WO2010055302A1 - Adapted local interactive voice response system - Google Patents

Adapted local interactive voice response system Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2010055302A1
WO2010055302A1 PCT/GB2009/002660 GB2009002660W WO2010055302A1 WO 2010055302 A1 WO2010055302 A1 WO 2010055302A1 GB 2009002660 W GB2009002660 W GB 2009002660W WO 2010055302 A1 WO2010055302 A1 WO 2010055302A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
data
telephone connection
user
telephone
network server
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2009/002660
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Abid Rashid
Original Assignee
Abid Rashid
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US11464308P priority Critical
Priority to GB0820896.9 priority
Priority to US61/114,643 priority
Priority to GB0820896A priority patent/GB2465380A/en
Application filed by Abid Rashid filed Critical Abid Rashid
Publication of WO2010055302A1 publication Critical patent/WO2010055302A1/en

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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/42136Administration or customisation of services
    • H04M3/42178Administration or customisation of services by downloading data to substation equipment
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/487Arrangements for providing information services, e.g. recorded voice services or time announcements
    • H04M3/493Interactive information services, e.g. directory enquiries ; Arrangements therefor, e.g. interactive voice response [IVR] systems or voice portals
    • H04M3/4938Interactive information services, e.g. directory enquiries ; Arrangements therefor, e.g. interactive voice response [IVR] systems or voice portals comprising a voice browser which renders and interprets, e.g. VoiceXML

Abstract

A device (100) is disclosed for establishing a simulated telephone connection. The device includes a data storage unit (214) for storing data which relate to a simulated telephone connection and a dial (106) for the user to operate. The device (100) is arranged to establish a simulated telephone connection when a user dials using data stored in the data storage unit (214). In this way, a user may have the experience of a physical telephone connection whereas in fact a telephone connection is simulated by the device. The device (100) also includes an antenna (102) and means for establishing a physical telephone connection when it is necessary for the user to speak to a human operative.

Description

ADAPTED LOCAL INTERACTIVE VOICE RESPONSE SYSTEM
This invention relates to the field of telecommunications. More specifically, it relates to the use and implementation of interactive voice response (IVR) systems.
IVR systems are typically used by centres which experience a large volume of calls. Typically, an IVR system provides pre-recorded or dynamically generated audio to callers; the audio provided in IVR systems typically requests information from the callers. Callers may respond to requests for information using speech or using a telephone keypad. IVR systems allow calls to be segmented so that they can be handled appropriately by a call centre.
An IVR system may be embodied in a server with a large number of input/output trunk lines connected to a telephone system. Each trunk line may be capable of hosting a predetermined number of telephone connections, and the capacity of the IVR system may be limited by the number of trunk lines which are connected.
It is an object of the present invention to reduce the number of trunk lines that are required to host an IVR system.
According to the present invention there is provided a device for establishing a simulated telephone connection comprising: data storage means for storing data which relate to a simulated telephone connection; a control for a user to dial with; means for establishing a simulated telephone connection when the user dials, using data stored in the data storage means; and means for establishing a physical telephone connection.
In this way, a user may have the experience of a physical telephone connection using a device such as a telephone, whereas in fact a telephone connection is simulated by the device.
This device may be most effective where the intended recipient of a telephone call is a machine, rather than a person, as it may be possible to simulate the operation of the machine without establishing a physical or active telephone connection. One example of this in operation may be a simulated telephone connection to an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system; another example may be a simulated telephone connection to a voice mail service (whether for leaving or retrieving a voice mail message). The user may dial the correct number, but rather than placing a physical call the device may simulate a connection by mimicking the operation of the IVR or the voice mail service using stored data. The device may establish a physical telephone connection only when it is required, such as when the need arises for interaction with a human operative. In this way it may be possible to reduce network demands, call costs and telephone battery power (where applicable). The overall number of instantaneous physical calls in a network may be reduced, and consequently fewer trunk lines may be required by a service provider or the provider of an IVR system. Alternatively the capacity in an existing system may be improved because fewer trunk lines may be required for users interacting with IVRs.
Another example of the device in operation may be a simulated telephone connection for a queued call. The device may be able to establish that a target is busy. In these circumstances the device may mimic a connection to a queued call using data stored locally in the device. This may avoid establishment of a physical telephone connection until such time as the target telephone connection becomes available.
The data required to establish a simulated telephone connection may be stored locally in a user's device. Thus, a network connection may not be required in order for a simulated telephone connection to be established. It may be possible, for example, to create a simulated telephone connection using a cellular telephone even when there is insufficient signal strength for a physical telephone connection. One advantage of establishing a simulated telephone connection internally in a device is that sound quality may be improved. Interference or noise from external sources may be substantially eliminated as there is no physical telephone connection with a network. The variable signal quality that is often experienced with devices such as cellular telephones may also be avoided.
A simulated telephone connection may be established by the device for selected telephone numbers. If a telephone number is not a selected telephone number then the device may attempt to establish a physical telephone connection with a target. A physical telephone connection may be established by communicating with a network. This may be undertaken wirelessly, over a standard telephone line, and/or over the internet, for example.
