An Enterprise Breakthrough?

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Aside from the contact center, speech applications hold much potential for the enterprise, especially on mobile devices. In fact, that was the topic of our November/December 2007 cover story, "Mission Video," by Editorial Assistant Ryan Joe. But now there’s even more reason to believe it.

Some recent news headlines on www.speechtechmag.com indicate that promising enterprise speech solutions are already available. One of the most exciting developments that has my colleagues at CRM magazine buzzing deals with speech solutions for sales force automation. A customer relationship management system is only as good as its data; however, salespeople often complain that regularly updating the system with new customer information is too time-consuming. It’s time, they emphatically argue, that they could otherwise spend selling. Now management has a new argument.

Ribbit for Salesforce.com, officially launched May 6, is turning the traditional telecommunications model on its head by linking voice to the popular Salesforce.com software-as-a-service CRM system, according to our online article "Voice Automation Hops to the Forefront" (May 9, 2008), by CRM magazine’s Senior Editor Marshall Lager. "Though Ribbit’s services work with any voice communication, the focus is mobility. An online mobile extension unites the phone and the application so users can answer and make calls from any Salesforce.com page," the article states. "Mobile calls, voice messages, and transcribed text (courtesy of partner SimulScribe) automatically flow into customer records in Salesforce.com, allowing users to store, search, and act on voice communications as part of normal workflow."

One of the main benefits for salespeople is that they can record post-call notes into the system immediately after a sales call—when the information is fresh in their minds—instead of recalling the information later in the day after returning to their computers. This saves sales professionals time, helps them capture more customer information, and ensures better data accuracy. More than 4,000 developers have already signed up to create Ribbit applications for Salesforce.com, enabling Salesforce.com and partners to provide low-cost enterprise solutions with lots of room for innovation.

This application, if successful, could encourage corporations to invest in additional speech applications. However, other areas of speech, namely mobile voice and visual applications, are not as tightly integrated. That’s why we bring you our cover story, "Multiple-Modality Disorder," (page 14) by Ryan Joe. This feature offers tips on how multimodal interface designers can avoid some of the interoperability problems they might encounter. For instance, one source in the story states that each wireless telecommunications provider "has different bandwidths in different regions with different data transfer speeds. What works in one device in one location may not work for another device in the same location."

The issue here is one of openness. Carriers must be willing to allow developers to access their networks and build solutions for them, much like Ribbit does with its large network of developers.

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