Vendors continue to pursue any edge in the increasingly competitive customer service and contact center arena, aggressively seeking out ways to expand current offerings and deepen their reach. Two recent examples seem to indicate
Workforce management and service optimization provider ClickSoftware entered into a definitive agreement today to acquire AiPoint, an Israel-based shift planning solution provider for $1.5 million. According to information provided by ClickSoftware, the deal is expected to close in 30 days.
According to Moshe BenBassat, chief executive officer of ClickSoftware, the move was done to help both deepen and expand his company's market reach. AiPoint's bread-and-butter comes in the form of advanced shift planning possible companies in retail, telecommunications, transportation, and utilities -- verticals requiring the scheduling of diverse workforces across multiple shifts and locations, with frequent staffing changes.
Already largely targeting field service providers, ClickSoftware is looking to utilize AiPoint's software for multi-variable, multi-need shift scheduling and monitoring, integrating that data while accounting for personal requests and training and placement considerations. The acquisition enables ClickSoftware to extend beyond telecommunications and also target health care operations, retail stores, hotels, public safety such as police and fire departments, security personnel, and banking. "The bottom line is we acquired AiPoint in order expand our addressable markets, and by doing so we've created a nice platform for growth in 2010 and beyond," BenBassat says.
The acquisition also deepens the functionality of ClickSoftware's ClickRoster solution, which helps field service organizations optimally staff shifts of workers while taking into account:
- demand coverage;
- cost; and
- employee working preferences.
BenBassat says that the company did its due diligence in considering the acquisition, and will not lay off any current AiPoint employees. The workers will move to ClickSoftware's office in Israel upon the official deal close. In addition, for the time being AiPoint's offerings will still be marketed and sold under the company's brand until complete integration is finished. "We already have a concrete plan to merge them together by sometime next year," he says. "At that point, we will have one product that addresses all verticals."
Not to be outdone, Spoken Communications, a voice technology vendor and 2008 CRM magazine Service Rising Star, acquired the voicemail transcription services of GotVoice, a voice-to-text translation company. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
According to Howard Lee, chief executive officer of Spoken, says it was an asset purchase. Spoken obtained the voicemail transcription services, products GotVoice offers, and will retain a portion of the employee base. "GotVoice actually had intellectual property, filed patents, and other service elements that we wanted that [improve] what we do," he says.
Lee explains the deal also makes sense considering both company's value propositions. Spoken seeks to make speech recognition more free-form and not completely scripted by offering human intelligence in the background, a hybrid model. GotVoice utilizes automatic speech recognition with its workbench to enable faster and more secure transcription services using humans in the background. Current customers of GotVoice will continue to see its service go on uninterrupted as the technologies are integrated with Spoken, Lee says.
In the contact center, the combined entity can now automate the creation of a service ticket by using technology to capture voice conversation, which the translation service automatically converts to text. That way, accuracy is improved, eliminates the burden of manual data entry by overworked customer service representatives, and boosts efficiency. "Too many people think of speech recognition as complete self-service with no human intervention," Lee says. "What Spoken is doing is bringing a hybrid of technology with a live agent together. It will take evangelization from us on how to position and sell these benefits."
Daniel Hong, lead analyst at Ovum, explains that Spoken is attempting to carve out a niche for itself in the speech recognition space. "The company provides a human/machine hybrid offering designed to increase the automation rates for speech self-service and routing in the contact center, and now with this acquisition, for speech-to-text for voicemails," he says. "Guided interactive voice response has not had much success in the market, although the concept and results from this approach are commendable. Voicemail transcription using a hybrid approach is not new other providers such as Spinvox have used both technology and humans for voicemail transcription."
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