Running Your Speech Solutions Clean in Lean Times

SpeechTEK 2009 took place alongside CRM Evolution '09; for a look at destinationCRM's complete coverage of both shows, click here.

For all the live-twittering, follow @CRMe09 on Twitter, or see all the tweets under the hashtag #CRMe09.

NEW YORK — If you want to get your management team to commit to a speech solution in the midst of a recession, you’re going to need a clear “automation roadmap,” according to a presenter at the SpeechTEK 2009 conference here this week.

During a breakout session on “High-Value Solutions on a Low Budget," Harkishin Nachnani, manager of voice user-interface design and speech science for Convergys, pointed to recent findings from Datamonitor that show enterprise investment in information technology to be stagnating or receding. With companies strapped for cash, he said, big capital investment is obviously a hard sell -- even though, as he told the crowd, “we know speech [technology] saves money.”

Nachnani told the audience that winning The Battle of the Purse-Strings relies in part on making a strong business case with demonstrated value. He laid out that value in what he called “the automation roadmap,” a graph broken down into various phases of implementation and spread along two axes:

  • savings over time; and
  • automation percentage rates.

In Nachnani's roadmap, the savings from each phase pays for the next, allowing the enterprise to continue expanding automation over time without accelerating investment. In the first phase, Nachnani said, the key is to focus on “no-brainer” applications — those that are low in complexity but have high and quick return on investment.

In normal economic conditions, Nachnani added, “most companies start out with transactional applications…. During tough times, you don’t have to start with transactional -- you can start with prebuilt, off-the-shelf applications that allow for early gains.” Successive gains are more modest and focus on high-complexity/high-savings applications, eventually followed by low-complexity/low-savings applications.

Nachnani also recommended that every organization look into hosted models for initial savings and consider rigorously negotiating with vendors, explaining that many are currently proving very flexible with their pricing plans and are often willing to enter into risk-reward contracts.

Dan Reed, corporate vice president for Voxify, who also spoke at the session, was equally sober in his presentation. He began by laying out the economic climate in a PowerPoint presentation lush with explosions and siren sound effects. Painting a bleak, if also comic, picture with slides that read “CONTACT CENTER BUDGETS ARE EXPLODING” and “REVENUES ARE DECLINING,” he focused his attention on getting the most value from a solution as the recession takes it toll.

Reed also identified “the top 10 speech crimes” perpetrated in the midst of the downturn. These transgressions include:

  • “ransom-note user interfaces” — a patchwork of different typefaces, colors, etc., that together resemble the pasted-together look of a cinematic ransom note;
  • post-deployment review — enterprises, Reed said, should be able to review solutions in early testing;
  • glacial reactive responses rather than proactive responses; and
  • the inability to deliver a cross-channel experience.


CRM Evolution '09 concluded earlier this week in New York. Full coverage can be found here.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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