Preferably the simulated telephone connection is established when the user dials. It will be appreciated that a user may dial using any of a large number of different actions. In just five examples, a user may dial by: entering a target telephone number with a key-pad or a dial, using a speed-dial function, selecting a number from a contacts list, selecting a number from an email or SMS, or using voice activated dialling.
Preferably the device comprises means for interfacing with a network server so that the device can download data from the network server which relate to a simulated telephone connection. In this way, the data which relate to a simulated telephone connection do not need to be pre-stored in the device when the user dials. The data may be downloaded from a network server if they are not already present in the device.
Once a user has dialled, the device may search in local data storage means for data relating to a simulated telephone connection which is appropriate for the dialled number. If such data cannot be found locally, the device may communicate with the network server and the network server may undertake a similar search. Data may be downloaded to the device from the network server, as required, so that a simulated telephone connection may be established by the device.
Even if data are pre-stored in the device, the device may communicate with the network server to update and/or modify the pre-stored data, if appropriate. This may occur periodically and/or it may occur when the user dials.
The network server may communicate with the device via a network. Such a network may be cellular, wireless, radio frequency, and/or wired, depending on the type of telephone in use. The network server may comprise an interface to the network and one or more data repositories which may be located separately. The data storage means may store data which relate to a user profile. A user profile may include any personal information relating to a user. This may include the user's name, address, date of birth, preferred language, banking information such as account number and sort code, utility company account details such as account number, telephone account details, insurance details such as car registration number, make and model, and so on.
The user profile may also include information relating to the user's status. The user's status may indicate their availability for a telephone call. Typically a user's status may be 'free', 'busy', or 'unknown'; the status may also include a valid period so that a user may be 'busy until 6pm', for instance. Preferably the device supplies user status information to a network server. In this way a third party may be able to obtain prior warning that a user is unavailable for a telephone call. Thus, a third party may monitor or check a user's status and telephone the user when their status indicates their availability.
The device may supply data which relate to a user profile when these are requested in a telephone connection. In a telephone connection with a third party such as a service provider, it may be desirable for the service provider to seek relevant personal information from a user. Typically the service provider may wish to know the user's account details, so that the user can be properly identified. By storing user information in the device this information may be supplied automatically if it is requested in a telephone connection. In this way it may be possible to streamline a telephone connection so that the user does not need to manually enter personal information.
Data which relate to a user profile may be used in either a simulated telephone connection or a physical telephone connection.
The device may be arranged to communicate user profile data to the network server. In this way the network server may tailor any data downloaded to the device on the basis of the user's profile.
A dialled telephone number may be associated with one or more simulated telephone connections. For example, the telephone number for a service provider may be associated with a simulated telephone connection to an IVR in English, French or German. Traditionally a service provider may have made an assumption about the preferred language of the user or else the user may have been presented with a choice of languages at the commencement of a telephone connection. By supplying user information to the network server, data relating to a simulated telephone connection may be downloaded in an appropriate language. This may avoid any confusion on the part of the user, and it also eliminates the need for the user to input data. Preferably the device is one of: a landline telephone which is wired, wireless or cordless, a cellular telephone, a voice over the internet telephone such as a PC or a TV set top box linked to a phone line or the internet, video conferencing apparatus, a video phone, and a satellite telephone.
The device may be any telephone which has data storage means and a control for a user to dial with. The data storage means may be integrated with the telephone or may be provided separately. Some telephones, such as a traditional landline telephone, may require adaptation to include data storage means and these may be provided in a router or modem which can be connected to the telephone. A call simulator can also be integrated with a telephone or provided externally.
A voice over the internet (VoIP) telephone may be embodied in a computer, for example, and may include an optional handset. The data storage means in a VoIP telephone may be any memory medium associated with a computer, such as a hard disk or an externally connected flash drive.
Optimally the invention may be embodied in a cellular or wireless telephone which has an internal memory, an internal processor, a keypad or keyboard, and a screen. Preferably the device includes a processing unit for determining whether a dialled number is a selected telephone number. The processing unit may search the data storage means in an attempt to find a simulated telephone connection that is associated with a dialled number, and the processing unit may instruct the network server to undertake a similar search. Both searches may be undertaken in parallel. If no simulated telephone connection can be found for a dialled number then a physical telephone connection may be established.
A physical telephone connection may involve any appropriate protocol or any suitable means for two parties to communicate with one another.
Predetermined data may be presented to a user in a simulated telephone . connection. The predetermined data may be audio data and/or visual data. The predetermined data may also comprise a digital structure such as a menu system. A user may be able to access digital content by using the device to make selections in the menu system.
A simulated telephone connection may involve playing audio data. In a physical telephone connection a user may receive and transmit audio data. Received audio data that may be simulated may include dialling tones, pre-recorded speech, music on hold, and ringing tones, for example. A user may be able to interact in a simulated telephone connection using audio such as speech. A microphone may be used to detect a user's voice and speech recognition tools may be used to analyse results. This may be useful in an IVR where a user responds verbally to questions.
Speech recognition tools may be provided on the device or externally on a server. In the case of a server, recorded voice may be uploaded to the server and the results may be downloaded to the device. This may be desirable if the server is capable of providing superior processing facilities and the data transmission rate is high.
A simulated telephone connection may involve the display of visual data. In one example, visual data in a telephone connection may include a real, simulated or recorded video feed, as may be used in video conferencing.
