Chetan Patel, CEO, speechvantage

Q Tell us about speechvantage. How did the company get started? What is your mission?

A speechvantage was founded in August 2001, with our first solutions being developed as customized speech applications for GMAC Commercial Mortgage, a leading financial solutions provider. In developing these successful applications, our goal was, and still is, to increase company productivity, reduce cost and improve customer satisfaction.

In 2002, speechvantage built upon this experience and developed our main product suite, OLIVE (On-Line Interactive Voice Exchange), which is comprised of four foundation packaged products which provide enterprise required solutions and are also utilized for the deployment of our clients' custom speech applications. Every speech recognition and text-to-speech solution we offer effectively manages basic business needs, including expense reduction, efficiency increases and automation of multiple repetitive tasks. As a result, speechvantage ultimately helps businesses reduce operational costs, enhance customer service and provide a measurable return on investment. To date, we have had numerous successful implementations, with vertical expertise in the financial services, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and retail marketplaces. Leading customers include GMAC, GlaxoSmithKline, Day-Timers and Ann Taylor.

speechvantage is committed to providing quality voice recognition solutions that align business goals with speech technology. We create out-of-the-box and customized applications that can be leveraged against multiple protocols and successfully applied in a range of industries.

Q Discuss your sales force automation product and how does it improve sales productivity?

A The speechvantage has created a customized interface to a web based CRM application that gives a company's sales team anywhere, anytime access to critical client, task, scheduling and contact information. By incorporating a voice portal interface in the sales force portal, the solution enables mobile individuals to do everything they would with Microsoft Outlook and an intelligent sales automation tool-- all by voice. The solution is extremely easy to use and offers the same functionality as PDA and wireless devices, yet it only requires the use of a phone, a feature that drives costs down and efficiencies up. The tool is optimal for mobile salespeople who need updated records at their fingertips but are unable to access the Internet, Lotus Notes or Outlook on a regular or timely basis as well as determining next steps in a sale cycle.

Q What are your thoughts concerning multimodality and its potential impact on communications?

A Multimodality has become increasingly accepted across the board, as it helps businesses achieve a number of fundamental goals, chiefly cost-savings and enhanced productivity levels. Because speechvantage has business-tested applications, we know that clients need simple and efficient applications that can be used for basic business tasks without introductory training. This, in turn, makes employees much more productive and also saves organizations money.

Our studies have shown that the deployment of large-scale voice recognition solutions dramatically impact a company's ROI. For instance, a speechvantage customized call center solution significantly helped a telecom client significantly reduce the cost associated with managing incoming customer calls. Previously, the cost of one call averaged $5.00, but the speechvantage solution reduced that figure to a mere $0.25 per call—creating incredible company-wide savings.

Q One of the unique offerings by speechvantage is the "Clinical Trial Application". Please tell us how this application is beneficial and how it originated. Provide a description of a recent deployment.

A The speechvantage Clinical Trial Application offers an easy-to-use phone-based method for patient and test subjects to enter their data into a system as needed by a clinical trial study. Traditionally, pharmaceutical companies relied on a call centers or had to equip patients with costly PDAs in order to obtain data and manage clinical trials. With our unique Clinical Trial Application, patients are enabled to use their telephone to respond to pre-recorded questions from an enthusiastic virtual Associate. They never have to speak to a live operator or deal with the hassle of being put on hold.

A good example of a successful deployment of this solution is our engagement with AstraZeneca UK. The company decided to implement the Clinical Trial Application in hopes of reducing the hefty costs associated with collecting patient information, which totaled approximately $1000 per person per trial. The speechvantage solution not only saved AstraZeneca UK money, but also had an overwhelming user acceptance rate of 98 percent.

Q What makes speechvantage unique to your competition and whom would you list as competitors?

A speechvantage is differentiated from others in the sector because we provide multiple packaged applications that support key business enterprise functionality. The enhanced communication and efficiencies are achieved straight out-of-the-box. By minimizing deployment time, we help our customers quickly realize the benefits associated with speech technology solutions. Additionally, we offer customized applications at a minimum cost, allowing clients to achieve unique needs of the enterprise.

