• April 1, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

The 2008 CRM Service Awards: Rising Stars -- Spoken Communications

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Contact centers are faced with a lot of options -- so much so that it's keeping them from improving their performance. Inclined to succumb to the wait-and-see strategy, contact centers are moving slowly, says William Meisel, president of TMA Associates, a speech-technology consultancy. On the one hand, large vendors -- such as Cisco Systems -- are trying to convince them to overhaul their entire systems in exchange for Internet Protocol (IP) telephony. On the other, technological advancements are being made to improve customer service in the traditional contact center. Spoken Communications is one of those companies targeting the traditional side of the equation.

Spoken's technology empowers contact centers with the convenience and efficiency of automated self-service enhanced by the accuracy and reliability of an assisted agent. Though more expensive than a completely automated call center, Spoken's technology is also significantly cheaper than services that rely solely on, or automatically default to, an agent. Moreover, the joint effort reduces typical contact center training time from six weeks to four days.

Contact center agents are able to effectively handle four calls at once, as Spoken's speech engine controls the majority of the conversation. Only when the automated speech engine has a problem is the agent's intervention required -- at which point the agent, in real time, is able to decipher the question and feed the answer to the automated voice. Identification questions fill in the time it takes the agent to respond. Essentially, the conversation never stops; callers are never waiting aimlessly on the line.

Founded in 2005, the company is relatively new to the industry and has yet to gain widespread adoption, but the concept of voice recognition is already gaining acceptance in the consumer market, from music selection to directory services. So, as contact centers start to feel the demand for better customer service, Meisel has no doubt that Spoken will prove a good investment. But in order for Spoken to break out, he says, the company will need to earn industrywide recognition -- something only the signing of a big-name customer can provide.

Snapshot: Spoken Communications

  • Gilad Odinak, Chief Executive Officer
  • Founded: 2005
  • Headquarters: Bellevue, Wash.

[Please Note: To see the 2008 Service Awards Issue's full table of contents, please click here.]

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