Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) in Norfolk, VA serves over 22 million annual passengers within its 369-square-mile service area. HRT handles hundreds of thousands of calls per year from users of its fixed-route and light rail services for schedules, so it already had an Interactive Voice Response System (IVR) in place. However, while the IVR worked well in quiet environments, the noise from busy streets, buses, and trains limited practical use. Always at the forefront of customer service innovation, HRT searched for a replacement solution that would live up to its promises.

The Solution: Application Powered By AI

After a competitive bidding process, DiRAD was selected to provide a next-generation Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solution. It had a lofty goal to attain. DiRAD’s developers came up with a novel solution: an application powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) that would be developed specifically for telephone users, which would accept natural language commands and filter out background noise.

For the critical voice interface, which had to withstand extensive noise interference, DiRAD combined Google Speech with IBM Watson Assistant, connected to DiRAD’s own SmartSpeech IVR platform.

Extensive testing was performed before the roll-out to the public. As part of the trial period, HRT officials conducted real-life scenarios, calling from train platforms and busy streets, which were the exact situations that had doomed the previous IVR system. Despite the extensive noise interference from the outside environment, the system successfully performed natural language interactions and was cut over to the general public.

Results: A System That Can Handle Natural Language Commands From Callers

Hampton Roads Transit now offers an IVR system that can conversationally interact with callers, with features such as:

  • Routing, Stop and Schedule information for callers, integrated with a Google Transit data feed that provides current information.
  • Agency-Wide IVR for Complaints, Lost and Found, Fare Information, and Ticketing Locations.
  • Web-based dashboard, used for “Floodgate” Messages management, Real-Time and Historical Reporting, Emergency Number Redirection, and call transcripts and recordings.

Upcoming Features

  • DiRAD is currently developing the Spanish application, which will offer the same conversational functionality as the English application.
  • Real-Time GTFS API Integration will provide instant updates for callers into the IVR solution.
  • Repeat Callers will be recognized and offered information related to previous calls.

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