The Speech Technology Excellence Awards.
Customer Inter@ction Solutions magazine knows that speech technology will be a key differentiator or cost savings method for call centers. We have been covering call center technology for two and a half decades and have therefore seen the progression from primitive predictive dialers and recording systems, to full CTI integration, to IP-PBXs with remote VoIP call center agents. One would be hard pressed to not find all aforementioned technologies in the best-quality call centers. And so, soon it will also be the norm, rather than the exception, that these high-quality customer interaction centers have speech technology implemented.
With new products and whole new categories of products in the contact center space, it is tough for our readers to keep up with the latest and greatest products and services. That is why Customer Inter@ction Solutions launched the Speech Technology Excellence Award: so we can judge the "best of the best" in speech technology and pass our findings on to our readers.
Congratulations to the winners.
Product: Aspect Customer Self-Service IVR
Aspect Customer Self-Service (CSS) IVR is a full-featured interactive voice response platform that enables businesses to realize all the traditional benefits of voice self-service in their contact centers--such as automating transactions normally performed by costly live agents and extending business hours--and at the same time delivers advancements in speech technology, including speech recognition, text-to-speech, voiceprint identification and more.
Aspect CSS uses PSTN and VoIP connectivity to help companies automate customer service transactions ranging from simple information requests to more complex processes such as order placement and address capture. The solution is scalable and interoperates with leading databases and legacy corporate data sources so businesses can deliver a range of simple to complex self-service capabilities to callers quickly and easily. Leveraging Aspect CSS, companies can reduce costs by automating complex customer transactions, deliver a positive self-service experience by providing customers with an easy and convenient way to make requests and complete transactions, use Voice XML development language to rapidly deploy self-service applications, as well as integrate with other call center and enterprise data sources to build holistic, comprehensive customer histories that support more personalized and targeted service.
Aspect differentiates itself from competitive products by offering a intuitive development environment, which enables users to create sophisticated self-service workflows without writing complex code; support for speech auto-attendant applications; advanced speech technology, including automatic speech recognition, text-to-speech capabilities and voiceprint identification capabilities for security; and unified applications to aggregate contact center resources by integrating self-service applications with call center and enterprise data sources for personalized service and a holistic view of customer histories.
Product: Avaya Voice Portal
Voice Portal is Avaya's latest IP- and SOA-enabled self-service software platform and a critical first step towards voice-enablement of thousands of enterprise services and applications. Until now, dedicated deployments, development and management teams have focused on providing call center cost reduction through traditional IVR architecture. In the next years, voice portal functionality will be embedded directly into the communications architecture, eliminating the indecision around what IVR needs to be configured with the call center.
Avaya's Voice Portal addresses the needs of IT purchasers, managers and implementers by offering the manageability, reliability and scalability of a software-based media processing appliance coupled with the ease of integration and programmability in Web and Service-Oriented Architectures. By offering robust speech and touch-tone capabilities in a package that is easy to install, maintain and modify, CIOs can integrate "call center only" capabilities into the IT fabric of their enterprise.
Avaya Voice Portal is unique in that it provides medium-sized and large enterprises with a powerful software-based solution for delivery of voice self-service applications, integrated with their contact center applications as well as within their existing Web and SOA infrastructure. Avaya Voice Portal maps to traditional Internet architectures but with critical enhancements that couple the power of IP telephony with leverage points into Web applications that move traditional telephony implementations into a re-envisioned and more accessible architecture
Cantata Technology (formerly Brooktrout Technology)
Product: The TR1000 For Microsoft Speech Server
The TR1000 for Microsoft Speech Server is targeted at the enterprise market. Due to the lower cost of ownership provided with this platform, small, medium-sized and large companies can afford to develop and deploy speech applications to improve their business processes and enhance their call centers. Cantata provides the only telephony platform developed and branded specifically for Microsoft Speech Server. The product was created around a single CD that installs the Windows-certified drivers, scalable telephony board and Telephony Interface Manager (TIM). The Cantata drivers and TIM have a universal design requiring no software changes to upgrade from a four-port analog prototype to a multi-span digital production system.
