Thomas Smith, Group Manager of IVR/Speech Product Marketing, Verizon Business

Over the next few years, Verizon Business' voice and data networks will be consolidated into a single IP core. In the meantime, Verizon Business is providing convergence-enabling technologies and multi-service edge devices to transition customers to IP.

Speech Technology Magazine sat down with Tom Smith, group manager of IVR/speech product marketing, Verizon Business to discuss his new role as well as the goals and initiatives for Verizon Business.

Q. Verizon Business just opened its offices in January following the merger of Verizon and MCI, what is your role with the new unit and what should we expect to see this year from VB?

A.  I lead the product marketing team for the Verizon Business IVR/Speech suite, which now includes hosted IVR offerings as well as managed services and customer premises equipment (CPE). 

The goal of Verizon Business is to be the premier global communications partner for large business and government customers.  With our advanced global networks, deep IP expertise, wealth of next wave services, and leading broadband and voice capabilities, we're the right company to help enterprise and government customers employ technology to strategic advantage. 

Customers can expect to see more next-generation services rolled out throughout the year, including some exciting developments in the contact center arena. We've integrated the best of the former MCI and Verizon Enterprise Solutions Group to deliver the most comprehensive, end-to-end portfolio of advanced communications and IT solutions available. 

Q. What new services will Verizon Business offer?

A.  We will roll out many new products and services as well as enhance existing ones.  In February, for example, we announced the addition of Internet protocol capability to our Verizon Web Center service, enabling businesses to more effectively communicate with customers using both traditional and IP telephony. 

Maximizing the company's global reach and local density, companies can rely on Verizon Business as their single-source provider for a wide range of local-to-global wired and wireless IP networking, managed services, security, IT services, mobility and business continuity solutions and more — all while enjoying the company's unique customer-first approach to service delivery.

Q. How has the merger with MCI enhanced these offerings and what changes should customers expect to see?

A.  It's been an exciting time for us.  The merger brings the wireless and local strengths of Verizon together with MCI's global IP network and services to create a new kind of company that is competing in all markets.  Verizon Business is the leading provider of VoIP services delivering the most complete portfolio available—including managed contact center solutions to large businesses and government.  We're moving closer to the customer with end-to-end value-added services.  

Our account teams will work with customers to deliver seamless communications solutions using a unified master sales agreement that will simplify the process and deliver the best value to customers. 

Q. You had mentioned that Verizon Business is changing its business model, how is it changing and why?

A. Actually we haven't changed our model we just put it into action based on the combined strengths of the two legacy groups (MCI and Verizon Enterprise Services). 

We are part of an industry today that is rethinking itself and searching for new ways to add and deliver value, newer technologies, greater capabilities and flexibility.  We know the way the world is moving and Verizon Business is leading the transformation.  How we support and how we manage the customer experience is the key to success.  It's about service and our ability to deliver the breadth, depth and quality that customers require.  That's why we recently announced new Service Level Agreements based on what end-users are telling us they want.  We know that no matter how transformational and incredible the technology, we still have to make it work for customers on their own terms. 

Q. How do you plan to establish the Verizon Business brand and who are you targeting with your new services?

A. We are running a national advertising campaign. 

The Verizon Business brand stands for our unwavering customer commitment and the winning combination of unmatched assets and capabilities that we deliver to our customers.  Around the world, our expert sales and service force will directly represent the brand through their day-to-day dealings with prospective and existing customers. 

Q. What is Verizon Business doing with speech technologies in its Contact Center Services, now and in the future?

A. We have deployed speech applications for our enterprise and federal, state and local government customers for about the past five years.  We have delivered a wide range of applications for customers in the financial, travel, retail, and manufacturing industries, among others.  Historically, MCI focused primarily on fully-managed applications on the in-network platform, while Verizon Enterprise Services delivered managed services on dedicated hosted or CPE platforms.  Now, as Verizon Business, we bring it all together and offer IVR/speech via multiple deployment models - from hosted to managed services to CPE.

Our services are evolving in a number of ways, but four specific developments come to mind.  First, we're starting to see more interest in open-ended dialogs using statistical language modeling.  Second, we expect demand to pick up for speaker verification, particularly in the financial services and government segments where Verizon Business has already delivered some pilot applications.  Next, we are in beta mode with our open hosting model, which enables customers to benefit from the reliability, scalability, and low cost of a network platform while providing the control inherent in creating and managing their own applications.  Finally, we have already begun deploying IP Contact Center services and we will be integrating speech services and VoIP.

Q. What kind of impact do you foresee VoIP having on the speech industry?

A.  VoIP and related IP technologies are going to have a tremendously positive impact on contact center services, including speech.  With the recent integration of VoIP and Verizon Web Center, we're already seeing how customers with a distributed workforce can create a single virtual contact center, routing calls across geographic boundaries to the most appropriate agent, regardless of location.  IP-enabled Web Center also reduces costs by enabling contact centers to use local numbers in place of toll-free, and to quickly scale resources based on fluctuating calling patterns.  Looking at the broader impact, IP-based platforms will facilitate interoperability among different devices, enabling multimedia applications and integrating services that today run on separate platforms.  As a result, we will see much more efficient and effective blending of speech and agent-assisted transactions, as the information collected via speech is delivered to ACD's, agent desktops, and other media.  The open architecture of IP platforms will surely remove some roadblocks that exist in today's communications infrastructure.  It will spur development of new services - many of which we haven't even thought of yet - while decreasing development costs and time-to-market.

Q. Are there any comments that you would like to add?

A.   The contact center marketplace is evolving at an ever-accelerating pace.  As we speak, more businesses are moving from touch-tone to speech, from traditional telephony to IP, and - to a degree - from premises-based solutions to hosted ones.  At Verizon Business, we have the experience and expertise to lead our clients successfully through these transitions so that they can focus on delivering maximum value to their customers.


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