Voice Applications: Evolving to Meet Commercial Needs

As the global economy moves out of recession, enterprises large and small will want to continue reaping the rewards that voice applications have provided in terms of return on investment and customer satisfaction. Indeed, Datamonitor estimates that global voice business will grow to more than $2 billion by 2007, a clear indication of the growth in commercial and consumer confidence relating to this technology. (See Figure 1.)


Traditional Voice Applications

For many years, voice usage in a commercial environment has been dominated by call center automation, information provision and directory assistance/call routing solutions. According to Datamonitor, this is unlikely to change in the near-to-mid future, with the combined market share of these applications accounting for 71 percent of total sales in 2003. By 2008, this proportion is expected to have dropped to fewer than 50 percent, but will still dominate the voice solutions marketplace. (See Figure 2.)



What is exciting for voice vendors has to be the rapid uptake of new and innovative applications that are certain to open up new business opportunities. One of these solution sets is transactional voice application, which will permit callers to a voice portal the option of completing the purchase of goods or services without needing to speak to an operator. This is ideal for those who don’t have access to a PC or who may not be Internet-literate. Also, organizations that allow transactions via voice will reduce operational costs and increase revenues by reaching into a new base of non-PC literate consumers. Vendors need to prioritize transactional applications, as they will be directly linked to voice authentication’s success. Once both of these applications become mainstream and “v-commerce” is an accepted method of business, a foothold in this market for established transaction voice vendors will be important in acquiring institutional clients.


Interactive Entertainment

Datamonitor believes that solutions developed around interactive entertainment have good potential, due mainly to the proliferation of mobile telephony across Europe and North America . Vendors should market such products by promoting full solutions that will position practical content for interactive gamers as “cool technology.” Some examples could include voice-enabled ring tone or game downloads.


Voice Authentication

Datamonitor believes that voice authentication technology has tremendous potential on a global scale, as revenues are projected to take off toward 2005–2007. This functionality will work in tandem with transactional solutions to create a “v-commerce” sector. In this new era, no longer will customers be asked to punch in PIN-codes via IVR. Rather, they will be able to speak a word prompted by the voice portal and their saved biometric voiceprint will authenticate their identity.


Business Process Automation

Apart from commercial opportunities, voice solutions are perfect for enabling workforce management. This is because many organizations are increasingly seeking to optimize internal functions (for example: scheduling), to reduce the cost of operators, as well as human error. Datamonitor believes that there will be considerable take-up of this technology by utilities, while total revenues associated with this technology will rise to $215 million globally in 2007. This is very significant, given that this revenue total is notably higher than voice authentication and interactive entertainment and poses excellent prospects for firms that wish to target vertical markets with commercially driven voice solutions.



Productivity applications will be focused on the business-to-employee environment. Ideally, firms will be able to harness the power of voice to enhance operations, which could include sales/field force management. As the economy rebounds, Datamonitor feels that the potential for such applications is tremendous, especially in sales-intense firms with large mobile sales forces.



The global communications segment of voice applications is the third largest portion of total voice applications revenues. Indeed, Datamonitor projects that this segment
will grow from $100 million in 2003 to $368 million in 2007, at a total compounded annual growth rate of 36 percent. Datamonitor believes that voice vendors will sell more communications applications by attacking the following areas:


  • Voice activated dialing: This feature will be especially important in the markets where cellular telephone usage in automobiles has been outlawed. By ensuring that networks can handle voice activated dialing in a mobile environment, rapid adoption is certain to occur.
  • Voice-activated voice-mail/e-mail: Voice-enabled e-mail and voice-mail is rapidly moving from “cool” to practical technology that is increasingly being adopted by mobile executives. By enhancing current offerings, this technology will experience further adoption across the user  spectrum.
  • Voice SMS: This technology holds considerable promise. As text messaging continues to thrive in EMEA and North America , a younger set of users will become comfortable with this form of communications. With this in mind, the natural progression to voice-based messages will be a certainty, resulting in voice solutions gaining traction across all spectrums of mobile telephony users.


It needs to be emphasized that for the past few years voice-based communications applications have been implemented only by a limited number of companies. As the economy rebounds, increased productivity and ability to access communications networks will be crucial in both per-sonal and business endeavors. This will drive voice communications enhancements; a trend that Data-monitor feels cannot be ignored by voice providers.


Vertical Markets and Future Growth Opportunities

Datamonitor believes that these verticals are worth noting. (See Figure 3.)


Government: Voice in the public sector is being used to facilitate both “access to information” transparency and cost cutting. Speech solutions can be used to save re-sources on civil servant-manned telephones, while at the same time complementing any Web-based information provision services that public bodies currently have in place.


Utilities: This vertical is rapidly adopting voice to help customers deal with routine enquiries, including billing and work scheduling. From an employee standpoint, voice can be used for logistical needs, in terms of dealing with maintenance and any subsequent reporting.


Education: The voice applications market in the education sector will be an important niche over the coming years. A number of large-scale providers cite this market as a potentially lucrative one in both North America and EMEA, especially with regard to the following functions:


  • Student registration
  • Course information provision
  • Grade reporting

Ideally, the above would work in tandem with similar online functions. However, these solutions will be limited in their scope, appealing mainly to higher education institutions. As such, voice vendors need to be prepared for the long sales cycles associated with these bodies.


Entertainment:  The entertainment industry offers a good opportunity for voice
application adoption. Notable drivers include:


  • Content delivery:  This entails information like celebrity gossip, sports
    scores, soap opera updates or game show information.
  • Auto-ticketing: Voice-enabling the purchase of tickets will be an important driver of speech technology in the entertainment vertical, reducing overhead costs and lowering customer telephone waiting times.
  • Outbound notification: This relates to outbound notification via voice solutions to possible customers of entertainment products. For example, voice solutions could be used to notify interested parties of the release of a new DVD or compact disc.


Datamonitor believes that voice applications offer excellent opportunities for forward-thinking customers intent on  raising ROI and customer satisfaction.


Vendors need to be vigilant in promoting not only faster-growing applications, such as transactional software and voice authentication, but should also keep in mind the excellent potential of more mature applications, including call center automation, information and directory assistance.


Vertical markets need to be targeted effectively, as well. However, it must be remembered that the relatively conservative customers in financial services, outsourcing, and transport and logistics will still grow in voice adoption at a strong rate through 2007, and opportunities in these areas should not be missed.


Voice communications is here to stay as a business tool. Those that succeed will be the firms that properly harness its potential in new and innovative ways. Missing this opportunity means losing market presence going forward.

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