Cantata's Brooktrout TIM is tightly integrated with Microsoft Speech Server and the Microsoft Speech Application SDK (SASDK). The TIM controls communication between the TR1000 and telephone network, streams media for recognition and speech output, performs DTMF detection and processes all the call control. The TIM allows startup, shutdown, port allocation, system cycling, statistics and other common tasks to be automated through the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) interface
Available in configurations from 4 to 96 ports per server, the WHQL-certified TR1000 is ideal for deployments in speech self-service and contact center applications. The TR1000 provides onboard speech features including echo cancellation, voice activity detection and intelligent pre-filtering of noise and silence. TR1000's ability to perform these functions on-board reduces CPU utilization and PCI bus traffic. The performance of the TR1000 allows systems to scale in size and features to meet the current and evolving needs of Microsoft Speech Server applications.
Cisco Systems, Inc.
Product: The Cisco Customer Voice Portal
As a flexible and cost-effective replacement for traditional interactive voice response (IVR) systems, the Cisco Customer Voice Portal is ideal for both large enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses. The Portal can be hosted in a service provider environment as well as on premise, so businesses can choose the deployment model that best matches their organizational, technical and operations capabilities.
The Cisco Customer Voice Portal allows organizations to centrally manage a virtual, network-wide IVR across multiple locations using a single application instance. Cisco's unique, flexible architecture saves deployment and administration costs and simplifies ongoing management and operation. The Cisco Customer Voice Portal can be deployed in both traditional TDM-based and IP-based contact centers, as well as in a hybrid environment for companies migrating their telephony network to a common converged environment for data, voice and video communications. This flexibility allows companies to gain the benefits of next-generation self-service technology without having to rip and replace existing telephony equipment.
The Customer Voice Portal supports both speech-enabled and touch-tone applications, which can be quickly integrated with back-end data and business rules available on the Web. By using the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and Voice eXtensible Markup Language (VXML) standards along with the graphical development tools provided with the Customer Voice Portal, complex voice applications can be developed faster and at a lower cost than traditional IVRs or other voice portal technology.
Product: Hammer On-Call for Voice Quality
Unlike manual testing, which is difficult to organize and frequently misses hidden problems, automated Hammer testing generates thousands of real test calls that duplicate real-world operating conditions to find the capacity bottlenecks and configuration errors that other tests miss. The company's load testing service provides users with a fast, easy-to-use solution that helps them guarantee that their voice applications will scale to meet different mixes of call traffic and growing user loads. From the switch through the IVR to back-end databases and CTI screen pops, Hammer On-Call gives voice applications and infrastructure a thorough workout by generating thousands of calls. Empirix's consultants create sophisticated, realistic tests that help call centers isolate and eliminate system bottlenecks and errors during development and production, and verify the scalability of their voice applications--including speech recognition. The product's Web interface provides users with immediate access to performance data. Companies may even access performance and test data remotely while the load is actually being applied. Each engagement includes a summary report that documents that the system has been "Hammer Tested." Test scripts and results from every test run--including log files--are permanently stored, simplifying the creation of future test scripts, standards and protocols.
Product: Qfiniti Explore
Qfiniti Explore delivers a conceptual understanding of customer calls that automatically spots relevant trends within the contact center and across business using intelligent speech analytics. Through its SmartView searching capabilities and call clustering, Explore uncovers the information tucked away in customer interaction recordings. The solution offers real-time notification for immediate customer intervention and coaching; the automation of trend spotting to help enhance product and service offerings, sales and marketing programs and the evaluation of corporate policies and processes; visibility to call recordings for customer intelligence, business process automation and quality monitoring; and the ability to save significant time and cost over manual call monitoring.
Explore lets users extend speech analytics beyond the contact center environment to benefit the entire organization. By delivering rapid access to precise and accurate customer information, Explore allows companies enterprisewide insight into contact center interactions such as customer satisfaction, script adherence, agent training, call handling and resolution, sales effectiveness, marketing campaigns, competitive research, win/loss analysis, regulatory compliance and risk and liability.