And unlike other companies in the voice recognition space, we provide applications and solutions not just technology therefore our customers receive ongoing support and maintenance via our OLIVEcare service. We are committed to keeping all OLIVE and custom applications operating at maximum efficiency on a 24/7 basis.

Q Can you tell us how your Auto Attendant solution differs from that of your competition?

A Part of the OLIVE Suite of products, the Speech-Enabled Auto Attendant is a cost-effective application that acts as a personable, automated receptionist that answers calls 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. The entire OLIVE Suite was developed on Windows and VoiceXML platforms, so it offers several advantages over other speech enabled products, namely ease of implementation, scalability and accuracy.

We have experience implementing our solutions in multiple Fortune 500 client implementations, and the application can be up and running in some cases in less than two days. The open-systems feature and our use of VoiceXML help to drive seamless systems integration and also reduce the cost of deployment. Companies ranging in size from 200 employees to 110,000 employees currently rely on the Auto Attendant, proof that the solution can meet the needs of any organization.

Q Provide an example of a successful custom speech application. Please provide supporting statistics.

A In addition to the speechvantage OLIVE Suite, a packaged suite of business applications, we also offer customized voice-activated applications that meet the particular needs of an organization. As I previously mentioned, speechvantage has specific vertical expertise in the financial services, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and retail industries. We recently worked with Day-Timers, a leading provider of time management and organizational solutions, to develop an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that streamlines the company's order process by eliminating the need for a live operator and handling high call volumes. As a result, the company benefits from remarkable cost savings and delivers enhanced customer service. We helped Ann Taylor, a premier American specialty apparel retailer, realize a significant return on investment within three months by implementing an inventory locator application as a phase one solution with two other phases being developed and deployed over the next several months.

Our experience in the healthcare field includes developing a voice-enabled surgery scheduling application for a large orthopedic parts company. Obviously, designing an extremely accurate application was key, as the company continually works on an emergency-basis. The resulting tool allows time-pressed employees to deliver the correct parts, schedule deliveries and order parts while on the road—all by phone.

Q Who are your partners and why did you choose these partners? How do you decide to partner with a company?

A speechvantage currently works with a network of industry leaders that offer proven products and demonstrate a clear commitment to the growing field of speech recognition. When choosing our partners, the speechvantage team looks for companies that will support and complement our product line, as well as work with us to develop innovative speech solutions. If we are not a good fit for each other's markets, the partnership simply will not work. We strive to create strong relationships that benefit both parties.

Although our solutions are "technology agnostic," we have partnered with several companies that produce pieces of the solution stack and our goal is to provide best of breed complete solutions that work to the expectations of our clients. Partners that provide pieces of our voice solutions include Speechworks, BBN, VoiceGenie, Syntellect and Vocalocity . These relationships provide speechvantage with key voice infrastructure components that still allow our products to remain platform independent. Finally, speechvantage works with several leading switch manufacturers, including Avaya, Nortel, Vertical Networks, and Shoreline, to deploy and support our applications on their platform.

Q What are some of the things we can look for from speechvantage in 2003? What are your goals?

A Overall, I foresee widespread market acceptance of speech applications. Although a good deal of Fortune 500 companies already utilize speech-enabled applications to meet their business needs, many firms have yet to embrace this enhancing technology. Broad acceptance will cause more and more organizations to rely on speechvantage to deploy enterprise applications that boost individual productivity, raise customer service levels and drive company-wide savings.

More specifically, speechvantage is actively working on a number of new initiatives for 2003. We are planning the rollout of our packaged Password Reset application, a voice-enabled solution that solves a prevalent and costly IT Help Desk issue. Currently, this simple, yet time-consuming task is handled by a live Help Desk employee and costs as much as $25 per call. By automating this function, the speechvantage Password Reset tool will dramatically reduce the cost of one call to a mere two dollars. speechvantage has several projects associated with placing a voice interface to web portals. This will significantly change the way people use the Internet, buy products online and interact with one another.

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