Some Positive Press
Here's an interesting turn of events: Despite the recent negative press on speech technology, Newsday, a daily newspaper serving more than 2 million readers on Long Island, NY, countered with a fairly positive piece on the industry. What's more, the story, "If You Prefer Humans, Press 0," by Tania Padgett, (October 19, 2006), even dedicated a significant amount of attention to Paul English, founder of gethuman.com. It behooves those in the industry to welcome English and learn from him, as he's splashing some much-needed water on the industry's face.
How does a story that features Paul English—who on his Web site reveals ways to bypass companies' speech-enabled IVRs for a human— also shed positive light on the speech technology industry? It's simple: It acknowledges the technology's value, that it is a maturing industry, and that new capabilities are coming. In fact, the story's deck reads, "Sure, people have hang-ups about automated voices, but it's not all bad."
A similar scenario unfolded some years ago in the CRM industry, when Gartner distinguished analyst Scott Nelson and other analysts carped about the high CRM-technology failure rates, stating it was between 50 and 80 percent. This sent shockwaves throughout the CRM market. Industry pundits took issue with these figures, as they claimed the numbers weren't scientific. (How can analysts measure failure rates when many customer companies weren't setting predefined goals for their CRM projects?) However, Nelson et al.'s failure rates declaration forced customers to become savvier about CRM technology. They demanded more proof from vendors before purchasing systems. Today, CRM is enjoying its second year of double-digit growth after several years of stagnation.
Some industry professionals may not agree with English's aggressive consumer advocacy tactics. However, he is not the enemy. English is trying to help vendors improve their customer facing efforts with smarter, more considerate speech technology efforts. Who would not want that?
In this issue of Speech Technology Magazine readers will find industry coverage that will help companies improve their customer-facing efforts. The cover story, "Continental Airlines Takes Off with Speech," by Associate Editor Stephanie Staton, (see page 16) highlights some benefits of automating routine support calls. "Read Between the Words," by Tom Freeman (see page 20), offers ideas to make a speech application communicate sound less robotic. The system should be able to handle the ebb and flow of conversational speech, such as starts, stops, restarts, stutters, and run-on sentences. On page 24, "The First 100 Days of Deployment," by Andrea Holko, offers tips on how to tune speech self-service applications on the fly, immediately after they are set up and running.
"Automation Nation: How to Build Buy-In," by Lizanne Kaiser, offers tips on how to solve a common problem facing many new technologies. See this story on page 28. "SOA: Connecting the Pieces," by John Joseph (see page 30), shows how companies can use a service-oriented architecture to enable their IVRs to communicate valuable information from their computer networks. Last, on page 32, "Reaching Across the Language Barrier," by Lisa Cochran, uses The Probation Parole Division of New Mexico to illustrate how instant language translation can improve speech tech accuracy by focusing on meaning, not perfect grammar.
I know these stories and others in Speech Technology Magazine will help to improve companies' speech technology efforts and, in turn, generate more positive press for the industry.