In another example, visual data may be related to audio data that are played in parallel. Thus, a text feed may be displayed on a screen to correspond to an audio feed; this may be of particular use for the hearing impaired.
In another example, a simulated telephone connection may involve the display of visual data only. In this way, a user may be able to read data from a screen in the device and respond appropriately. This may be particularly useful where a user is presented with a number of choices in an IVR system. By displaying all options simultaneously it is not necessary for the user to remember each of the options as they are played out in an audio feed. Using a visual guide may also speed up navigation through the IVR options.
The simulated telephone connection may involve a request for data to be input by a user. A telephone connection may be simulated for data gathering purposes. In order to improve the efficiency of telephone calls it is common for high volume call centres to request that a user enters information before they are connected to a telephone operator. By requesting these data in a simulated telephone connection the data may be collected before the commencement of a physical telephone connection; this may reduce the overall number of telephone calls at any given moment and save call costs for a user.
Data input via the device may be relayed to a network server. The device may comprise a transmitter for this purpose. Preferably data are uploaded to a network server without the need for a physical telephone connection. This may be achieved using a data connection such as GPRS or EDGE HSDPA for example.
The user may input data to the device using the control which may be embodied as a key-pad, a keyboard, a mouse, or a touch-screen, for example. Alternatively the user may respond to questions verbally, the results being analysed by speech recognition tools.
The device may further comprise input means for a user to input information and means for creating a list of telephone connections on the basis of information input by a user.
The user may input any information which may be used to identify a target telephone connection. For example, the user may enter those numbers of a telephone number that they are able to recall, possibly including wild card entries. The user may also enter other information such as the name of the target, its address, or its area of business. The device creates a list of telephone connections that match the information entered by the user.
For example, a user may wish to contact an electricity service provider based in the UK. By entering these two pieces of information the device may be able to determine a list of possible targets by searching through a local database and, optionally the database in a network server. Upon selection of a target a simulated telephone connection may be created with the IVR set up by the target electricity service provider. The number of telephone connections in the list may be too large to display fully. In these circumstances the device may provide the user with a question, or questions, in order to reduce the number of results. For instance, the user may be presented with a map to indicate the region they are interested in so that a reduced list can be created.
The list may be presented to the user in a variety of different ways. For instance the entries may be presented in a simple list in a random order; the entries may be presented on a map according to their geographical location; or the entries may be identified on a screen using company logos or names.
The device may comprise means for selecting a target telephone connection, and the means for establishing a simulated telephone connection may operate on the basis of the user's selection of a target.
The device may comprise a call barring module for barring the establishment of at least one selected telephone connection. A user may wish to prevent certain calls from being placed with the device. For instance, a user may wish to prevent international calls with the device or to prevent calls to selected numbers at specific times of day; this may be possible by setting the call barring module appropriately. The call barring module may be used to bar the establishment of both simulated telephone connections and physical telephone connections. The device may comprise a call recording module for recording data from a telephone connection to the data storage means. A user may wish to record audio, visual, and/or other data from a telephone connection for future reference. Alternatively data may be recorded for the purposes of a third party such as a service provider. In one example, a user may conduct a simulated telephone connection with a voice mail service and the call recording module may be used for recording a user's voice message.
It may be preferable to record data locally on a user's device. In this way the recorded data may be an accurate reflection of a user's experience of a telephone connection. This may be preferable to recording data at some remote station because the remote station may record data that were transmitted to a device, whether or not the data were in fact received by the device.
The call barring module and the call recording module may be provided as features of a network server.
The device may comprise transmission means for uploading data recorded by the call recording module to a network server. This process may occur invisibly to a user of the device. A user may be unaware that a call recording module is recording data and/or that these data are uploaded to a network server. A physical telephone connection may involve communicating an instruction to the device. The instruction may originate from an operator with whom the user of the device is conversing. In this way the operator may be able instruct the device to operate in a particular way so as to enhance the telephone connection.
The instruction may be for the call recording module to commence operation. This instruction may be initiated by a human telephone operator or else the instruction may be issued automatically; this may occur when a predetermined event occurs.
The device may be instructed to display visual data during a physical telephone connection. The visual data may be used to improve a user's understanding of a concept. For example, a user may be discussing their share options with a stock broker by telephone. The stock broker may instruct the device to display a graph showing how certain stocks have performed over a period. This may be achieved by sending data to the device or instructing the device to download data from a network server.
The display of visual data may involve a request for the user to enter data with the device. The visual data may be displayed to request that the user enters personal information such as an account number, a Personal Identification Number (PDSf), or credit card details. By entering this information with a control such as a keypad, the information may be uploaded securely and secretly.
The visual data may request that the user makes a confirmation. For example, a user may instruct a stock broker to make a purchase of shares; visual data may request that the user hits a 'confirm' key on their device. In this way it may be possible to achieve legal certainty of a user's instructions.
According to the present invention there is provided a network server for storing audio and/or visual data that relate to a simulated telephone connection, comprising: means for receiving a request for data from a device; and means for sending data to the device which data relate to a simulated telephone connection.
The network server may be arranged in communication with third parties who supply data relating to simulated telephone connections. The data may be updated in the network server, as appropriate, when instructions are received from third parties.