Explore takes advantage of the Intelligent Data Operation Layer (IDOL) engine from Autonomy, a company that provides solutions to manage unstructured data, to form an understanding of the content in a call similar to the way a human understands information. This means Explore can distinguish between calls using the same words but with entirely different meanings. Using unique pattern matching techniques, Explore can find calls that would otherwise have been missed because specific words or phrases were not mentioned in a conversation. The efficiency of the IDOL engine ensures that Explore can deliver value across large volumes of customer calls within an enterprise, helping to understand the customer across multiple globally distributed contact centers.
Product: Media Exchange
Media Exchange for Enterprises is a rich and flexible deployment platform that supports numerous ready-to-run applications, such as automated name and address capture, field force automation, locator automation, password reset, survey automation and voice authentication. The platform also provides an application framework for large-scale custom applications and uses a robust underlying platform that supports voice recognition, Web browser and multi-modal user interface technologies. Media Exchange provides all of the infrastructure management, integration and content metering capabilities to enable enterprises to reduce cost and time-to-market with enhanced voice and speech self-service applications.
Media Exchange's platform subsystems include Media Exchange Studio, designed to make the development of speech applications easier, with a high degree of collaboration and reuse; the Voice Application Server, a runtime environment that executes voice applications via VoiceXML; the Media Gateway to control and manage all call control, routing, steering, switching, transfers and computer-telephony integration; Media Server, a subsystem of Media Exchange for Enterprises that enables customers and employees to perform transactions and access information over the telephone 24 hours a day; Media Exchange's Control Center, a centralized management tool that makes it easier to monitor, administer and provision a voice automation solution in a local or distributed network environment; and Application View, a graphical real-time business monitoring and reporting tool that provides accurate, up-to-date information about a company's IVR system.
Product: Speech Engine v. 6.0
Speech Engine v. 6.0 upgrade includes server-side grammars, n-Best results, MRCP and Linux kernel 2.6 support. Lumen Vox completely embraces the W3C standards, such as SRGS grammars, and supports many versions of Linux to meet market demand.
LumenVox's Speech Recognition Engine is a flexible API that performs speech recognition on audio data from any audio source. The Speech Engine is speaker- and hardware-independent: it supports SRGS and SISR on the Windows and Linux platforms. The Speech Engine provides speech application developers with an efficient development and runtime platform, allowing for dynamic language, grammar, audio format and logging capabilities to customize every step of their application. Grammars are entered as a simple list of words or pronunciations, or in the industry standard Speech Recognition Grammar Specification (SRGS), as defined by the W3C.
Other features and functionality include streaming audio; support for English, Latin American Spanish and Canadian French; a flexible API that integrates into current OA & M, billing, provisioning and debugging systems; client/server architecture to distribute speech-processing load; runtime-defined grammars entered as simple text, BNF, raw phonetic spelling or SRGS; advanced dynamic barge-in to adapt to each call in real-time; an SDK that includes documentation and a demonstration C/C++ application; and flexible error recovery through the use of confidence scores and n-best results.
Product: NICE Perform
NICE Perform captures multimedia interactions, analyzes their content to gain insight and presents this insight in a manner which facilitates decision making. The product is comprised of several components. NICE Perform's recording capability means that all calls can be captured and stored as required. It is based on a proprietary NICE technology that stores digitalized voice recording in a highly efficient manner, making rapid identification and retrieval simple and inexpensive. NICE Perform is fully integrated with Microsoft .NET client-server technology, which uses NICE Perform's smart client installed on the desktop and communicating with the central server for rapid system integration. This technology reduces overhead, improves response time and eases the installation of updates and new versions. The solution's audio analysis capabilities are among the most advanced and accurate available, allowing users the capabilities for word-spotting, emotion detection and talk analysis. Finally, the aggregation of the various tools and technologies included in NICE Perform allows users to find and make use of the insight hidden in the enterprise's unstructured data.
