Larry Miller, President and CEO, TuVox

TuVox is a provider of enterprise speech applications. TuVox combines built-in speech applications with lifecycle management software which is designed to reduce the cost of deploying and maintaining speech applications. Built on open standards, TuVox's enterprise software automates calls such as natural language call routing, self-service transactions, and customer support. TuVox provides three deployment options: a fully hosted, managed and maintained OnDemand solution; a premise-based solution, managed and updated by TuVox; and a premise-based, customer-managed solution.

Speech Technology Magazine sat down with Larry Miller, president and CEO of TuVox, to talk about the successes in speech technologies during 2005 and his vision for 2006.

Q. We're kicking off the new year and another SpeechTEK West show next week, how would you sum up 2005 for speech technologies?

A. I would sum up 2005 as a very busy year.  From the solution provider perspective, it clearly was the year that kicked off major consolidation and mergers and acquisitions in the industry.  As you know TuVox was part of this trend with our acquisition of NetByTel.

The market in 2005 also demonstrated a shift, in that more companies are looking for hosted or remotely managed speech solutions. The June 2005 "Voice as a Service" research from Datamonitor outlines some compelling market sizing that demonstrates the acceleration of growth in the hosted speech segment of the market.

Finally, I believe that 2005 was the year in which companies began viewing speech applications and voice self-service solutions as a "have to have" versus "nice to have."  Much of this has been driven by significant advances in technology and an increasing number of high-quality speech applications that are now in production.  However, there is a rapidly growing concern from the caller adoption perspective that is also driving this trend.  The traditional IVR market has taken a fairly negative hit from an ease-of-use perception with Web sites such as Paul English's blog that helps consumers bypass bad IVR applications to get to a live agent. Most of this negative perception is driven by the outdated, hierarchical, legacy touchtone systems that currently dominate the IVR market. TuVox is committed to changing that perception by increasing caller adoption through delivery of speech applications that provide a superior caller experience and that are easy and efficient to use.  Increased caller adoption not only drives a better, faster ROI, but also improves customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty. 

Q. What are your success metrics? Is this based solely on market position or do you have some other tools that you use to measure the success of this industry?

A. For TuVox, our key success metrics revolve around customer acquisition and caller satisfaction.  In addition, the key metric for success in the industry, as well as for TuVox, is the revenue growth driven by more companies deploying voice self-service solutions and increased caller adoption of speech automation for solving customer service issues.  I believe another important metric for market position is the number of high-quality voice self-service applications in production. Many vendors in this industry are currently getting a large percentage of their revenue from simply speech-enabling IVR call flows for their captive installed base customers. I think this does a disservice to those customers, to their callers and to the industry.  In contrast, those vendors that focus on delivering a truly better, personalized caller experience through voice self-service applications that in turn result in delivering higher satisfaction and increased automation rates for their customers are ultimately the vendors that are seeing the greatest momentum in growing their market share and market leadership.

In 2005, TuVox's customer base increased to over 50 customers with hundreds of applications in production.  We have seen rapidly growing adoption of high-quality speech applications by industries such as retail, financial services and communications.

Q. Keeping these tools in mind, what do you see happening with speech technologies in 2006?

A. According to Datamonitor, the speech market will grow from $1.16 billion in 2005 to $2.48 billion in 2009.  We clearly see more room for consolidation in 2006.  We also see some major players entering the speech market beyond the call center segment.  This will extend speech technologies beyond call center-based customer service and into more day to day activities for consumers such as integrating more speech capabilities in mobile phones. This will serve to increase consumer market awareness and acceptance, ultimately lowering barriers to adoption for the entire market.

Q. What does TuVox have in the works for 2006?

A. In 2006 we will drive continued expansion and growth through customer acquisition in both domestic and international markets.  We will continue to focus on those strategic partnerships that support our customer acquisition objectives, as well as key M&A opportunities. We are actively working on specific strategic partnerships and expect to make major announcements in those areas very soon. 

We will be accelerating our international market penetration by adding several key customers in Europe as well as Australia/New Zealand. We launched our international business in mid-2005 and already have customers and applications in production in both the UK and New Zealand.

Additionally, we expect to substantially increase the number of self-service speech application modules that we offer.  We currently have over 40 self-service modules and, as we expand our presence in new verticals, we will be increasing our speech application offerings for those verticals.  We also plan to introduce an updated release of our Perfect Router conversational call routing application.  TuVox Perfect Router has been a great success with many of our customers who value customer loyalty and believe in the importance of providing a superior caller experience by delivering conversational voice self-service as the first point of contact.  We view it as enabling our customers to present their specifically branded Web-based home page to their telephone-based customers.

Q. SpeechTEK West is just around the corner. Will you be attending and will TuVox have any big announcements that customers should watch for?

A. Are you kidding?  We wouldn't miss it.  SpeechTEK is the only industry conference that we attend.  As always, we plan to be making some exciting announcements around new customers and new partnerships at SpeechTEK West.

Q. Last fall, TuVox acquired speech applications and hosted business customers from NetByTel.  How has this affected your customer offerings?

A. The NetByTel acquisition has further expanded our product offerings and our industry expertise in new markets such as retail and financial services. With the acquisition of NetByTel customers, the mix of our install base customers who use our hosted solution has increased from 50 percent to 70 percent.

Q. Do you have any additional comments?

A. We are excited and feel fortunate to be part of this industry just as market adoption of speech applications and voice self-service is accelerating.  It is a rare opportunity to be involved in an emerging technology market at this point in its evolution and we intend to make the most of it.  The TuVox team is proud of what it has been able to deliver to its customers and we hope that it is just the beginning of establishing a legacy of highly satisfied customers by enabling them to deliver the highest quality caller experience to their customers.

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about TuVox, and best wishes for a successful and prosperous 2006.

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