According to the present invention there may be provided a telecommunications system comprising: a device as previously defined and a network server for communicating with the device. The network server may be arranged to monitor or check a user's status, as stored in a device. In this way a third party may be able to establish a user's availability for a telephone call by communicating with the network server.
The network server may monitor third parties' status, and this may be communicated to a device. Thus, should a user attempt to call a third party the device may be informed that the third party is busy; the call attempt may then be dealt with appropriately by the device. For instance, it may be appropriate for the device to establish a telephone connection which simulates a queued call.
The network server may receive call requests from a plurality of sources and manage the call requests in a queue. A network server may update a device with its position in a queue while the device simulates a connection to a queued call. Thus, a physical connection to a queued call is unnecessary until such point as a queued call reaches the front of a queue and a target becomes available.
The network server may inform the device when its position in a queue changes. A simulated telephone connection to a queued call may involve updates as to a user's position in the queue. A simulated telephone connection may involve the playing of music, which music may be stored in the data storage means in the device. A user may be able to choose the music that they listen to, from a list of options pre-stored in the device.
The network server may arrange calls in a queue on the basis of the order of call requests received. Alternatively the network server may queue calls on the basis of other criteria such as users' profiles; certain users may be promoted in the queue, according to network server rules.
The network server may receive call requests from both traditional sources such as standard cellular telephones as well as the inventive devices presented herein. The network server may manage all calls in a queue independently of their origin.
According to the present invention there is provided a device for recording data relating to a telephone connection comprising: data storage means; means for establishing a physical telephone connection; and a call recording module for recording data from a telephone connection to the data storage means.
In this way, a user device may be capable of recording a telephone conversation. This may be desirable when a large number of users are involved in telephone conversations with a call centre. By recording conversations on the devices it may be possible to reduce processing demands on the call centre which may otherwise be over-burdened by call recording demands.
Preferably the device further comprises means for interfacing with a network server so that the device can upload recorded data to the network server. Thus, the device may upload recorded data to the network server for archiving, once the data have been recorded. The data may be uploaded once a physical telephone connection is complete.
The device may also be arranged to upload recorded voice data so that speech recognition tools can be applied to the recorded data by the network server. The network server may be arranged to download the text of recorded voice data to the device.
According to the present invention there is provided a method of establishing a simulated telephone connection with a device capable of establishing a physical telephone connection, the method involving the steps of: storing data which relate to a simulated telephone connection; dialling for a telephone connection; and establishing a simulated telephone connection using stored data.
Any apparatus features may be provided as method features and vice-versa. According to yet another aspect of the present invention there is provided a computer readable storage medium having a computer program stored thereon, the. computer program comprising: a program module for storing data which relate to a simulated telephone connection; a program module for monitoring a control for a user to dial with; a program module for establishing a simulated telephone connection when the user dials, using data stored in the data storage means; and a program module for establishing a physical telephone connection.
According to yet another aspect of the present invention there is provided a computer readable storage medium having a computer program stored thereon, the' computer program comprising: a program module for storing data that relate to a simulated telephone connection; a program module for receiving a request for data from a device; and a program module for sending data to the device which data relate to a simulated telephone connection.
According to yet another aspect of the present invention there is provided a device for establishing a simulated telephone connection comprising: data storage means for storing data which relate to a simulated telephone connection; a control for a user to dial with; a call simulator for establishing a simulated telephone connection when the user dials, using data stored in the data storage means; and a physical call manager for establishing a physical telephone connection. Preferred features of the present invention will now be described, purely by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
Figure 1 shows a general overview of a telecommunications system embodying the present invention;
Figure 2 is a schematic diagram of the modules that compose a cellular telephone embodying the invention; and
Figures 3-9 show a flow diagram demonstrating the operation of a cellular telephone in an embodiment of the invention.
Detailed Description of Embodiments of the Invention
Figure 1 shows a general overview of a telecommunications system embodying the invention. A number of cellular telephones 100, 122, 144 are provided in wireless communication with a network 120. A wired connection is provided between the network 120, a network server 126, a service provider 128, and residences 130, 132.
The cellular telephone 100 comprises an antenna 102, a screen 104, a keypad 106, a microphone 108, and a speaker 110. The cellular telephone 100 also comprises data storage means and control modules, as will be described. The network server 126 includes data storage means which store data for use in an IVR system. The IVR system is provided by the service provider 128, and the service provider 128 may update and/or modify the data storage in the network server 126 by communicating with the network server 126 over the network 120.
The residences 130, 132 are arranged in wired communication with the network 120 so that residents can make and receive telephone calls.
The network 120 supports communication by voice and other data. There may be two separate networks in practice, or else a single merged network may be provided that supports both voice and other data transmissions.
Figure 2 is a schematic view of the modules that compose a cellular telephone 100 embodying the invention. The keypad 106 is connected to a first input/output module 202 which in turn is connected to a central processer 204. The central processor 204 is connected to a physical call manager 206 which handles physical telephone connections. The physical call manager 206 is connected to a network interface 208 which in turn connects to the antenna 102. The physical call manager 206 is also connected to a second input/output module 210 which interfaces with the screen 104, the speakers 110, and the microphone 108. The central processor 204 is connected to a call simulator 212. The call simulator 212 comprises connections to the second input/output module 210 and a data storage unit 214.
