• September 1, 2002
  • Q & A

Steve Chambers, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales, SpeechWorks

Q You have been SVP for about a week now. What unique insights into the market have you seen so far?
A It's funny you say that. We just held our semi-annual sales meeting, so I've had an opportunity to speak directly with our worldwide sales team. What I heard is good news: There's tremendous interest in speech. The challenge: Create urgency - make speech something companies can't afford not to deploy. With customers like United Airlines saying speech technology has saved United more than $24m since 1999, we're well aware of the power of speech, and how speech can transform our customers' operations. Economic conditions, particularly in No. America, have dampened IT spending in general, but it's a powerful indicator that in Q2 we announced new customers in financial services, insurance, healthcare, and travel, and we're seeing new business from our existing customers like Travelers and Dollar. People are taking time to consider, and deploy, speech, despite macroeconomic conditions.

Q How does this new role change your duties? What precipitated this move?
A I think this role, and the motivation for creating the role, recognizes the importance of pre-sales marketing programs backed by aggressive sales execution. SpeechWorks sales and marketing have always been closely aligned and over the last three years, we've created a marketing program that obsessively focuses on enabling sales results. So the marketing team is, and will continue to be, engaged with sales and working closely together to develop and implement our prospect care programs like B-S.T.E.P. & T-S.T.E.P., as well as our base expansion and partner optimization programs. These innovative prospect, customer and partner programs work best when marketing and sales are walking in lock-step.

Personally, since joining SpeechWorks I've been closely involved with our sales reps, our customers and partners. As SVP, I'll have the opportunity to be more directly accountable for satisfying our prospects and customers, as well as working with the senior sales teams worldwide to establish new sales strategies and structures- to- support- those- strategies. By managing both worldwide sales and marketing, I'll focus on focus…driving our efforts on major account opportunities and introducing programs to satisfy those accounts quicker, so the sales cycle is reduced and the customer experiences faster time-to-results.

This move was precipitated by my desire to work more closely with our sales team, and the departure of another executive who joined SpeechWorks in April for personal reasons.

Q What should the speech technology industry as a whole be doing to increase the growth rate of speech technology deployments?
A I'm glad you asked. Right now, it's so important that we continue to grow the market for speech services. There are several ways to move the market forward including: standards support and focusing on the caller experience.

Industry Standards: Promoting the adoption of industry standards such as VoiceXML, SALT and MRCP will allow the large developer community to quickly develop and deploy quality speech applications for the enterprise and carrier markets.

Focus on the Caller: It really is 'all about the caller'. At SpeechWorks, we've examined our most successful applications to tease-out the major criteria for their success. The theory: Understanding the model of what makes the best be 'the best' will allow us to replicate that model for more and more SpeechWorks customers. At SpeechWorks, we've built hundreds of applications, for diverse industries, on diverse platforms, in multiple languages, and the mantra of our worldwide solutions services organization has always been "Know they Caller". It's just vital.

Industry Cooperation: Particularly in these economic times, this industry needs to prove itself. We need to show prospects that 'yes, speech works.' That means that speech delivers the goods - the monetary return - and that speech satisfies. That callers like using speech systems. That's an industry, not vendor, issue. We need to cooperate to expand our market and kick-start industry growth.

Q You have talked about companies having a 'speech strategy' why is this important?
A Every business investment or initiative should have a strategy, and 'speech' is no different. Like web strategies that structure a company's web interactions with customers, and like contact center strategies that structure agent interactions with customers, so should a speech strategy structure speech interactions with customers. A 'speech strategy' is an enterprise-wide blueprint for achieving business results from the deployment of speech technologies. A successful speech strategy identifies how technologies like speech recognition, TTS and speaker verification will increase customer satisfaction, drive significant ROI, and deliver a consistent caller experience that is branded and memorable.

A speech strategy ensures that targeted results are achieved in the shortest timeframe. It ensures that an organization selects the right applications and technologies to meet its corporate needs, and that it establishes a common brand through all customer contact points. Most importantly, it ensures that an organization maximizes its investment in speech solutions today and well into the future. Organizations that want to implement a speech strategy should partner with a vendor who understands what a speech strategy is. That means one companies with a clear success model, and who can impart that model in a structured way.

Q What do you believe will be key market drivers for this technology in the short-term? Long-term?
A Short-term: Shifts in the macro-economy, and the IT spending spigot opening up. Greater customer awareness on speech benefits, and key, visible deployments to encourage that continue to prove that 'yes…speech works'.

Long-term: Market expansion including the proliferation of device/embedded technologies and multimodal technologies, both of which will spur and reinforce demand for core speech technologies. Increased access to simple, mainstream developer's tools. And of course, continued evolution of speech technology performance, including gains in accuracy and robustness in ASR, naturalness and efficiency in TTS, and equal error rate improvements in Speaker Verification.

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