It’s been a few weeks since I’ve joined Opus Research. In that time, I’ve received a fair number of questions from former colleagues, customers, partners and other analysts on why I decided to join a leading market analyst firm. Some think it’s heresy shifting from a vendor to an analysis/consulting firm!
We all come to points in our careers when we really have to decide what path to take. Here are a few key reasons why I’ve chosen this path:
1. Join a great team of smart people – I’ve been a client of Opus Research for more than 15 years. The brainpower represented by the team has always been meaningful and important. Their insight has guided many strategic decisions I’ve lead, whether technology trends, market positioning, pricing or competitive analysis. This team is very in touch with the market, whether it’s “Conversational Commerce” focusing on human-machine interaction and multimodal customer care, or to lead efforts in rapidly emerging areas such as voice biometrics, indoor location-based marketing or intelligent, automated assistants. I hope to contribute to these team efforts.
2. Intellectual challenge on both business and technology fronts – Being an analyst/consultant is already exposing me to a wide variety of our clients’ business challenges such as product introductions, competitive positioning, growth and profitably issues, and M&A activities. I’m confident to assist our clients in this wide variety of challenges based on my experience. On the technology front, Opus has taken a leadership role around certain areas, such as the voice biometrics and multifactor authentication marketplace. I attended the first Voice Biometrics Conference London a few years back. And while impressive at the time, I’ve observed the growth in this market segment thanks in no small part to Opus Research’s leadership. I expect to be challenged and deliver on new business and technology fronts.
3. Provide additional value of Opus through operational marketing activities – Most successful research/consulting firms can do any manner of research and market positioning, and deliver really great presentations on what to do next. Very few, in my experience, can take the next step: To identify key pathways to success and help in the execution of reaching desired goals. Opus has recognized a need in the marketplace and offers this logical extension in our client services portfolio. I know firsthand how marketing departments are under extreme budget scrutiny, and supporting our clients through credible, meaningful and recent experience will go a long way in helping them achieve their goals. I am happy to be a leader in these efforts at Opus.
Above all, it’s all about having fun. And the three points above are my definition of fun.
Needless to say, it’s certainly not heresy to be joining Opus!
Tim Moynihan, senior analyst and project leader with Opus Research, has more than 25 years of experience in marketing strategy for leading communications, speech and computing technology companies, including Intel, Envox and, most recently, Empirix.
While much has been made about last year’s website troubles in the online rollout and implementation of President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) is touting the use of virtual agents for a “more engaging online experience for its members to meet the needs of members.”
This week, prospective Blue KC insurers can navigate online to find consolidated group and individual account information and ask a variety of billing, policy or insurance coverage questions — such as, “Where can I view my bill?” — and get answers in similar, natural language. The self-service platform, developed by IntelliResponse, is indeed meant to create a better user experience for healthcare customers.
“Our new website was designed with our members in mind. We want to ensure users can quickly and easily navigate to find the information they seek,” said Deb McCabe, Department Vice President of Customer Experience at Blue KC. “The IntelliResponse Virtual Agent solution will help us respond to the changing interests and needs of our customers.”
According to the announcement, Blue KC plans to develop a mobile website and consumer portal that will be customized to tap the knowledge base of both group and individual healthcare customers.
Updated Experience Portal and Orchestration Designer Differentiate Avaya’s Aura Multi-channel Customer Care Offering
This week Avaya announced new enhancements to its Customer Experience Management product suite. In this press release, the company quotes research results in which show that 93% of business managers recognize the downside not providing “a holistic, personalized customer experience” with consequences that include “lost customers, missed sales opportunities and lower revenue, and reduced loyalty.”
In anticipation of the upcoming Enterprise Connect trade show, Avaya is showcasing a newly updated and globalized Aura® Experience Portal (version 7.0). The latest release leverages long-standing commitment to open, Web services-based architectures to support interactive SMS and email-based customer communications. Two new features, Proactive Outreach and Intelligent Customer Routing (ICR), run on the Experience Portal.