A target analyser 216 is provided with connections to the central processor 204 and the data storage unit 214. A call barring module 218, and a call recording module 220 are provided and both have connections to the central processor 204 and the data storage unit 214.
An instruction manager 222 and a download manager 224 are provided with connections to the central processor 204 and the network interface 208.
In order to make use of the telephone 100, a user dials a telephone number using the keypad 106. These dialling instructions are received at the central processor 204 via the first input/output module 202. The central processor 204 compares the dialled number that is received with a list of selected numbers that is stored in the data storage unit 214. If the dialled telephone number is found in the list of selected numbers then the central processor 204 instructs the call simulator 212 to simulate a telephone connection. If the dialled telephone number is not found in the list of selected numbers, the central processor 204 instructs the download manager 224 to search for any suitable downloads from a network server 126, via the network interface 208. If no match can be found for a dialled number in the data storage unit 214 or in any downloads then the central processor 204 instructs the physical call manager 206 to establish a physical telephone connection via the network interface 208.
Operation of Call Simulator
As discussed, the call simulator 212 is instructed to operate when a match for a dialled number is found in a list of selected numbers in the data storage unit 214. The data that are required to simulate a telephone connection are stored in the data storage unit 214, and these data are utilised by the call simulator 212 when it establishes a simulated telephone connection.
The data storage unit 214 stores audio files that relate to a ringing tone. The call simulator 212 simulates a ringing tone by instructing the speakers 110 to operate using the data in the data storage unit 214. The call simulator 212 may also instruct the screen 104 to display predetermined data, as stored in the data storage unit 214; the data displayed on the screen may be those that would normally be displayed in a standard telephone connection.
The call simulator 212 may be arranged to simulate any type of telephone connection, but it may be most suited to simulating an IVR system. Thus, after the ringing tone the call simulator 212 may instruct the speakers 110 to output a predetermined message stored in the data storage unit 214. A message may be played in the following format: "Welcome to ACME Corporation. Please listen carefully to the following options. Press 1 if you would like to purchase one of our products. Press 2 if you have already purchased a product and have problems in using it. Press 3 if you would like to return the product. Or press 0 at any time to speak to a member of our customer service team". The user may respond to the request by inputting data using the keypad 106. The user's response is noted by the central processor 204, and the call simulator 212 will respond appropriately. For example, if the user selects option 2 the call simulator 212 may instruct the speaker 110 to play a further message asking the user to identify the product they have purchased. If the user selects option 0 the call simulator 212 may instruct the physical call manager 206 to establish a physical telephone connection.
Operation of the Download Manager
The network server 126 is arranged to store data which can be used to simulate telephone connections for selected telephone numbers.
Generally the storage capacity of the network server 126 is larger than that of a telephone 100. Therefore, if data relating to a simulated telephone connection for a dialled number are not stored in the data storage means 214 they may be stored in the network server 126. Thus, if a dialled number has no match in the list of selected numbers in the telephone 100, the telephone 100 communicates with the network server so that a search can be conducted in the larger list stored in the network server 126.
The telephone 100 sends a request for a search to the network server 126 together with details of the dialled number. Upon receipt of a request for a search, the network server 126 searches its data storage facility for data relating to the dialled telephone number. If such data can be found they are downloaded to the data storage unit 214 in the telephone 100.
In this way, a telephone connection can be simulated using downloaded data, if the relevant data are not pre-stored in the data storage unit 214.
Operation of the Physical Call Manager
There may be no data relating to a simulated telephone connection for a dialled number, either in the data storage unit 214, or in the network server 126. In these circumstances it may be necessary to establish a physical telephone connection. The central processor 204 instructs the physical call manager 206 to establish a physical telephone connection.
The physical call manager 206 allows for the establishment of a physical connection in the normal way, via the network interface 108. The physical call manager 206 is connected to the screen 104, speakers 110, and microphone 108, via the second input/output module 210, so that a user can interact in a telephone connection in the normal way.
Operation of the Target Analyser
Instead of dialling a telephone number conventionally, a user may enter any identifying information about a target using the keypad 106. For example, the user may enter those numbers of a telephone number that they are able to recall, possibly including wild card entries. The central processor 204 detects that the information input is not a conventional telephone number and instructs the target analyser 216 to analyse the information.
The target analyser 216 creates a list of telephone connections that match the information entered by the user. Thus, if the user were to enter 9 out of 10 digits of a telephone number, the target analyser 216 determines all of the possible telephone numbers that could match the input data. The target analyser 216 then displays the list of candidate telephone numbers so that the user can make a selection.
Example of process for operating a telephone
Figure 3 is a flow diagram illustrating the operation of the telephone 100 in an embodiment of the invention. At start step 300 the user presses a power button or opens their telephone 100 to make a call. At data entry step 302 the user enters a telephone number. At dial step 304 the user indicates their intention to proceed with a telephone connection by pressing a dial button on the keypad 106. Both the data entry step 302 and the dial step 304 may be undertaken using the keypad 106, a speed-dial button, or voice activated means, for example.