Product: Nortel Application Center
The new Nortel Application Center was created to bring together contact center, advanced speech, unified messaging and multimedia collaboration into a cohesive application environment. The solution was designed to deliver an easy-to-use customer experience and increased profitability for the businesses that it serves. The Nortel Application Center platform will ultimately integrate what have previously been stand-alone applications with a seamless integration across multiple applications, common tools and standard reporting modules, making the Application Center a more efficient and effective solution for managing customer interaction.
The open standards-based framework allows users to adopt a complete solution to interact with their customers at one time. Open standards allow the solution to be integrated into a multivendor environment. Customers can deploy additional Nortel applications over time by simply turning them on. Also, by employing the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) standard, customers can customize these solutions to reflect their specific business needs and deliver faster innovation and competitive differentiation.
Service: Parus Interactive's hosted speech recognition solutions
Parus Interactive helps clients enhance their customer care processes with voice-activated self-service solutions. This allows Parus' clients to reduce the expense of providing a positive customer experience. Parus' clients appreciate the quick and easy implementations of Parus' hosted solutions, while avoiding capital expenditures and hardware maintenance costs.
By way of an example, Parus' automated service, exclusively provided by Parus for National Retail Federation's 95th Convention & Expo BIG Show 2006, allowed attendees of the conference to retrieve valuable show information using speech recognition technology. By dialing a toll-free number or visiting a specially designed kiosk located in different locations on the show floor, attendees were able to use the following speech-enabled services: show times and registration information ("Simply say 'Show Times' to access BIG Show 2006 show times and registration information by date"); special event information and reminders; show host hotel information; and a private meeting scheduler.
Premiere Global Services
Service: Premiere's Interactive Notifications
Target markets for Premiere's Interactive Notifications include Fortune 500 service providers such as financial services and retail industries. Retail industry customers include large chains that have frequent buyer programs, store charge cards and other loyalty and retention programs. Retailers can use Interactive Notifications for order status or to keep customers updated on the order status from point of purchase to package arrival; inventory alerts to advise customers of out-of-stock issues or back-order changes, enabling them to modify orders, confirm deliveries or transfer to the call center; and warranty programs to market warranty renewals and other upsell offers.
Financial industry customers such as banks, brokerage services, credit card providers and insurance companies use the service in a multitude of ways. Banks can deliver interactive notifications for low balances, statement summaries, deposits, cleared checks, bill presentments, insufficient funds, mortgage and other loan activity and maturing investments. Brokerage services can improve attendance at seminars with interactive voice notifications that ask clients to confirm or reschedule, and can automatically deliver account maintenance calls providing the opportunity to connect to a live agent. Credit card companies can automate fraud alerts to customers and immediately collect responses from any device; notify customers by voice or text when transactions post to their accounts and credit limits are about to be reached; alert customers when stored values reach low thresholds and drive them to a Web site or call center to replenish accounts; allow customers to activate their card quickly and efficiently; and follow up or replace direct mail with interactive communication and drive response rates of marketing campaigns. Finally, insurance companies can use the service to notify customers when insurance policy renewal payments are due and allow payment right on the call with credit card processing or a transfer to the call center; schedule claim and life insurance medical appointments with customers and provide automated reminders; keep customers updated at key milestones in the claims process; and collect missing information during the policy application process and provide status alerts
veoMobile is a complete software/hardware platform for deploying speech applications. It is not a standalone application; rather, veoMobile provides a natural voice user interface (VUI) to virtually any existing enterprise software application. The platform encapsulates best practices for VUI design, critical for speech application success. With advanced automated speech recognition features including barge in, tunable grammars and DTMF fallback, veoMobile delivers 95 percent or more speech recognition accuracy.
veoMobile targets small to large organizations that can benefit from business process automation. It connects mobile workers or customers directly to enterprise business applications such as CRM, work order management or customer billing simply by placing a call from any phone. The VUI design framework comes with pre-packaged speech components and a powerful call flow development tool that enables Pronexus to quickly customize call flows to specific applications. Furthermore, a Microsoft .NET-centric architecture and modular functionality ensures scalability and seamless integration to a customer's IT and business infrastructure. veoMobile supports both enterprise deployments as well as SaaS or hosted deployments, depending on the size and requirements of the organization.
