The 2013 Star Performers

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To be considered Star Performers, organizations must not only take a unique approach to the speech technology industry, but also show that they are on the verge of something significant. This is the case for each of this year's Star Performers. A divestiture enabled our first Star Performer to be reborn, setting the way for some impressive acquisitions. The second is incorporating speech into its multichannel support solutions. The third is working to make speech technology even more mainstream, incorporating it into wearable technology and improving conversational search capabilities. And our fourth aims to increase adoption of speech technologies by bringing more of them into the home. With these recent developments, all of these companies are in a position to significantly influence their customers and the industry in the months and years ahead.

[24]7 Invests in Anytime, Anywhere Support

Although [24]7 is mostly known in the contact center space, it has raised its profile to include offerings that combine speech and predictive analytics with big data. The company first dipped its toes into the speech technology waters in 2012, when it partnered with Microsoft. That deal merged Microsoft's interactive self-service solutions, [24]7's contact center offerings, and the use of Microsoft's TellMe speech technology. Microsoft also took an equity stake in the company. In addition, [24]7 acquired Voxify, a speech self-service application provider and former rival of TellMe. These efforts earned the company a Star Performer distinction last year. But it's what the company has done with these acquisitions that has enabled it to earn the same distinction once again.

In March, [24]7 unveiled Visual Speech, a multimodal solution that uses predictive analytics and real-time decision-making across the Internet, mobile, chat, social, and phone channels.

"Our objective with picking up these fantastic capabilities from Voxify and Microsoft TellMe was to...extend those capabilities to the mobile environment by leveraging both our own Web technologies and speech," says Kathy Juve, chief marketing officer at [24]7. "We were really intrigued with this intersection of self-service, speech, and channels."

Visual Speech offers IVR users an advanced HTML5 mobile Web experience without the need to download a mobile application, letting them use their smartphones to view data such as pictures, tables, and forms. Information input can be done through touch, type, or speech.

"Customer interactions need to be dynamic, unique, and contextually relevant for consumers," says P.V. Kannan, founder and CEO of [24]7. "For the past decade, tremendous emphasis was placed on speech application design, but today and in the future, this is not enough. Providing a rich, personalized, and intuitive customer experience will be contingent on an enterprise leveraging big data and prediction across different channels in conjunction with incorporating various design elements tailored specifically for omnichannel interactions."

At the time Visual Speech was made public, [24]7 said it was already being deployed at a top-tier global credit card company, which was expected to handle more than 10 million interactions per year. Opus Research senior analyst Dan Miller said his firm believed that company to be American Express. "That means one of the most reputable firms in the financial services industry is taking advantage of the ability of some smartphone and wireless carriers to make things simpler and more efficient for its cardholders. We can expect to see more such use cases in other industries...where better mobile experience leads to customer satisfaction and retention."

A Genesis at Genesys

Genesys, a company founded in 1990, operated as an independent subsidiary of Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent from 2000 to 2012, when the phone systems provider sold it to Permira Funds for $1.5 billion. Today, Genesys operates as a stand-alone company, and some say that is the best thing that could ever have happened to it.

"Genesys did an exemplary job just surviving under the crushingly suffocating weight of the heavy hand of Alcatel-Lucent," says Paul Stockford, an analyst at Saddletree Research. "The fact that it emerged relatively unscathed is a testament to the company's will to survive."

Truth is, the company has done more than survive: In 2012—its first year out from under Alcatel-Lucent's thumb—Genesys posted record revenue of more than $610 million and double-digit growth; added more than 200 new customers in the education, financial services, government, retail, travel, and telecommunications segments; entered new markets; and built a solid presence in social and mobile customer service, analytics, and cloud technologies, all new or expanding areas for the company.

To support its growth strategy into midmarket contact centers, Genesys also launched several solutions, including Genesys Connect for Service Cloud, a customer service offering that natively integrates Genesys into Salesforce.com's Service Cloud; Genesys One, a packaged on-premises suite of its contact center solutions; and Genesys Mobile Engagement, a mobile customer care offering that links smartphone applications with customer service agents.

It even pulled off some very key—and potentially very lucrative—acquisitions, starting with LM Sistemas, a Brazilian provider of customer self-service solutions, for an undisclosed amount in July 2012, thereby expanding its presence in the emerging Latin American market. At the start of this year, the company acquired Utopy, a provider of workforce optimization, speech and text analytics, and voice of the customer solutions. It followed this with an acquisition of cloud-based contact center systems provider Angel. And most recently, it added cloud-based contact center provider SoundBite Communications to its growing army.

While 2012 was "a breakthrough year for Genesys as a newly independent company," said Genesys president and CEO Paul Segre in an earnings report earlier this year, challenges lie ahead. "We have yet to see if Genesys will thrive under the burden of a $1 billion debt, but their recent acquisitions and plans to move down-market are positive signs," Stockford says.

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