At decision step 306, the central processor 204 determines whether the dialled number is in a local list, stored in the data storage unit 214. An example of a list of telephone numbers stored in the data storage unit 214 is shown in Table 1 below:
Table 1
Figure imgf000029_0001
In Table 1:
• 'Number' corresponds to the number dialled by a user;
• 'Special' indicates whether the number is special or not;
• 'State' indicates whether the number is open or closed;
• 'IVR' indicates whether a number is associated with an IVR system;
• 'IP address' indicates the hostname or IP address for a server containing data relating to a simulated telephone connection;
• 'Page ID' indicates the location of the relevant data in the server; and
• 'Expiry' indicates the valid period of a special number.
If a dialled number is determined to be in a local list, the details of the number are retrieved at retrieval step 308.
If a dialled number is not found in a local list then the central processor 204 instructs the download manager 224 to send details of the dialled number to the network server 126, together with user profile data from the data storage unit 214; this occurs at send step 310. At server response step 314 the network server 126 considers whether the dialled telephone number matches a list of telephone numbers stored in a server list. If a match is found then the relevant details are extracted. The network server 126 considers the user profile data uploaded by the telephone 100. The data downloaded to the telephone 100 by the network server 126 may be modified on the basis of information in the user profile. For example, there may be two matches for a single dialled number in the network server. For example, the two matches may correspond to IVR data in English and French. By analysing user profile data the network server 126 may be able to download data to the telephone 100 on the basis of the user's preferred language.
At receive step 316 the telephone 100 receives data from the network server 126 and stores these in the data storage unit 214. The list of telephone numbers stored in the data storage unit 214 is then updated accordingly.
At decision step 318, the device considers whether the dialled number is flagged as a "special" number. For non-special, or normal, numbers, the central processor 204 instructs the physical call manager 206 to establish a physical telephone connection at dial step 320. A standard telephone connection then ensues between the telephone 100 and a remote target.
The central processor 204 follows a predetermined sequence of events for dialled numbers which have been flagged as special. This process is described with reference to Figure 4. At decision step 322 the central processor 204 considers whether the number is closed; this information is associated with the dialled number and stored in memory as can be seen from Table 1. For closed numbers, the device displays a "service closed" message at display step 324, and a tailored message is provided at message step 326. The data used in the display step 84 and the message step 326 are stored in the data storage unit 214.
For open numbers the central processor 204 considers whether the number is busy at decision step 328. The network server 126 monitors the availability of each telephone numbers that is designated as special. Thus, at decision step 328 the central processor 204 queries the network server 126. If a target telephone number is busy the central processor 204 instructs the call simulator 212 to display a "number busy" message to the user at display step 330, and to play a "busy" tone at audio output step 332.
For numbers that are both open and not busy, the central processor 204 considers whether the dialled number is in service at decision step 334. The network server 126 maintains a list of special numbers which are out of service. Thus, the central processor 204 queries the network server 126 to determine whether a number is in service. In the event that a dialled number out of service, the central processor 204 instructs the call simulator 212 to simulate a telephone connection by displaying a "number out of service" message to a user at display step 336, and playing an "out of service" announcement to the user at audio output step 338.
At decision step 340 the central processor considers whether the dialled number is associated with an IVR system. This information is included in the details for a telephone number as stored in data storage means 214, or in a network server 126.
If the dialled number is not associated with an IVR system the central processor 204 considers whether to dial the special number at decision step 345. If a special number is to be dialled the central processor proceeds to format step 390, as will be described later with reference to Figure 7. In the alternative the central processor proceeds to dial step 320 and the physical call manager 206 establishes a physical telephone connection.
An IVR is typically presented as a service menu or a data collection tool. The central processor 204 considers whether an IVR is a service menu at decision step 342. A service menu IVR requires digits to be entered using a telephone keypad; relevant digits to a service menu may be 0, 1 ... 9, * or #.
At decision step 344 the central processor 204 considers whether an IVR is for data collection. A data collection IVR requires the user to enter more detailed information than individual digits. For example, a user may be required to enter an account number.
The procedure followed by the central processor 204 for service menu and data collection IVRs is described with reference to Figure 5.
At decision step 346 the central processor 204 considers whether the data relating to an IVR are available locally in the telephone 100. If data are available locally then they are retrieved from the data storage unit 214 along with associated audio files at retrieval step 348. If data are not available locally then a request is transmitted to the network server 126 for data to be downloaded at request step 350. Data are received by the telephone 100 at receive step 352.
A request for data may be sent at request step 350 even if data are available locally. This may be desirable so that updates can be applied to locally stored data.
At play step 354 the call simulator 212 plays an announcement to a first-time user of an IVR which may introduce them to the procedures that will be followed. Play step 354 may be skipped for regular users of an IVR, and the telephone 100 may maintain a log of calls by the user to facilitate this process. At play and display step 356, the call simulator 212 arranges for an audio stream to be played. A typical audio stream would invite the user to input data. The call simulator 212 also displays visual data on the telephone screen 104. The visual representation of an IVR menu or a data collection page allows the user to hear and see the options that are presented to them.
The central processor 204 responds differently to service menu IVRs and data collection IVRs. At decision step 358 the central processor 204 analyses the type of IVR under consideration.
For service menu IVRs, the central processor 204 proceeds to await selection step 360 where the central processor 204 awaits a user's selection by key-press or spoken entry. The user's response is analysed at analysis step 362, and if the response is inappropriate an "invalid entry" message is played to the user, and the user is requested to respond again. If the user makes a valid selection, but the selection is inappropriate to the choices provided, the central processor 204 will determine this at analysis step 364 and the user will be re-routed to the await selection step 360. If an appropriate selection is made by the user then their selection is validated, as will be described subsequently.
