Communications Firms Get Unified: Voxeo Acquires Imified

Voxeo, a unified communications and standards platform provider, today acquired Imified, a hosted instant messaging (IM) platform provider in a bid to expand its self-service reach beyond its traditional base in telephony.

Both companies are privately held; the financial details of the arrangement have not been made public.

The acquisition is seen by Jonathan Taylor, Voxeo’s chief executive officer, as part of a larger strategy to grow his company across self-service input modalities.

“One of the most compelling areas we’ve seen is what we called unified self-service,” explains Taylor. “That’s the idea, that an enterprise can build a self-service solution once that works across different modes of access from their end customers.”

Imified’s technological offering, which, at least in part, inspired Voxeo’s purchase, works across a large gamut of major IM services including that of AOL, Cisco/Jabber, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. The company is monetized as a platform-as-a-service application programming interface and counts more than 7,500 developers as its client base.

Among the things Imified’s interface has been used to develop are IM bots for customer service inquiries, package tracking, emergency notifications, customer surveys, identity verification, the creation of games, and access to Google calendars, as well as Twitter.

Today’s announcement appears to be a bid to maintain Voxeo’s steady record growth.

To date, 30,000 applications have been built on the company’s platform; Voxeo has seen 21 consecutive quarters of growth; and, according to Taylor, last year its revenues increased 105 percent.

“In general, non-speech alternatives are increasing,” he says. “You’re seeing, especially with mobile web browsing and the iPhone, more self-service via the web remotely, more SMS and instant messaging-based self-service.”

Taylor describes two emerging trends Voxeo has observed: the growth of non-telephony, non-speech based self-services, and the general growth of self-service. Younger demographics, he explains, are not trending towards the phone for service, but are engaging via other means like IM—which isn’t to say that speech isn’t growing.

“The overall self-service industry is growing so much that even voice self-service is growing today,” he says. “They’re getting swept up in that wave of automation.”

Daniel Hong, lead analyst for Datamonitor, agrees with at least some of Taylor’s assertions. He claims that Millennials and generations younger will increasingly use a combination of web, social, networks, and online clients.

“We will reach a point (maybe sometime in the next 10 to15 years) where call volumes will probably begin to decrease,” he writes in an email to Speech Technology. “The phone, however,” he writes, “will not be going away in customer support/service. Voice interaction is obviously extremely crucial for communicating effectively between agent and customer.”

It’s not hard to imagine why vendors might be excited about an incoming IM “wave.” According to Voxeo, an IVR costs one-tenth of what it would cost to run a live agent based service, and IM-based clients bring further savings, costing one-hundredth the price associated with the live agent service. The magnitude of savings coming from IM clients is doubtlessly playing a significant role in their growth.

According to Hong, IVRs will remain a strong part of Voxeo’s business for the foreseeable future, though.

“This move signifies that Voxeo is broadening its focus on self-service and emerging channels in the short-term and looking to position itself stronger in UC over the long-term,” he writes. “If you look at the bigger picture—once you have greater penetration of [Session Initiation Protocol] SIP in the network and across customer service—then we will start noticing new species of multimodal and multimedia applications across multiple channels.”  

While things seem secure for speech in the short run, these trends seem to suggest a disruption for telephony overall in the long run. It should be noted, however, that speech, while representing a sizable portion of Voxeo’s hosted telephony deployments (around 40 percent), has not represented the lion’s share of its telephonic business. As much as 60 percent of its hosted telephonic deployments have been touchtone based.

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