US 8223931 Systems and methods for visual presentation and selection of IVR menu

ABSTRACT – Embodiments of the invention provide a system for enhancing user interaction with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) destinations, the system comprising: a processor; and a memory coupled to the processor, the memory comprising: data encoding a database, the database comprising a list of telephone numbers associated with one or more destinations implementing an IVR; instructions executable by the processor for automatically communicating with at least one user; and instructions executable by the processor to pull at least one menu from the database and display the menu to the at least one user, wherein the menu is associated with a telephone number dialed by the at least one user, and wherein the menu comprises at least one icon.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system and more specifically the invention relates to visual selection of IVR option from a caller device.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology is generally used to detect voice and key inputs from a caller. Various organizations such as banks, insurance companies, and other service providers use IVR technology to manage calls from their customers. Typically, IVR systems are used by organizations that have high call volumes. An objective for implementing the IVR systems is to provide the customers with a quick and good experience. Moreover, the cost of providing the services is reduced.

Generally, when the caller calls a destination, such as a bank, an automated audio menu is played. The audio IVR menu can contain instructions to provide instant services such as account balance inquiry when the destination is a bank. Further, audio menu can provide options for the caller to connect to a desired end inside the destination. For example, the menu may direct the caller to press various keys on a telephone to connect to a particular department or agent. The audio IVR menu is designed specific to a destination. Therefore, each destination or organization may have different IVR menus. Further, the IVR menu in an organization can be based on the type of departments, type of services, customer care executives or agents and so forth. For example, an IVR menu of a bank may include options related to the account details of the caller, while an IVR menu of a pizzeria may contain options to order or select a pizza.

Typically, the caller calling the destination may have to listen and follow instructions on the menu to get a desired response or a function performed. Therefore, the process can be time consuming. Moreover, in case the caller provides an incorrect input, the complete process may have to be repeated. Furthermore, the IVR menu for an organization may be updated or changed regularly. For example, extension numbers inside an organization may be changed and correspondingly, the extension numbers associated with the IVR menu may be updated. As a result, a frequent caller may not be able to reach a desired end by remembering a combination of numbers. Therefore, the caller may become frustrated with the IVR systems.

Some prior art try to address this problem by providing visual form of IVR. These prior arts display the IVR menu graphically on a caller device. U.S. Pat. No. 7,215,743 assigned to International Business Machines Corporation and a published U.S. patent application with Ser. No. 11/957,605, filed Dec. 17, 2007 and assigned to Motorola Inc., provides the IVR menu of the destination in a visual form to the caller. The caller can select the options from the IVR menu without listening to the complete audio IVR menu. However, the IVR menu displayed on the caller device is stored on an IVR server at the destination end. As a result, the visual IVR menu is specific to the destination and only the IVR of the destination dialed is displayed. Further, the IVR menu may be required to be configured on the server of the destination to display it to the caller, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,092,738 assigned to International Business Machines Corporation. A U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/467,548, filed Aug. 26, 2006 discloses sending digital signals from the destination to the caller device. Thereafter, the digital signals are processed by the caller device for presenting a visual display of the IVR menu. These techniques therefore, require each destination to set-up hardware, software and other facilities to be deployed for providing visual IVR servers.

Another existing technique as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,560,320 assigned to International Business Machines Corporation enables an operator of the IVR to send customized signals to the caller for generating and displaying graphical elements on the device of the caller. Thereafter, the caller can respond by selecting options through touch-screen interface of the device. Dual Tone Multi frequency (DTMF) signals of the IVR. However, this technique requires a specifically configured device to interpret the codes sent as Dual Tone Multi frequency (DTMF) signals for generating the graphics. Moreover, an operator is required to present the graphics to the caller. Furthermore, specialized software and hardware are required at the operator to design and generate DTMF codes. Therefore, the technique faces various practical limitations. Further, a U.S. Pat. No. 7,027,990 assigned to Lester Sussman, discloses visual menus for a touch-tone telephone with an embedded computer. In this case the text menus may be pre-loaded into the telephone of the caller as text menus. Therefore, when the caller dials the destination, an associated text menu is displayed on a screen. However, this technique is limited to touch-tone telephones with embedded computer. Another existing technique as disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/957,605, filed on Dec. 17, 2007 and assigned to Motorola Inc., provides a directory of an IVR system in the form of, for example, a menu tree, on screen of the caller device. However, the menu tree is provided to the caller device by a remote server. Another existing technique discloses sending messages such as Short Messaging Service (SMS) to the caller device corresponding to the audible IVR menu. Such technique is disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/877,952, filed Oct. 24, 2007. However, the message functions only as a visual aid and the caller is still required to listen and respond to the audio IVR menu. A published PCT Application WO 2008/086320, filed Jan. 7, 2008 and assigned to Snapin Software Inc., displays IVR menu to the caller’s device after connecting a call with the destination.

Generally, the IVR menus of the organizations are in form of audible menu. Moreover, there are a large number of organizations that use IVR menus. Therefore, converting the audible menus to visual menus can be time consuming. An existing technique, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,920,425 assigned to Nortel Networks Limited, discloses an automated script to convert the audible menus scripts to visual menu scripts. However, the audible menus scripts must be available in a particular format to enable the conversion. Furthermore, the audio menu scripts must be available or downloadable for the program to function. As a result, only the audio menus scripts that are available can be converted to visual menu scripts. Furthermore, the device of the caller must be designed or programmed to understand the visual menu scripts. A U.S. Pat. No. 6,885,737 assigned to BellSouth Intellectual Property Corp., discloses a web interface for displaying the IVR menu. However, a server is required to transmit the IVR menu to the caller’s device.