RightNow Technologies, Inc.
Product: RightNow Voice
Since RightNow's acquisition of voice automation innovator Convergent Voice in July of 2005, RightNow has been offering RightNow Voice, a natural-language search capability to integrate with common CRM platforms. The on-demand delivery aims to remove barriers to voice/speech adoption, with the choice of a packaged or hosted solution, rapid deployment, usage-based license terms and a managed services model. RightNow's voice-enabled CRM solutions integrate the full spectrum of voice-based automation functions into core customer service, sales and marketing processes, enabling organizations to streamline communications with customers, partners and internal processes--complementing the Web, e-mail and chat channels RightNow's solutions already support. It will also ensure a consistent message and overall customer experience regardless of the channel used.
The solution is comprised of eight modules, including voice access to the knowledge base, voice incident management system, location finder, order status, repair tracking, refund status password reset and customer surveys. Certain RightNow clients are already in full production with these modules and are currently realizing significant cost savings and customer satisfaction improvements.
Product: Continuum Solution Modules
Continuum Self-Service has empowered clients to serve a broader customer base by providing timely, accurate information to customers and maintaining efficient contact center operations. By supporting the latest advances in speech recognition and text-to-speech technology and providing the recognition accuracy, scalability and robustness required to deploy successful natural language and large vocabulary speech applications, Continuum has helped to manage customer relations at the most critical contact points.
Continuum is offered in a "plug and play" modular format so users can purchase and use what they need today, while ensuring the ability to add new communication channels in the future, both for self-service and live-assistance. The core offering exhibits significant out-of-the-box advantages such as the ability to automatically capture and pass both customer-specific navigation and transactional data during a self-service inquiry to the agent desktop should a customer need to talk with an agent. Continuum delivers a future-proof, state-of-the-art solutions suite on an open platform supporting standards like VoiceXML and VoIP, and is positioned for emerging standards like CCXML and MRCP.
Product: Utopy SpeechMiner
SpeechMiner identifies, evaluates and catalogs events within recorded person-to-person conversations, providing reports that categorize the content of customer conversations for contact center managers, quality monitoring groups, sales, marketing and business unit managers. Version 3.5 introduces Deliberate Listening technology that captures true business intelligence from every customer conversation with a high level of precision. With a new understanding of why a customer is calling, companies can now capture, catalog and evaluate such information for competitive intelligence, marketing campaign effectiveness, complaints, operational inefficiencies and more. One Utopy customer was able to course-correct and increase upsell efforts by 400 percent within three weeks, leading to a 91 percent increase in sales volume.
The new version includes some enhanced features. The company has improved the solution's ability to accurately capture the meaning of conversations and correctly categorize calls; upgraded SpeechMiner's "Enterprise Ready" features so that it easily supports complex, multidivisional solutions across wide-area enterprises; enhanced SMART, the solution's topic and management software, in terms of ease-of-use and features, allowing non-engineers to successfully implement powerful speech analytics solutions; and finally made pre-packaged reports available in Microsoft Reporting Services, allowing customers full access to the SQL database to create custom reports and link to their business intelligence solutions.
Product: ULTRA Analytics Suite
The ULTRA Analytics Suite is a unified platform for contact center recording and performance analytics. ULTRA Analytics is used by contact center executives at Fortune 1000 companies who oversee multisite call centers with a minimum of 150 agents. ULTRA Analytics is a sophisticated performance management tool designed to provide greater operational visibility to contact center managers and high-level customer relations executives. In addition, sales and marketing managers leverage the data collected by ULTRA to identify industry/customer trends and make critical business decisions.
