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Making Mobile Business-Appropriate

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Enterprises are going mobile, spurred by smartphone applications that solve problems or help workers perform their jobs more easily. As a result, the adage “time is money” applies to speech solutions more than ever.

Downloaded mobile apps frequently use a voice interface, either to transcribe, as in the case of Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking, or to keep track of warehouse stock. At the forefront of call center hosting, Angel provides a solution that allows call center managers to keep track of agents and calls, and essentially do their jobs remotely on the screen of a mobile device, even an iPad.

On the Go

While Dragon NaturallySpeaking was not necessarily created with the enterprise in mind, business users on the go, for example, can dictate emails instead of typing them, which saves time and keeps a driver’s eyes on the road while operating a vehicle. The app comes in a few flavors: Dragon Dictation, Dragon Search: iPhone, and Dragon for Email: BlackBerry.

In addition, the dictation app lets users leverage Dragon’s voice recognition capabilities to speak and see an SMS, to email, or to update a social networking site. Most noteworthy, this app—which Nuance says is five times faster than using a keyboard—works not only on the iPhone but also on the iPad or iPod Touch.

Dragon Search for the iPhone or iPod lets users search the Web using voice, an application that is particularly useful for Apple users because iOS doesn’t have its own speech recognition.

BlackBerry devices are commonly used in the enterprise for a variety of reasons, including security, and Nuance provides an app specifically for BlackBerry’s email so users don’t have to launch a separate application. Similar to the Apple version, the BlackBerry app permits users to dictate emails using the device. “[Dragon NaturallySpeaking] just populates the respective function and makes all those communications easier, which has a direct impact on end users,” says Matt Revis, vice president of product management and marketing at Nuance. While BlackBerry is often the device of choice in the enterprise, Revis adds, he believes that more business users are turning to the iPhone as well.

In the future, Nuance, through Dragon, will seek to customize apps for businesses, he says. “I think what you’re going to see is that more and more companies are going to partner with us to build Dragon functionality into specific mobile applications,” Revis says. For example, he notes that Nuance provided speech recognition for a mobile app that lets users scan or speak information about a product in a store and receive pricing information from amazon.com. There is also a dictionary.com app.

In addition, expect to see more mobile apps for businesses with mobile clients, such as sales force automation solutions or anything that requires documentation. “[Those users] will be looking to integrate Dragon functionality into those mobile clients so their users can very quickly enter substantial amounts of content into those applications, much as we did with amazon.com and dictionary.com. We’ll work with them to customize a language model, so people who use it in a particular environment have that particular domain optimization.”

In the Warehouse

Meanwhile, Vangard Voice Systems offers voice solutions that help workers who require a hands- and eyes-free environment. The enterprise app can be downloaded onto a mobile device, making it less unwieldy than a server-based solution.

This product saves money, says Dan Villanueva, vice president of marketing at Vangard. Implementing a server-based solution can cost millions, he notes, in addition to the expense of making adjustments. “What we’re doing is taking cost and risk out of that question and making the applicability broader.”

Villanueva adds that any adjustments to the app didn’t have to be made to the back-end infrastructure. “The reality [is] we can do it; we can add voice as a module without having to change the existing app, without the back-end system changing,” he says. “It’s like a voice steroid for an existing app that you inject into a mobile app—but with no side effects.”

The Vangard app is used in vehicle inspections, which take place in a hands-free environment. “[Vehicle inspection] is about speed, about being able to use hands and eyes while performing a manual task and collecting data at the same time,” Villanueva says. “You don’t have to stop what you’re doing and pick up a device and then adjust it, and then put the device back down.”

Villanueva adds that he sees customer adoption especially in areas in which a conflict exists between collecting data and performing manual tasks.

In timber management, he says, as workers harvest trees, mobile applications with voice are particularly useful. When it’s cold outside, workers need to wear gloves, which makes data input nearly impossible. Clear conditions also pose a problem because workers can’t always see the screens of their mobile devices in the sun’s glare. Voice prompts let users know where in the app they are so they can input data more easily, Villanueva says.