Using a free tool set called Avaya Orchestration Designer, enterprise customers (even non-technical ones) can create or customize self-service and assisted service applications and workflows that span mobile, SMS, email, social, and other touchpoints. Thus it can claim to “optimize each and every interaction through real-time visibility into caller intent, cross channel interaction history and other business insights.” The latest release of ICR, allows even finer control based on target service levels, enterprise resources, and customer segmentation.
For example, using these tools enables a large chain of pharmacies, to pursue an “SMS-first” strategy, with full knowledge that the “open rate” for an SMS-based link far exceeds anything that is achieved with email or banner ads. In addition, a new feature, which Avaya refers to as “zoning” makes it easier for customer care solutions to be localized. This means that different languages can be supported in various forms of communications and companies can better manage communications networking costs.
The new Experience Portal is positioned to fit into the Avaya Aura® Collaboration Environment which will enable companies to bring context management, enterprise work assignment, real-time speech analysis and WebRTC-based streamed communications into the mix of services. It joins a handful of solutions providers, that includes Genesys, 7 and Aspect/Voxeo and a few others that have taken concrete steps to productize platforms to support real-time, omnichannel conversational commerce.
In September 2013 WebRTC specialist Thrupoint successfully spun out a software company called CaféX to bring a suite of real-time, multi-channel customer care resources to market. Today, the stand-alone company has made impressive strides in that direction. Its OEM relationship with Cisco has insured that the CaféX Fusion Live Assist has been incorporated in trials or live customer care offerings by 6 of the top 10 global financial institutions (branded as Cisco’s Mobile Advisor offering). CaféX Live Assist is also going to have high visibility at the Enterprise Connect Conference in Orlando where it is one of 6 finalists for the “Best of Enterprise Connect” Award.
Yet, from Opus Research’s point of view, the most noteworthy aspect of the company is that its products make it simple for a company to add real-time video to its customer care offering (delivering on WebRTC’s promise of initiating a live stream of audio or video from a Web browser without requiring a customer to download and install a client or plug in). The other is to make it possible to initiate such a stream while a customer is in the middle of using a mobile app.
The first capability is made possible by the aforementioned Live Assist platform. It enables two-way video communications between an agent and customer as well as co-browsing, screensharing and “annotation” (which means that the agent can write instructions or draw pointers on a customer’s screen. This video demo illustrates how the platform is designed to work for a financial services company targeting high net-worth investors.
Supporting a secure link from inside a mobile app to a company’s customer care resources is the role of CaféX In-App Communications. CaféX supplies enterprise or 3rd party developers with an SDK that includes a tool-kit that helps extend the Live Assist capabilities to an iOS- or Android-based tablet using just two lines of HTML, Javescript or Objective-C code. It is believed that CaféX In-App and Live Assist is the basis for the “Direct Connect to personalized servicing for Platinum and Centurion Consumer Card Members” mentioned in the app description in the iTunes store.
The third “pillar” of the CaféX offering is called Fusion Palettes. This is a set of middleware that serves as the connective tissue between many elements of existing customer care resources – such as existing IVR scripts – and figures out how to represent them as buttons in a mobile app. It also acts as an analytical engine that performs what CaféX calls “dynamic translation of contextual data” – which means it takes user generated data and metadata and uses it to support intelligent routing or generation of screen pops on agent desktops.
CaféX is plowing ahead to add a number of practical capabilities on top of clientless and plugin-less two-way streams. It has incorporated electronic signatures, as depicted in the video demo mentioned above. This is a capability that is relevant for other verticals such as healthcare, insurance and government applications. The company has been aggressively marketing to these verticals and has a relatively low cost (approximately $50,000) 90 day trial that enables companies to get acquainted with the platform and its capabilities.
By popular demand (though without confirmation from Microsoft), the fictional artificially intelligent being that first appeared in the xBox videogame “HALO: Combat Evolved” and its sequels, is being recruited to be the “Siri-equivalent” for Windows-based phones and tablets. As indicated by this post from June of 2013 in Microsoft’s Windows Phone Community page, the idea of having Cortana as an Intelligent Virtual Assistant has been a hot topic among Microsoft’s fan base for a while. Today, coverage by Tom Warren in The Verge, based on a “leaked” SDK, shows that the Bing search box which has graced past versions of Windows Phone 8, will be replaced by the ever-conversational Cortana, who will have a personality “like Siri” but bring some of the predictive assistance functions that are popularizing Google Now. (Warren’s article sparked coverage of the imminent launch by Eric Limer in Gizmodo and by Darrell Etherington in TechCrunch.)