Unlike most other solutions in the market today, ULTRA Analytics' powerful root cause analysis is designed to help enterprises understand why customers are calling and take effective action to better address their needs. This actionable intelligence supports clients' efforts to maximize customer loyalty and improve the profitability of their customer-focused operations. Verint's ULTRA Analytics suite drives total quality by enabling organizations of all sizes to cost-effectively capture all customer interactions and extract actionable intelligence from telephone, voice-over-IP, e-mail or chat. In addition, ULTRA provides easy access to all customer data via its Web-based desktop portal. ULTRA goes beyond traditional performance management and workforce optimization tools, enabling business to not only understand what is happening in their operations, but also identify the underlying causes.
Product: VoiceGenie IVR software platforms
VoiceGenie software powers some of the largest IVR deployments in the world. The company's customers include organizations such as Scotiabank, Sony, AIG, AT & T, Air Canada, Bank of New York, Bell Canada, Citibank, Eastman Chemical, France Telecom, Hertz Germany, India Times, Merck, Motorola, Netflix, New York Daily News, SCANA, Suncoast Media, Ticketmaster, TV Guide, Tyco, Verizon and others.
VoiceGenie IVR software platforms provide a flexible open standards infrastructure for supporting next-generation speech-enabled contact centers. The platform is renowned for excellence in VoiceXML and was the first to support the VoiceXML 2.0 and 2.1 standards. Furthermore, the platform is the only VoiceXML platform to provide Media Resource Control Protocol (MRCP) and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) proxies, supporting the deployment of thousands of ports in highly-available, distributed architectures.
Said one customer, "VoiceGenie's robust and efficient architecture, low cost and ease of implementation have been a cornerstone to the success of our speech recognition services, which deliver new efficiencies for our customers." Another said, "We selected VoiceGenie after a thorough evaluation of all certified VoiceXML platform vendors. VoiceGenie's adherence to open standards-based technologies enables us to launch new and compelling services to our subscribers while leveraging our existing investments."
Voxeo's Prophecy was designed to eliminate traditional barriers to enterprise speech deployment by bundling a full-featured telephony platform with speech recognition and synthesis at less than one-fifth the cost of previous offerings. Prophecy is a premium speech platform, a versatile voice-over-IP (VoIP) platform and an interactive voice response (IVR) platform, all rolled into a single software download. With an abundance of telephony features, Prophecy also aims to deliver greater functionality than other products by breaking through traditional industry barriers and providing high-quality speech recognition and speech synthesis capabilities at no additional cost, enabling developers to more easily and cost-effectively add speech functionality to telephony applications.
The company's goal was to develop a solution that is simple enough to run on a laptop, yet scalable enough to run thousands of ports in a carrier-class network. In addition, Prophecy avoids the vendor lock-in forced by other proprietary platforms by employing the industry's first and only Voice Extensible Markup Language (VoiceXML) browser interface that can pass 100 percent of the standard's mandatory and optional compliance tests. Prophecy leverages the Call Control Extensible Markup Language (CCXML) standard to provide the call management, routing and conferencing capabilities that VoiceXML alone lacks.
Other features include call conferencing, call recording, comprehensive SIP-based VoIP telephony support, a built-in soft phone, the SQLite database engine, and a Web server supporting PHP 5.1 and Java/JSP, all in a single 80 megabyte download with zero configuration requirements.
Product: Impact 360 Speech Analytics
Impact 360 Speech Analytics plays a strategic role in the customer interaction centers of Global 2000, small and medium-sized businesses worldwide, as well as in IP telephony, back-office environments and throughout the extended enterprise, including branch offices. Impact 360 Speech Analytics is part of the overall Impact 360 workforce optimization solution from Witness Systems. Impact 360 represents a complete synergistic solution for workforce management, quality monitoring/full-time recording, e-learning and performance management.
Unique features include data mining to enable call centers to graphically display patterns and trends from selected conversation transcripts; extensive search capabilities including simple comparison, Boolean comparison, word prefix comparison and inflectional and proximity comparisons that can be used individually or in combination; the ability to gain greater insight into the patterns and types of interactions being handled, enabling centers to determine their root cause and take action; and improved market analysis to produces rich data for sales, marketing and operations, helping customers make strategic business decisions.