Various organizations encourage the customers to call them for information on their products or services, or for helping existing customers. Generally, a contact number is provided by the organizations on their website as a button. Therefore, when the customer presses the button a form is displayed. The customer then enters his contact number where an executive from the organization may call. However, this may be time consuming for the customer. Moreover, the customer may be not being able to talk to another executive during the call in case the on-line executive is not able to satisfy the customer. U.S. patent application with Ser. No. 12/049,021, filed Mar. 14, 2008 and assigned to Harprit Singh, provides methods and systems for displaying an IVR menu, when the caller clicks a link on a webpage provided by the organization. However, the customer is still required to request the webpage with embedded information from a server of the organization. Moreover, the methods and systems are limited to the organizations that provide the required webpage to the customers. Other technologies include U.S. patent application with Ser. No. 11/877,952 filed Oct. 24, 2007 and assigned to International Business Machine Corporation.

The effectiveness of providing the IVR in visual form is discussed in a technical paper titled, ‘The Benefits of Augmenting Telephone Voice Menu Navigation with Visual Browsing and Search’ by Min Yin et al. The paper discusses a setup where visual content of the IVR is sent from a service provider to a computer connected to a mobile phone. However, the technique discussed in the paper is limited to the visual content provided by the service provider’s end, after the connection is established. Moreover, the providers are required to individually set up the hardware and services for providing visual content.

As discussed above the existing technologies have various limitations.

SUMMARY

An aspect of the invention is to provide to a caller using a device a visual menu corresponding to an audible IVR menu of a destination.

Another aspect of the invention is to enable the caller to directly interact with the visual menu without listening to the audible IVR menu of the destination.

Yet another aspect of the invention is to provide the visual menu to the caller before establishing a connection of the device with the destination.

Another aspect of the invention is to enable the caller to interact with the visual menu by using a touch sensitive screen of the device.

Another aspect of the invention is to provide advertisements related to the destination or function of the destination dialed by the caller.

A caller may dial or select a phone number from a device of a destination. The phone number is detected by Visuphone implemented on the device to display a visual menu corresponding to the audible IVR menu of the destination. Visuphone may be hardware, an application stored as a software or firmware on the device, or a combination thereof. Visuphone may include a database of visual menus corresponding to audible IVR menus for various destinations. Thereafter, the caller may interact with the visual menu displayed on the device to establish a connection with the destination. Furthermore, Visuphone may detect and launch a VOIP application for establishing the connection. Moreover, Visuphone may provide pre-recorded or computer synthesized audio responses on behalf of the caller to the destination.

An enhanced telephone system is provided. The telephone system comprises a database that comprises one or more phone numbers and one or more menus corresponding to the phone numbers, wherein the menus comprise one or more options for selection. The telephone system comprises means for comparing a dialed number to the phone numbers in the database; means for displaying a menu based on a result of the comparison; means for enabling selection of the one or more options from the displayed menu; and means for establishing a connection with a destination of the dialed number based on the selection of the one or more options.

An enhanced telephone system is provided. The telephone system comprises a database comprising one or more phone numbers and one or more menus corresponding to the phone numbers, wherein the menus comprises one or more options for selection; means for comparing the a received number of a received call to the phone numbers in the database; means for displaying a menu based on a result of the comparison; and means for enabling selection of the one or more options from the displayed menu.

A method for providing enhanced telephony is also provided. The method comprising identifying a number dialed from a telephone system; comparing the dialed number to one or more phone numbers stored in a database, wherein the database comprises one or more menus corresponding to the phone numbers, and wherein the menus comprises one or more options for selection; and displaying on the telephone system a menu from the database based on a result of the comparison.

Another aspect of the invention is to generate a database of visual menus. The database generation could be done by successive calling the IVR and combined with voice recognition. Calling the IVR systems can be done manually by operators that will listen to options of the IVR and enter these options into the database. In this manual mode, the operator will dial IVR numbers from a list and for each of them will follow all the options in several levels and in each level, enter the menu entries into the database. This can be done to many different IVR phone numbers, by one or multiple operators. The voice menu can be recorded to for analyzing in a different process or a different time.

Another aspect of the invention is to generate a database of visual menus by a computer system. Combination of hardware and software that is connected to phone system and automatically dials the IVR phone numbers, record the different options of the voice menu, analyze the voice menu and generate and enter the different entries into the database. The system will generate the voice tone that simulates the relevant touchtone of a phone number pressed. This process will be done in several levels until covering all the entries in all the levels of the specific IVR system. This process is done for all the IVR phone number in the list.

Additional alternative is to access the IVR internal database and download the menu. This approach requires the collaboration with the IVR maker and at least permission from the IVR owner. Having both a system could be build to access IVR using their maintenance port, which is often connected to the Internet. Accordingly, the system would access the IVR and once authorized by the IVR owner it will download the internal file representing the IVR menu, which could be called the IVR customization record. The downloaded file would then be converted to visual menu by utility that could be design according to the format, which could be provided by the IVR maker.

Another aspect of the invention is to provide updates to the visual menus stored in the device.

Another aspect of the invention is to provide the visual menu when the call is forwarded from one destination to another.

Another aspect of the invention is to provide visual menus on electronic devices with screens that are connected to Visuphone.

Additional aspect of the invention is an automatic learning of user choice and uses that for assisting the user in his future calls.

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