For data collection IVRs, the central processor 204 proceeds to await selection step 368 where the user's entry by keyboard input or spoken entry is awaited. The user's entry is analysed at analysis step 370. If the user's entry is unacceptable then an "invalid entry" message is played and the user is re-routed to the await selection step 368. If the user's entry is acceptable then the data entry is validated.
The validation of data entries is described with reference to Figure 6. Firstly, the central processor 204 considers whether the IVR is data collection or a menu system at decision step 372.
For a data collection IVR the display 104 is updated at update step 374. At send and receive step 376, the telephone 100 uploads the information input by the user to a network server 126, and the network server 126 instructs the telephone 100 how to proceed. In another embodiment the central processor 204 may determine how to proceed using data stored in the data storage unit 214.
For a menu system IVR, the user's selection is highlighted on the screen at highlight step 378. At response step 380 the central processor 204 obtains information about how to proceed from the data storage unit 214.
At decision step 382 the central processor 204 analyses the instructions to proceed. The process is either re-routed to decision step 346 so that a user can input more data via an IVR platform, or the process continues to dialling decision step 384.
At dialling decision step 384 the central processor 204 considers the dialling action that should be undertaken. If the action is to dial a normal number, the central processor 204 instructs the physical call manager 206 to establish a physical telephone connection. If the action taken is to dial a special number the central processor 204 responds according to the steps shown in Figures 7 and 8.
Upon receiving instructions to dial a special number the central processor 204 retrieves and formats user profile data from the data storage unit 214. Format step 390 involves tailoring the user profile to exclude unnecessary or sensitive information.
At send step 392 the central processor 204 sends the tailored user profile to the network server 126 together with a request to join a telephone queue. The network server 126 responds to the send request by indicating whether the request to join the queue has been successful. The request to join a queue may be unsuccessful if the dialled number is flagged as closed, busy, or out of service.
In circumstances where the dialled number is flagged as closed, busy, or out of service, the central processor 204 instructs the call simulator 212 to display a suitable message to a user and to play a suitable audio file from data stored in the data storage unit 214.
If the request to join a queue is successful the central processor 204 instructs the call simulator 212 to display a suitable message to the user at display step 394. A suitable message may inform the user that their call is in a queue and may include information such as the position of the call in the queue and the estimated waiting time.
The call simulator 212 plays music at play audio step 396. The play audio step 396 may include an option for a user to control the music that they wish to listen to. The music may be selected from the user's own music repertoire that is stored in the data storage unit 214.
While a user's call is placed in a queue their queue position is updated by information received from the network server 126. The network server 126 maintains the queue and updates the telephone 100 periodically when there is information to report. The network server 126 may order the telephone queue according to its own rules and controls. For example, the network server 126 may order the queue on the basis of the order of requests to join a queue from telephones 100. Alternatively a queue may be ordered according to information in the tailored user profiles; in this way, particular users may be promoted or demoted in the queue, as required.
No physical telephone connection is required while the user is in a telephone queue. The telephone 100 monitors any response from the server 126 continually.
The telephone 100 detects events from the server at monitoring step 398, and these events are analysed at analysis step 400. In particular, the central processor 204 considers whether the event from the server 126 is an indication that a target is available. In these circumstances the central processor 204 instructs the physical call manager 206 to establish a physical telephone connection with the target. A telephone number is then dialled in the normal fashion to connect the user with a telephone operator. The physical call manager 206 updates the screen 104, and speakers 110 to display and play appropriate information for a physical telephone connection. It may be preferable for the physical call manager 206 to mute any real ringing; this may allude to a continuous call flow and avoid any confusion caused by ringing at a late stage in a telephone call.
If the central processor 204 detects an event which does not indicate that a target is available then it will respond to that event appropriately. For example, the central processor 204 may display information as instructed by the network server 126. Mid-call IVR Processing
The operation of the telephone 100 during a physical telephone connection will now be described with reference to Figure 9.
At event step 500, an event occurs during a physical telephone connection where a user is in conversation with a target. At analysis step 502 the central processor 204 considers whether the detected event originates from the network 120 or the telephone 100.
For locally originating events the central processor 204 considers whether the event relates to the physical telephone connection at decision step 504. In these circumstances call related data are uploaded to the network server 126 at upload step 506. For example, the locally originating event may involve finishing the physical telephone connection. In these circumstances the central processor 204 instructs the call recording module 220 to upload recorded call data from the data storage unit 214 to the network server 126.
For network originating events, the central processor 204 considers whether the event relates to the physical telephone connection at decision step 510. In these circumstances, the data associated with the event is shown to the user. An example is where a telephone operator has prepared graphical data for a user looking to purchase stocks and shares over the phone. The graphical data may be displayed to the user at display step 512. User confirmation may be required at user confirmation step 514. An example of user confirmation may be the user clicking a button on the keypad 106 to commit to the transaction to purchase shares.
The event from the server may instruct the telephone 100 to take specific action. Instructions from the server are received at the instruction manager 222 which controls the operation of the central processor 204. One example of an instruction that may be received by the instruction manager is an instruction to commence call recording. In these circumstances, the instruction manager 222 would instruct the central processor 204 to command the call recording module 220 to commence call recording.
