Anthony McKay and Bill Burgar, Co-Founders of Telephonetics

Q Please give us some background on Telephonetics.

A Telephonetics is a British company, co-founded by two ex-Nortel employees, Anthony MacKay and Bill Burgar, that has grown organically since its foundation in 1994. The company is enjoying its ninth profitable year in succession and its revenue has increased by 27% over the last three years. Telephonetics is a leading U.K. innovator in the development of digital computer telephony and speech recognition business solutions. The company takes business solutions from conception, to software design and creation, through to hardware installation and support. Throughout this process, Telephonetics works closely with customers, technology suppliers and channel partners to ensure that all our products and services are of the highest quality and provide customers with true business advantages in an ever increasingly competitive world.

Telephonetics currently provides a variety of speech recognition solutions suitable for any type and size of organization or company, including the Telephonetics Voice Dialler and the ContactPortal systems, as well as providing bespoke services.

Q What is your primary market?

A Telephonetics currently supplies approximately 75% of the U.K. multiplex cinema IVR market. It also provides bespoke developments, generic products and managed services for other industries, and has a blue chip client base that includes The Odeon, UCI, Showcase, BBC, MM O2, Avaya, the NHS and local government.

Q Can you explain the Bespoke Development service offering and what it means to your customers?

A Telephonetics offers services that cover the whole product life cycle from initial ideas and concepts through specification, implementation, testing, installation and user training to after sales maintenance and ongoing developments. Telephonetics has much experience in taking original ideas from concept through to full production. All software is developed in-house, using our core object technology, which represents considerable investment over the years. As a result of using this core library of code it is possible to deliver highly reliable systems in short timescales. The systems created by Telephonetics are very specialized and our customers often prefer us to construct the hardware for them. All of the hardware we provide is subject to the same strict construction and testing regime as our software to ensure the highest quality product. Before any project receives its stamp of approval it is subjected to both specific tests and prolonged periods of flood testing.

Q Please give an example of a customer that utilized this service and how it was effective for them.

A Telephonetics created the one of world's first speech recognition system for the floristry industry. Developed for U.K.-based Webflorists, which acts as a gateway to over 7,000 florists in U.K. and Ireland, the system allows callers nationwide to order items ranging from daffodils and hanging baskets to wedding bouquets and Christmas wreaths. To use the system, customers just dial Webflorists on 08450 111 111 and say the name of the town or village they would like to deliver the flowers to. The call is then automatically transferred to a florist in the immediate area. The main benefits of the system are the reduction in administration costs (about 30%) generally charged by other floral services providers and secondly to provide customers with a more personalized service, as they talk to the florist that will actually design and deliver their floral arrangement. As a result, the florists can be more creative, sell add on items, build customer loyalty and take every penny from the order. By joining forces with carrier solution provider Intelliplus, Telephonetics has been able to put speech recognition services into the telecom network and provide Webflorists with a very cost effective solution.

Q Please explain the deployment with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust.

A Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust is the first NHS Trust in the U.K. to implement voice recognition technology to act as a whole team of virtual operators to handle the 6,000 calls per day it receives across its suite of hospitals. Staff at the hospital are able to use Telephonetics' ContactPortal to make both internal and outbound calls, simply by saying the name of the person they want to speak to. They can also say the name of the individual, department, hospital or GP they want to contact, thus avoiding the hassle of having to look up telephone numbers. For Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, the system does not only allow it to provide professional and consistent high quality call handling at any time of the day or night, it will also take much of the routine call answering away from switchboard staff, allowing them to focus instead on more complex calls.

The technology has shown itself to be successful for the large proportion of people who call the exchange knowing the information they want or the person they need to speak to. This represents up to 70 percent of the traffic and Telephonetics is able to deal with these calls with an almost 100 percent success rate. For others, the system allows callers to ask for the operator at the start of their call.

Q Please describe the results of user acceptance tests that have been conducted to understand the success of the system?

A At Telephonetics, we pride ourselves on the quality of our solutions and the high level of voice recognition accuracy we achieve - which reaches 98 percent. In order to obtain such results, we have put into place a process that assesses user satisfaction as well as monitors the usage of the solution in order to improve it. Early in the implementation of the solution, we conduct user satisfaction surveys to get some feedback about the accuracy, speed and reliability of the system. This enables us to quickly make any improvements necessary. The second part of the process is to record and save everything that has been said while using the voice recognition system. Telephonetics then listen to all the calls to check that all the utterances are matched in the grammar. In the case of Gloucestershire NHS Trust Hospitals it was discovered that people were referring to departments in multiple ways. For example, no one calls asking for the "Oral Surgery and Maxillofacial Surgery" department, but asks for something like the dental department. By monitoring all the calls, Telephonetics was able to cover all of those variations and ensure that callers would be connected to the right department. Listening to users also enables us to cover all the regional accents and to then phonetically tune the system to recognize them all.

This ongoing process of monitoring usage of the system to improve upon it and get regular feedback from the users explains the success and high quality of our solutions.

Q Does NHS have plans of expanding their current speech technology solution to other solutions?

A Other hospitals are interested in Telephonetics ContactPortal and Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust is considering how it can be used more widely, perhaps as an automatic appointment reminder system, or as an NHS-wide directory inquiries. The new appointment reminder system uses a combination of advanced speech recognition and text-to-speech technology to contact patients ahead of their appointment to remind them that they're due to attend. The amount of notice given to remind the patient is fully configurable within the system. With official figures showing 5.2 million missed hospital outpatient appointments in one year in England alone cost the NHS £262 million, the new system could not only save substantial amounts of money but also have a positive impact on NHS waiting lists.

Q Who are your partners and how do you choose them?

A We work with partners who share our philosophy of delivering 'best of breed' solutions to our customers. Our development partners include Nuance, Scansoft and Aculab. Similarly, as with our technology partners, the same applies to our sales channel, where partners are chosen based upon the level of service and value they can offer end-users, together with their expertise in specific vertical markets.

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