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Nuance “Fast Start” Program: Reduces Time and Expense of Natural Language Implementations

2011 March 7

The Experience Curve lives! Perhaps more so than ever in this age of machine learning and artificial intelligence, made all-too-apparent when IBM’s Watson was able to defeat the all-time money winners on Jeopardy! But how, you may ask, will this benefit (rather than humble) mere mortals. I was just briefed by Jeff Foley, Senior Manager of Solutions Marketing, at Nuance Communications and he described a new program, informally called “Call Steering Fast Start,” which will introduce shorter deployment times and lower costs for firms that can benefit from taking a constrained approach to speech-based Call Steering.

The program serves as an antidote to the reticence that IT and customer care professionals have shown (especially during the economic downturn) toward launching the lengthy design, deployment and debugging processes associated with natural language understanding (NLU) and enhanced call processing. The pitch is quite simple. Nuance first shows that callers benefit from shorter wait times and fewer call misdirections when a well-designed Call Steering app is deployed. Then they demonstrate how companies can benefit from shorter wait times and greater cost certainty when they adhere to a fixed scope deployment approach.

The term “fixed scope” is well chosen. Based on years of experience with Call Steering implementations among large global companies across multiple vertical industries, Nuance understands the application characteristics and communications architectures that will benefit from Fast Start. It has distilled those learnings into a “configuration file” which provides a foundation and design framework for getting started. Customers and clients are not being offered a “crippled app” or proof-of-concept, instead they are deploying the same code that has worked in full scale deployments.

The constraints have to do with the demographics and architecture of targeted companies. Based on experience in the field, Nuance recognizes that Fast Start will work most effectively for firms limited to 80-100 call destinations and 5-10 instances that require serious interpretation of “disambiguation” of a caller’s intent. In those cases, implementations can be completed in as few as 90 days and the total start up costs are a significant discount from the “full service” approach.

The offer seems very attractive to healthcare providers and utilities where companies have high standards for customer satisfaction but often lack the call volumes that justify investment in NLU. As Foley explained, Nuance had observed a threshold in the 10-12 million calls per year range (with some of the largest systems handling over 100 million calls each year). Fast Start can make Call Steering attractive when annual call volumes are less than 4 million. The clear message coming from Nuance is that “Natural Language Call Steering” is not too expensive for mid-sized businesses.