Steve Pollock, Co-founder and Executive Vice President, TuVox

TuVox is a leading provider of On Demand speech applications, empowering companies to deliver superior caller experience through the voice channel. Available as a hosted or on- premise solution, TuVox's award winning applications are easily customized to your business and can quickly be updated in response to business changes. TuVox speech applications automate virtually any type of call, including natural language call-routing, self-service transactions and interactive customer support. By delivering a superior caller experience, TuVox speech applications increase customer satisfaction and improve the adoption of voice self-service. 

Speech Technology Magazine sat down with Steve Pollock, co-founder and EVP of TuVox, to talk about TuVox's presence at SpeechTEK 2006 and the release of TuVox On Demand 6.0.

Q. We're kicking off another year of SpeechTEK in New York City. What can attendees expect to see from TuVox at this year's conference?

A. Several key things TuVox is talking about here at SpeechTek:

First, we're highlighting our customer Canon's win - SpeechTek's Most Innovative Solution award for 2006 - for the implementation of our Perfect Router product which has dramatically lowered the need for agents to manually route calls.

Second, we're rolling out our new TuVox On Demand 6.0 product offering.  This is a very important step for the speech industry - combining the power of the 'software-as-a-service' model with the specific needs of speech applications.  

What we're showing companies includes technology leadership, improved value, caller experience leadership and flexible deployment options.

We've maintained our technology leadership in the way we've combined our new web-portal and lifecycle management technologies: based on our experience with hundreds of application deployments.

By providing access to shared resources, companies get improved value, particularly when those shared resources are updated and maintained by TuVox.

Our focus on caller experience is highlighted by the creation of the TuVox Design Center, our leading-edge design team combined with our 50-plus speech applications.

TuVox offers flexible deployment and management models including both premise-based and hosted options available in the TuVox hosting centers and with our partners, Tellme Networks and Convergys.

Q. TuVox just released TuVox On Demand 6.0. What are the new capabilities associated with the release of this version?

A. TuVox On Demand 6.0 is the culmination of years of TuVox work combining our enterprise speech applications and lifecycle management technology in an On Demand model.

On Demand is a way of doing business that combines 'software free' product capabilities with a low risk, easy-to-try ownership model.  The benefits are very compelling whether customers choose the premise-based or hosted option.  The On Demand, premise-based model is designed to accommodate the needs of the telephony world - where customers want the ability to take advantage of all of the TuVox On Demand applications and capabilities, but locate the deployment servers and voice platform on premise.

On Demand solutions have been making substantial inroads across business functions - CRM, ERP, e-Commerce, etc., due to very powerful economic advantages.  As analysts have pointed out, the common problem with custom enterprise solutions is that companies typically get caught in a maintenance trap where most of the budget - money and people - is tied up in maintaining software.  Furthermore, companies typically don't specialize in maintaining speech software solutions so they simply aren't as efficient as a vendor who has this as their core specialty.

With TuVox On Demand 6.0, the system is maintained by TuVox, so no budget or work gets unnecessarily tied up in software maintenance.  The core functionality is upgraded by TuVox, so continuous tuning is a built-in part of the product offering.  Most of the upfront costs are either minimized or eliminated.   

All TuVox On Demand applications come with full business reporting, which is easily accessible through a web browser.  Application optimization capabilities are also built in, for analyzing ways to improve application performance and tune recognition.

Finally, customers get increased control and security through the new TuVox On Demand portal.  Some customers will use only basic control features to set call center hours or access managerial reporting.  Other customers will completely self-manage their applications using advanced portal capabilities.

Q. How can enterprises benefit from On Demand 6.0?

A. TuVox On Demand benefits companies by lowering the barrier of entry for high quality speech applications that provide a great caller experience.  Business results are tied to high quality applications and TuVox brings together the capabilities to drive high performance and a world-class caller experience.

Now, companies can minimize infrastructure costs and pay only for automated calls.  What's more, companies also enjoy a much lower total cost of ownership.  There's no need to have dedicated staff - although that's always an option.  In any case, the underlying technology minimizes the work per update cycle, thus saving time and money.

Application management is made easier and more secure through web-based control of key functions.  Updates can be placed in the hands of the most appropriate people, whether they're IT resources, business resources, or vendor resources.

Another core benefit of On Demand is that customers can ensure they continue to get value from TuVox.  We have to continually earn customer loyalty, and we're dedicated to maintaining that loyalty.  TuVox On Demand 6.0 features the pure VXML architecture, which enables customers to get a license to their application as part of the TuVox Speech Investment Protection program.  If we fail to earn a customer's ongoing loyalty, they keep their application.

Q. Do you foresee On Demand 6.0 as having a long-term impact on how hosted and premised-based speech applications are offered?  If so, how?

A. TuVox strongly believes that the software-as-a-service/on demand model has substantial benefits for companies who want to make use of speech applications.  In particular, TuVox On Demand lowers barriers of entry for companies to get into high quality speech automation.

This lowering of barriers is true on multiple levels, including technology, people and finances.  From a technology standpoint, companies can now take advantage of the technology without worrying about always having the "latest and greatest".  TuVox takes care of that.  From a personnel point of view, there's no need for companies to learn the details and minutiae of speech development.  (Of course, customers are welcome to if they have the inclination!)  And from a financial perspective, now the vendors have incentive to drive automation - and therefore usage - by making the systems more useful and convenient.

Q. What speech technology market trends have you seen so far this year?

A. We're seeing a continuation of the trend that Datamonitor observed in their report last August - a steady movement toward hosted applications and premise-based managed services.  More and more companies are pulling back and focusing on their core businesses, while enlisting speech experts from industry vendors to maintain their speech systems.

Q. Has there been a shift in preference from one to another (hosted vs. premise-based)? If so, do you think this shift will continue to lean in its current direction or that preferences will oscillate between the two?

A. The cycle is currently moving toward hosted speech for a number of reasons.  First, it takes a lot of investment for a company to build a hardened data center with the associated speech servers and telephony infrastructure.  The hosting option puts that burden squarely on the vendor, who typically has a fully-redundant hosting facility with all the required infrastructure.

Second, companies that experience seasonal or event-related call volume spikes have been diverting some or all of their traffic to hosting providers for years.  It just doesn't make economic sense for many companies to build out the capacity for a short spike in call volume.  But for a hosted speech vendor, it's not a problem.

TuVox believes that more and more companies will move toward a hosted or subscription-based model.  We've seen it happen in industries like CRM and SFA, and the same dynamics that drove those trends are at work here.  The hosted option opens the door for so many more companies to start using speech automation.

Q. What recommendations or guidelines do you have for an organization that is looking to deploy speech?

A. First, focus on the application that solves your business problem and delivers superior customer service.  Doing this will help you show a rapid improvement and a quicker return on your investment.  Then, focus on the underlying technology that fits your environment. 

Most importantly, find a partner who is responsive to your demanding business changes and has a vested interest in ensuring your success.

Q. Is there anything that you would like to add?

A. Yes!  Please drop by and see us at SpeechTEK in New York.  The folks from our TuVox Design Center will help you understand the benefits of On Demand speech applications.


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