IBM Eyeing Banks for Voice Product

Banks' customer service operations are a key market for a voice-processing system that IBM introduced this week, the company says.

Many banks are turning to telephone banking services to reduce costs by reducing the number of inquiries that require a customer service representative.

The new system, which combines the capabilities of several advanced technologies, reflects the desire of Armonk, N.Y.-based International Business Machines Corp. to get a bigger piece of the rapidly growing market for voice processing systems.

The introduction signals a shift by IBM from the third-party manufacturers it has relied on in the past.

High Hopes for Technology

Having a product that can reach the entire voice processing market is "a multibillion-dollar opportunity," said Michael Goloboy, voice processing products manager for IBM in Santa Clara. "We see a lot of opportunities in the ways these products will be used in the 1990s."

IBM's new system, called CallPath DirectTalk, employs advanced voice recognition technology that will let customers use verbal commands to access information stored in a computer data base.

For example, if customers have older rotary telephones, the system will allow them query the system verbally about account balances.

By Voice of Touch Tone

The system also combines several other technologies, including voice response, which lets a customer access computer data from a Touch Tone telephone, and voice messaging, which lets a customer leave a message for the bank.

IBM said it will continue to market voice response systems from third-party vendors, but that its emphasis will now shift.

Only four months ago, IBM signed an agreement to market voice response systems manufactured by Intervoice Inc., Richardson, Tex. IBM also sells systems from Syntellect Inc., Phoenix.

"This spring [when IBM entered into a business partnership with InterVoice] we had some customers who needed special solutions our own products could not satisfy," said Clifton Scott, a spokesman for IBM.

Now, "we'll lead with DirectTalk."

The Different Components

The DirectTalk software must be used with IBM's Callpath product, which links telephone calls with the information stored in computer data bases. DirectTalk runs on the IBM PS/2 and IBM's Unix-based workstation, the RS/6000. The software was developed by Rolm Corp., a data communications company owned jointly by IBM and Siemens AG.

The InterVoice product, like the new IBM one, is based on the PS/2. Other leaders in the voice response market are Periphonics Inc., Bohemia, N.Y.; Perception Technology, Canton, Mass.; Brite Voice, Witchita, Kan.; and AT&T Co.

With the DirectTalk system, a customer could call his bank to find out about mortgage rates. After listening to preliminary information about mortgages, the customer could choose to apply for a loan, either using the Touch Tone keypad or by transferring to a live agent.

The DirectTalk/2 version, which runs on the PS/2, will be commercially available on Aug. 16, and will range in price from $23,450 to $49,200 for a complete system. The DirectTalk/6000 product will be available in October, and ranges in price from $41,000 to $149,360.

IBM also announced software that automates many functions of its NetView network management system for large applications running on mainframes.

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