Peter Monaco, Vice President of Application Engineering, Nuance Communications
You've seen Nuance evolve during the last several years, focusing on speech recognition, voice authentication, Text-to-Speech (TTS) and now - in addition to all those things - packaged applications and a platform approach. What was the impetus for Nuance Voice Platform and how are partners/customers responding to the open standards approach?
Peter Monaco We developed Nuance Voice Platform after seeing strong customer demand for an open, standards-based speech solution. We actually started seeing interest in this approach some time ago and announced our first platform-based solution, Nuance Voice Web Server, three years ago. Given our position in the market, our work with the VXML standard and our speech application design experience, people naturally asked us if we had an applicable solution. So far, customer response has been strong. Customers including telecommunications leader TELUS, as well as Z-Tel along with enterprises such as GE Polymerland and Wells Fargo are using Nuance's VoiceXML-based platforms today. Also, many value added resellers are successfully offering their own applications and services built on the Nuance Voice Platform including Workforce Technologies, Fluency Voice Technology, Datria Systems and HTI Voice Solutions, among others. Basically, customers recognize the benefits of open standards-based speech solutions. They are less costly to implement, have an accelerated time to market, take advantage of advanced speech technologies and leverage existing Web-related IT infrastructure and skill sets. And customers are recognizing the advantages of Nuance Voice Platform.
How does the packaged application approach and the development of Nuance Call Steering 1.0 align with the company's corporate strategy?
PM An important objective of Nuance's corporate strategy is to broaden the speech market. One way to do this is by offering compelling speech solutions that are faster and easier to deploy and manage. Packaged applications certainly support this goal, as they can cut deployment time in half and significantly reduce development complexity and risk. Also, customers receive seamless product updates and ongoing technical support with true packaged applications. Nuance Call Steering 1.0 provides these packaged application benefits as well as tight integration with Nuance Voice Platform's Management Station (which offers reporting capabilities). We view Call Steering as a killer application since it addresses a multi-million dollar problem that all enterprises and telecommunications carriers face - accurately and cost-effectively routing customer phone calls to the correct customer care destination. Estimates indicate that large call centers with 50-100 million calls per year could save up to $20 million annually using Nuance Call Steering for automation, while smaller call centers with 5 million calls per year could save up to $2 million annually. With Call Steering, customers can also consolidate their various customer service phone numbers to one 800-number that simply greets callers with "Welcome. What can I do for you today?" A caller may respond by describing their request naturally, rather than awaiting structured prompts. The system can then quickly and automatically route callers to the destination best suited to their needs: such as the billing department or store locator. Customers like the fact that they avoid confusing touch-tone menus and lengthy on-hold times.
Other speech vendors are offering packaged applications. How does Nuance's approach compare?
PM As we see it, Nuance is the only vendor to have packaged the "killer app" - advanced natural language call steering. Our objective with Call Steering was to provide the maximum level of cost savings and potential for customer satisfaction - across many industries. While a number of our partners are also offering true packaged applications, we have seen that many other speech vendors offer packaged speech components. There is a difference. Packaged applications do not require any additional coding or design work, whereas using components necessitates additional development and design work before a solution can be deployed. Packaged applications such as Nuance's are easily upgraded and maintained, as they do not involve custom code. Also, Nuance's packaged applications come with a rich set of reporting tools and management capabilities-something customers cite as essential to tracking the bottom line.
Nuance has signed deals with Fluency and Datria for packaged applications in the travel and utilities markets, respectively. Are Nuance's applications geared toward horizontal markets or are you working with partners on specific vertical areas?
PM Nuance primarily develops applications that can be applied horizontally across a variety of different market segments. Nuance Call Steering 1.0, for example, can be deployed within financial services companies, telecommunications companies and enterprises in many other industries. Nuance is currently working with a range of partners to deliver packaged applications for specific vertical markets on the Nuance Voice Platform. For example, Datria offers its Datria Ticket Management 2.0 system on Nuance Voice Platform. The ticket management system is the industry's first packaged speech application designed to improve the productivity of field personnel. With Ticket Management, technicians can communicate and file reports/updates using only their voice and a phone. Meanwhile, Fluency Voice Technology is delivering a suite of packaged speech applications specifically tailored for the travel market. And Workforce Technologies just announced they plan to deliver a suite of packaged speech applications for the HR, government, education and healthcare markets. Meanwhile, Apptera is delivering packaged applications for the financial services sector.
What is Nuance's strategy for selling packaged applications - is it OEM sales via indirect partners or a direct sales strategy based on Nuance Voice Platform?
PM Nuance offers its packaged applications both through its direct sales force and indirectly through its value added reseller channel. In either case, Nuance's packaged applications are deployed on the Nuance Voice Platform.
What applications have you developed so far? Describe the company's packaged applications division and tech support for customers/partners?
PM Nuance Call Steering 1.0 is Nuance's first packaged application and more are in the works. Nuance's packaged applications division is made up of developers, dialog designers, usability experts and QA engineers. Technical support is handled through Nuance and/or Nuance's partners as appropriate.