The app also extends to the apparel industry, where VF Corp., owner of the Nautica and North Face brands, tapped Vangard for its warehouse management system. “Here’s a company leader in the apparel market, and they couldn’t justify the cost of the more complex [server-based] solution,” Villanueva says. After implementing Vangard’s solution, VF saw an 8 percent bump in productivity because the mobile applications allowed workers to perform tasks more quickly.

Villanueva points out that the warehouse pioneered some voice apps because grammars could remain simple. “Different types of warehouse apps tell the worker where to go and how much [of a product] to pull off the shelf, and then there’s a response time that allows the user to confirm.”

Even if forms were more complex, as they are in the medical field, the app would still be effective and customizable, Villanueva says. Currently Vangard runs off Windows, but the company is seeking to migrate to other operating systems, specifically Apple, Android, and eventually BlackBerry, Villanueva says.

In the Call Center

Angel deploys hosted solutions for companies that don’t want to bear the risk of doing an on-premises solution, which often is more expensive as well.

Bill Scholz, president of NewSpeech Solutions and president of AVIOS, says that Angel is unique because it gives users a solution without having to figure out complex hosting concerns. Angel’s approach, which “hides all those decisions and complexity,” lets users put actual words and text into the dialogue.

Moreover, Angel recently deployed its Angel Mobile app, which runs on the iPhone or iPad, to enable call center managers to monitor their staffs and interact remotely with them. Angel also gives managers insight into information that could help improve a call center by telling the manager how many staff people are available, how many callers are waiting in the queue, how many calls are dropped and at what times, and the durations of the calls.

“[It allows managers] to do things like, ‘Oh, I see that I have all agents at this point talking and I’m sure people are waiting in queues—what can I do to have other agents who are not in the queue come and check in?’” says Ahmed Bouzid, director of product marketing at Angel.

However, Bouzid notes, many companies overlooked a problem: Calls were flowing into the center around lunchtime, while many customer agents were taking a break. “We discovered that was a peak call period...actually there are three call peaks: just before nine, before the ‘real’ work starts; at lunch; and at five. What we did is make sure to have the center staffed [at those times].”

This new information helped to reduce the rate of lost calls by as much as 35 percent, which translated into more deals, and revenue, Bouzid says.

Angel also is about to deploy another mobile app designed to help enterprises serve customers who might need assistance troubleshooting an Internet connection. In the customer service industry, agents who do troubleshooting command higher salaries. And a solution that helps customers avoid getting frustrated at an automated solution—and then demanding to speak to an agent—would benefit both customers and the company deploying it.

Angel has a client with a pure IVR solution that troubleshoots Internet connections and is multimodal—meaning the customer both hears instructions and sees diagrams on her iPhone—Bouzid explains. Previously, a user would only hear instructions, Bouzid says. “This use case is ripe for introducing a visual into the conversation. If you show a picture and say, ‘See on the bottom right, go and push it,’ it will show you a picture and ask, ‘Is that what you see?’”

The importance of speech in this application is that, when used with images, the app is smart enough to speak directions at the right times in the interaction, Bouzid says. “Your hands aren’t free because you might be under a table fixing something. If you have your iPhone beside you, you can choose those moments in which it is best for you to look at a picture, put it down, and then put the speaker on so you can hear instructions.”

Bouzid adds that the smartphone is the perfect device with which to leverage a multimodal automated system.

“Sometimes [a traditional IVR] is perfect. If I just want to check my status—Here’s your order, thank you, goodbye—it’s easier than going to my laptop or even an app,” Bouzid says. “But where an IVR is more complex, you want to optimize all channels at your disposal and do it in a way that takes advantage of the medium for the right purpose.” Angel is seeking other use cases and would allow developers to include the company’s solution in their iPhone applications, he adds.

The mobile device is a place where speech is just starting to show its potential. Apps will continue to be created for customers that seek creative ways to solve problems and save money.


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