• September 1, 2002
  • Q & A

Leon Garza, President and CEO, NetByTel

Q You began your time at NetByTel earlier this year, why did you join NetByTel?
A I have spent the majority of my career successfully growing companies into industry leaders in emerging markets including GPS, PCS and Broadband. NetByTel offered a similar opportunity to utilize those skills for voice-enabled self-service. Touch-tone will migrate to voice … the only question is how fast … and I saw that NetByTel offered a solution to get there faster than anyone else.

Ultimately, I joined NetByTel because they were successfully delivering on their mission in providing their clients with interactive and "human-like" voice-enabled phone solutions that delight their callers, improve their customer service, reduce their operating expenses and increase their revenues. They had focused on a proven business model and technology with real clients and solutions, rather than technology for the sake of technology … and with a business model and suite of IP and solutions that could be expanded worldwide.

Q What has been the some of the biggest obstacles that NetByTel has faced?
A The biggest obstacles for NetByTel have been market confusion and market awareness. Companies are confused based on promises made (and not kept) and the hype created on the ease of creating and managing voice-enabled solutions with their current IVR solution. When those companies peel back the layers of the onion, they discover it is much harder than originally represented. Regarding market awareness of NetByTel and our innovative solutions … this is not unlike any emerging industry. Fortunately, we are overcoming this challenge and executing new NetByTel Connected™ agreements each week as a result of targeted marketing, testimonial selling and most importantly, focusing on the real solutions that we continue to deploy for our clients.

Q Who are some of your partners and why did you choose those companies?
A One of our partners today is Vicinity Corporation. Vicinity is a leader in web based locating services and markets our joint solution to companies such as CitiBank, Barnes & Noble and many others. Our partnership with Vicinity allows them to sell a voice-enabled location finder that is perhaps one of the most accurate location finder in the contact center industry. By offering a location finder that is driven by a spoken address and is then interfacing with the Vicinity geo-coded database, callers get more accurate results than from systems that use only zip code or phone number. It's a great partnership. Vicinity has a complementary solution they can promote to their clients that drives their core business and NetByTel has a partner that has existing client relationships in which to offer other voice solutions beyond their traditional location services. Solution Partnerships is an area in which you will see NetByTel grow dramatically in the coming year to overcome the awareness issue we talked about earlier and to enhance the overall solution for the clients.

Q What are some of the barriers you are seeing to voice technology adoption?
A The way I see it, there are two barriers. The first is the lack of proven and affordable applications, and the second is the lack of credibility in the mind of the enterprise executives that the technology works. Unfortunately, the perception of the contact center industry is that voice-enabled solutions require 'heavy lifting' for custom development, voice user interface skills, software licenses and capital equipment. For the most part, they are correct. That's the reason why NetByTel created the business model, technology and offerings that it has. As for the credibility issue, that barrier is slowly being broken down by the extensive exposure in the press and across the industry that is being given to the deployment of real solutions and real ROIs. Thankfully, it looks like we are moving away from the hype and technology demos.

Q Where do you think the ASP voice services business will be in three years in the US?
A First, let me make the distinction between the voice application hosting business, and the voice applications solutions business. A voice applications solutions company (voice ASP), like NetByTel, provides the total solution including the infrastructure, the solution and the iterative solution enhancements. Voice hosting companies, on the other hand, provide the IP and telecommunications infrastructure only to run voice-enabled applications.

Three years from now, we believe there will a hybrid voice ASP business. In this hybrid implementation, the voice ASP will continue to deliver and support the application, but the infrastructure may be located on-premise with the client, off-site with the ASP as it is today, or a hybrid of both. The key is that the voice ASP will continue to be responsible for the overall success of the solution … monitoring and improving the call completion rates. We believe this will be critical for the vast majority of companies and those that are designing, tuning and enhancing voice-enabled applications will remain outside their core competency.

Q What vertical markets are the strongest drivers/implementers of the services voice recognition technology has to offer?
A The industries using touch-tone and web based self-service today are the most obvious targets. These include retail, finance, government, insurance, manufacturing, publishing, pharmaceutical and utilities. In simplest terms, increased cost pressures from providing live agent support and the migration from touch-tone to voice-enabled self-service provides some of the most fertile ground.

Q How important are human-factors-design issues compared to the underlying technology such as accuracy performance for a successful speech solution? What are ways customers can improve the design process?
A Human Factors is the most important thing. I think of the underlying voice recognition technology as the operating system. Without it, PCs don't work and without intuitive and useful solutions like Excel, it's just a box and an operating system. That's why we have focused on building a voice application platform that leverages reusable and configurable applications and components. These applications and components embed NetByTel's proven human factors know-how.

Your other question was how can customers improve the design process. The answer is to have them listen to the live agent calls before deployment and the voice-enabled calls after deployment. They should then become part of the process to understand the business rule issues and interfaces required to enhance usability.

Q What are your thoughts concerning standards and their impact on speech technology?
A Standards, like VoiceXML 2.0, are critical in allowing different pieces of the solution to work together easily and effectively for the client. With these standards, each piece of the voice recognition ecosystem can focus on their core competency and to leverage the core competencies of others. In working strictly within this ecosystem, and using standards such as VoiceXML 2.0, companies like NetByTel will bring proven voice-enabled solutions to contact centers, in many cases through a variety of CRM companies, IVR companies, Voice Gateway companies and service companies.

Q Last question, when we get back together three years from now, how will speech technology be impacting the world?
A We tend to think of it in terms of solutions, not technology. For the most part, clients don't care about technology. That said, in three years I believe over 50% of all enterprises will have voice-enabled telephone self-service deployed. This includes enterprises currently using touch-tone self-service, as well as those that are not.

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