asking them to select from among a variety of benefits-related topics such as stock options, retirement plans, or health information. Submenus can narrow these topics further. Callers listen to recorded information or they are prompted to leave their address or fax number and have information mailed or faxed to them.
Automated attendants answer incoming calls and route them automatically to the proper extension or department. They can replace human operators or act as a backup during busy calling periods. They can also be used at night or on the weekends to route callers to a voice messaging system to leave messages.
Broadcast fax announcements can augment or take the place of mailed press releases, newsletters and promotions. Fax lists can be screened the same way as mail lists for highly targeted campaigns. Outdialing IVR applications can verify customers’/prospects’ addresses or fax numbers to update mail lists.
Survey takers can instruct the system to dial out from campaign databases to reach targeted interview subjects. Survey interviews can be unobtrusively monitored by managers or clients, and free-form answers can be recorded for long-term storage. Host-to-switch links allow appropriate survey script and entry screens to be sent to available agents alongside the answered call. In an entirely automated system, all survey questions can be prerecorded and prompt the interview subject for Touch-Tone (or speech recognition) response. Given some promotional incentive to do so (free fries, contest entry), subjects may be motivated to call in to participate in the survey.
Voice messaging systems provide call coverage and messaging services. Each employee is assigned a “voice mailbox” where callers from inside and outside the company can leave recorded messages. Most systems allow remote access for employees who need to retrieve their messages when they are out of the office. Other features include call screening, message forwarding, broadcasting messages to more than one recipient at the same time, and the ability to page someone. Some systems will place a phone call to a preprogrammed number and play a recording when a new message arrives in a user’s mailbox.
Fax On Demand
Callers dial in and listen to a menu telling them the various documents they can receive by fax. When they make a selection by speaking, or by pressing a Touch Tone digit, they are prompted to enter the telephone number of their fax machine. The selected fax is transmitted automatically. Companies can use fax on demand systems to disseminate information about their products.
A fax server is a computer with one or more fax boards in it that is connected to a LAN. A user on the LAN can send computer files directly to the fax server for immediate or delayed transmission. A fax server can also be used to receive incoming faxes over phone lines and store them as computer files for later retrieval. The intended recipient can be notified by a phone call or by turning on a message waiting light on his or her telephone.
Follow-me services give callers the opportunity to track down users who are away from their desks. It does this by consulting a database of users’ other possible phone numbers and paging numbers, and dialing out to these at the caller’s request. These databases can reside on-premises, at a computer telephony server, or on computers on the telco network . Follow-me systems may dial out to all possible sites simultaneously, or in a programmed sequence. They also allow callers to choose to leave voice mail instead.
Many businesses have email, voice messaging, and fax, but these capabilities are offered by separate systems. Employees must check their computers for email messages, their telephones for voice messages, and the fax machine or mail room for fax messages. A unified messaging system can link these local services together, providing a common graphical user interface (GUI). Unified messaging also provides remote services for users by allowing messages in one medium to be forwarded or answered in another. For example, a text-to-speech board can convert email messages into voice messages that can then be accessed via telephone. For employees who wish to receive messages when they are on the road, incoming email can be converted to fax and forwarded to their location automatically.
Order Entry/Order Status
A computer telephony system automates the process of ordering a product or checking the status of an order that has already been placed. Users are prompted to enter part or item numbers. Each order is assigned a number that is entered when a status report is needed. The system interfaces with a computer database where files containing order status can be read to callers via text-to-speech technology.