Inbound Calls
An inbound telephone call to the telephone 100 may include additional data which indicate the importance of the call, text indicating the purpose of the call, and whether the inbound call is from an IVR system. A user can answer the inbound call or they can indicate that they wish to 'park' the call in order to deal with the matter later. The telephone 100 maintains a list of 'parked' calls in the data storage unit 214. When a user decides to return to a 'parked' call they may dial the number associated with the 'parked' call. This dialled number may then be dealt with in the manner described above, but it would be normal for the call to be placed in a queue by the network server 126. The network server 126 may arrange returned calls prominently in a queue.
Further Embodiment of the invention
In a further embodiment of the invention the telephone 100 may be used to simulate a voice mail service. In this embodiment a user can dial a telephone number using the keypad 106. If no match can be found for a dialled number in the data storage unit 214 or in any downloads then the central processor 204 instructs the physical call manager 206 to establish a physical telephone connection via the network interface 208. Under normal circumstances a voice mail service may be initiated by the recipient of the physical telephone connection after a period of ringing.
In this embodiment of the present invention the data required to operate the voice mail service are downloaded to the telephone 100 from the network server 126. The voice mail data are preferably downloaded during the normal ringing period so that a simulated telephone connection can be established seamlessly when it is required. The call simulator 212 is arranged to simulate the voice mail service that would normally be provided by the recipient of a physical telephone call. In this way the call simulator 212 may instruct the speakers 110 to output a message that has been downloaded to the data storage unit 214. The voice mail service may include IVR components which can be simulated by the call simulator 212.
In order to record a voice message a user may speak into the telephone 100 so that the message can be recorded by the call recording module 220. The recorded message can be uploaded to the network server 126 after completion of the simulated telephone connection. The recorded message may then be accessible from the network server 126 by the intended recipient in any convenient form such as a normal voice mail format, an email that is delivered to a predetermined address. Of course, the data required for a user to retrieve their voice mail may be downloaded to their local device so that recorded messages can be accessed in a simulated telephone connection.

Claims

1. A device for establishing a simulated telephone connection comprising: data storage means for storing data which relate to a simulated telephone connection; a control for a user to dial with; means for establishing a simulated telephone connection when the user dials, using data stored in the data storage means; and means for establishing a physical telephone connection.
2. A device according to claim 1 further comprising means for interfacing with a network server so that the device can download data from the network server which relate to a simulated telephone connection.
3. A device according to claim 1 or claim 2 wherein the data storage means store data which relate to a user profile.
4. A device according to claim 3 wherein the device supplies data which relate to a user profile when these are requested in a telephone connection.
5. A device according to claim 2 wherein the data storage means store data which relate to a user profile, and wherein the device is arranged to communicate user profile data to the network server.
6. A device according to any of the preceding claims which is one of: a landline telephone, a cellular telephone, a voice over the internet telephone, video conferencing apparatus, a video phone, and a satellite telephone.
7. A device according to any of the preceding claims wherein predetermined data are presented to a user in a simulated telephone connection.
8. A device according to any of the preceding claims wherein a simulated telephone connection involves playing audio data.
9. A device according to any of the preceding claims wherein a simulated telephone connection involves the display of visual data.
10. A device according to any of the preceding claims wherein the simulated telephone connection involves a request for data to be input by a user.
11. A device according to any of the preceding claims comprising a transmitter for relaying data to a network server.
12. A device according to any of the preceding claims further comprising: input means for a user to input information; and means for creating a list of telephone connections on the basis of information input by a user.
13. A device according to claim 12 further comprising means for selecting a target telephone connection, wherein the means for establishing a simulated telephone connection operate on the basis of the user's selection of a target.
14. A device according to any of the preceding claims further comprising a call barring module for barring the establishment of at least one selected telephone connection.
15. A device according to any of the preceding claims further comprising a call recording module for recording data from a telephone connection to the data storage means.
16. A device according to claim 15 further comprising a transmitter for uploading data recorded by the call recording module to a network server.
17. A device according to any of the preceding claims wherein a physical telephone connection involves communicating an instruction to the device.
18. A device according to claim 17 wherein the instruction is for the device to display visual data.
19. A network server for storing audio and/or visual data that relate to a simulated telephone connection, comprising: means for receiving a request for data from a device; and means for sending data to the device which data relate to a simulated telephone connection.
20. A telecommunications system comprising: a device according to any of claims 1 to 17; and a network server for communicating with the device.
21. A telecommunications system according to claim 20 wherein the network server receives call requests from a plurality of sources and manages the call requests in a queue.
22. A telecommunications system according to claim 20 or claim 21 wherein the network server is a network server according to claim 19.
23. A method of establishing a simulated telephone connection with a device capable of establishing a physical telephone connection, the method involving the steps of: storing data which relate to a simulated telephone connection; dialling for a telephone connection; and establishing a simulated telephone connection using stored data.
PCT/GB2009/002660 2008-11-14 2009-11-13 Adapted local interactive voice response system WO2010055302A1 (en)

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US61/114,643 2008-11-14
GB0820896A GB2465380A (en) 2008-11-14 2008-11-14 Pre-call interactive voice response system

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