Perhaps most import is that Microsoft sees Cortana on a smartphone as the natural language-based controller for apps and media that run or play on a Notebook. According to Warren, Microsoft will position this approach as a form of privacy protection. Over time, Cortana will learn a lot about her users’ activities, likes, dislikes, preferences and other personal data. It will also be set up to react to the content of emails and alerts automatically, including the management of “Do Not Disturb” functionality that will let an inner circle of friends and family get their messages through during quiet hours.
Microsoft has been totally mum on the topic, so it is unclear whether it will be using its own speech recognition and text-to-speech software. Ford Sync, for instance, which is “powered by Microsoft” is an amalgam of speech processing resources, including Microsoft’s home-grown speech recognition and Nuance’s text-to-speech. As The Verge’s Warren notes, the xBox voice command is highly accurate, but appears to have a relatively small vocabulary (mostly commands). To be “Siri-like” Cortana will have to be accurate, human-sounding and possessed of a relatively large vocabulary, or at least one that can speak to individual users in their own terms.
Opus Research is pleased to announce José Ignacio Zorrilla, with Banco Santander Mexico, will present key findings from a new contact center strategy for customer authentication in a keynote presentation for Voice Biometrics Conference San Francisco (May 14-15, 2014).
With more than 3 million calls into contact centers monthly, Banco Santander Mexico is using voice biometrics as a means to identify and authenticate banking customers rather than relying on passwords and knowledge-based questions. The new strategy helps improve contact center efficiency, says Ignacio, in reducing the time it takes for agents to identify customers and helps streamline the customer experience.
As Executive Director of Channels at Banco Santander Mexico, Ignacio is in charge of the operation of state-of-the-art contact centers, Internet banking, mobile and ATM networks for a commercial bank serving 6.5 million customers. Ignacio will highlight the organizational strategy for Banco Santander Mexico in assessing new technologies for customer authentication and outline the opportunities and challenges in implementing the voice biometrics solution.
Santander México is the country’s third largest financial group by business volume, with market shares of 14.8% in deposits and 13% in loans, and the first Santander country to implement voiceprint technology.
Dan Miller, Senior Analyst with Opus Research, presents results from the latest Opus Research “Intelliview” report. He will describe criteria that should be taken into account when marketing, sales and contact center professionals evaluate vendors of Enterprise Virtual Assistants (EVAs) – especially those providing human-like interactions on the Web and with mobile devices.
Miller will be joined by Brett Beranek, Solutions Marketing Manager at Nuance Communications, who will provide insights into customer acceptance of EVAs based on implementations of Nuance’s Nina Web and Nina Mobile services.
February 20, 2014 — 1:00 p.m. EST / 10:00 a.m. PST
Sign up below to join the webcast
On February 4th, speech-processing specialist Sestek completed an investment in Botego, acquiring 30% of the company. It signaled the beginning of stepped up efforts to develop and market solutions that combine Sestek’s automated speech processing assets with Botego’s natural language processing products and expertise.
According to company-supplied literature, Botego means “Bot with an Ego.” In its seven years of operations, it has distinguished itself as the only company, based in Turkey, offering a commercial product using NLP created for the Turkish language. Its main products include virtual agents, an automated email reply agent and tools that support document indexing and search as well as natural language search.
Botego can brag an impressive set of customers for these core products and services. They include Johnson & Johnson which employed Botego as the basis of “Ask Asli,” an artificial intelligence-base consumer chat line that fielded questions about O.B. tampons, a topic that J&J correctly believed its target customers might find to intimate or sensitive for live chat. Other customers include global brands like CocaCola, Fox and Lipton, as well as a number of domestic, Turkish firms like wireless provider Avea, TurkTelekom, DigiTurk and Finansbank. Together the two companies will expand their international footprint by adding languages and marketing efforts in the U.S. Botego has already opened an office in New York City. In addition to Turkish, Sestek’s platform supports English, German, Portuguese and a number of Arabic languages and dialects.