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David Sims - TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist[May 23, 2005]

Voxify Improves Speech Agents

By David Sims, TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist

Alameda, California-based Voxify has pretty strong incentive to help their customers succeed using Voxify’s speech agents – they get paid per every successfully-completed call, according to an interview with Voxify CEO Adeeb Shanaa.

In the upscale retail market, Voxify company officials say, nothing is more important than service: “That's why for years retailers have resisted automation, fearing that machines would ultimately prove incapable of providing the same degree of attention as a human agent.”

Voxify has created what they claim are “the first Automated Agents for call centers with the conversational skills to handle advanced customer service calls.” This morning they’re announcing the availability of ten Automated Agents “designed to help retailers give their customers the red carpet treatment on a throw rug budget,” according to a news release. Some of them have already been put to use by Voxify customers, including Hammacher Schlemmer.
Voxify Automated Agents differ from other speech automation systems in that they are “imbued with the intelligence needed to follow a customer’s conversation, gather data, and complete a transaction -- even when only incomplete information is available. This,” according to a technical description, “is a radical departure from other approaches that hard-code expected responses and stall when they don't get an exact response.”

The Automated Agents come pre-trained in industry and customer service functions. Voxify claims they only take “6-8 weeks to start taking live calls and a few more weeks to get to round-the-clock availability.”

Voxify is different in two dimensions. “We tell them to hold us responsible for concrete numbers and deliverables, we’re paid by a percentage of calls that’s successfully handled,” according to Shanaa.

Amit Desai, Voxify’s vice president of products says in the reservations area, for example, “our metric of success is completion rates of reservations. Whatever it takes to get their reservation. For Continental Airlines we handle 100,000 calls and get an 88% completion rate. For Windham Hotels we achieved over 90%.”

Industry averages are 15 to 20 percent lower – “Industry averages are 38 pct automation completion rates, 40 to 60 is pretty good,” Shanaa says.

“The results are tangible, measurable, we know what happened on every single call. Since we’re a partner we’re equally incentivized to hit those numbers. Agents are fully-managed service, we’re paid by our completion rate,” Shanaa explains.

Voxify's new Automated Agents include a shopping agent, order-taking agent, order status agent, catalog request agent, inventory check agent, lead capture agent, store locator agent, loyalty program/account agent, welcome agent and gift card agent.
"Datamonitor's current estimates show that spending on speech solutions in North America will almost double in the next five years, growing from roughly $600 million in 2005 to over $1 billion by 2009," said Daniel Hong, Voice Business Analyst at Datamonitor. "Retail is rapidly becoming a significant market for speech… Datamonitor expects Voxify's retail-focused solution will help drive greater adoption of speech technology in the retail market through the next five years."  

High conversational usability requires complex call path maps to handle the many variant call paths that a customer service call can take. Voxify has solved this challenge with its patented Conversation Engine technology, a breakthrough for automating the development and maintenance of highly usable speech applications.

The Conversation Engine imbues the Automated Agents with advanced conversational skills, enabling them to engage callers in sophisticated dialogue, and understanding multiple pieces of information in a single response or adjusting to unexpected information provided by the caller.

As a result, callers experience an Automated Agent who understands how to give them what they need quickly and easily, closely approximating the effectiveness of a human being.

David Sims is contributing editor and CRM Alert columnist for TMCnet.

To discover how contact centers can save money and increase productivity by making the switch to IP Telephony, be sure to attend TMC's IP Contact Center Summit May 24-26, 2005, in Dallas, Texas. IP Contact Center Summit is co-located with the Speech-World conference, where you can get expert guidance in the deployment of speech technologies to strengthen customer relationships.

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