Martin Falaro, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales, SpeechWorks

Q Why join the speech technology industry at this time?

A While all of tech is in a downturn, the fundamentals of speech technologies are powerful…new standard in VoiceXML; blue-chip customer adoption; limited competitive landscape; SPWX leadership position in technologies and services.

Q How tough is it to grow a company in an industry that many people say is still very much in its infancy? How do you accomplish your growth plans?

A It's about awareness, coverage and a solid process to educate prospects and compel their interest in speech. At SpeechWorks, our S.T.E.P. program does just that. It's also about applications, or packaging technology and services in a way that both compels customers and makes the evaluation process more simple.

Q How should an enterprise avaluate their needs for using speech technology?

A Our Application Discovery program, the first step in our B-S.T.E.P. program, is a great way for enterprise customers to understand where speech can deliver the greatest business result. We've conducted over 70 Application Discoveries worldwide and prospects seem to appreciate the clarity those sessions provide. When we conduct Application Discoveries, we end up delivering prospects over 30 candidate applications that can benefit their business. We hone that list to 1-2 top applications, and then move on to the second phase, Monetization, where we fine-tune a custom ROI model to help our prospects better quantify their gains from speech.

Q What Vertical market segments do you see providing the most growth opportunities for speech technology?

A Travel and hospitality, financial services including banking, brokerage and insurance, federal, state and local government, utilities and the broad horizontal of commerce.

Q What do you think of the opportunities for growth within the service provider/network carrier markets?

A We all know the carrier segment is experiencing some business challenges right now. Speech can help them breakthrough those challenges on a variety of levels. Speech can reduce customer churn through value-add services. Speech can reduce costs in the carrier's call center. Speech can create the 'fat minute', or a longer interaction as callers access speech services to receive information. So the fundamental appeal of speech in the carrier segment is sound. When carrier spending comes back, and I believe it will, speech is well-positioned to garner significant investment.

Q How does a company become a partner with SpeechWorks?

A Partners are key to our distribution strategy, and we continue to introduce new partners. We have focused our partner program to better support and resource our top tier partners. By 'top tier' I mean the ones committed to speech, and who are investing in growing this market.

Q SpeechWorks' sales have been flat for the last few quarters, what would you say to those investors who are wondering if the stock will ever go back up?

A Good question. Unfortunately, we're not immune to the macro economy and as other tech segments backslide, we are, as you point out, holding our own 'flat'. I would say to investors that the fundamental appeal of speech hasn't changed. Our recent ROI research project showed payback around 9 months, and annual savings - on average - in excess of $1m. United Airlines, in our Global Speech Day web event, declared that they've saved over $24m since they deployed in the late 90's. With fundamental value like that, speech will prove a sound investment for years to come. As we advance the technology, and as our DSR and multimodal strategies augment our current speech value-prop, market prospects look positive. Of course, the market is a fickle animal, but we're marketing and selling purposeful, powerful technologies, backed by services that make those technologies sing for major businesses worldwide. Those are certainly strong beachheads.

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