SpeechTEK - Still Crazy (and Relevant) After All These Years

Hollis Chin | August 17, 2015

The old Paul Simon song “Still Crazy After All These Years,” might be a good theme song for SpeechTEK, the annual conference on speech technologies, as it turns 20 years old. The show opens in New York this week. There are not very many technology conferences that are of the same vintage. With the advent of virtual agents, voice interaction on mobile devices, and the next generation of IVRs (smart, multi-modal, integrated with other channels), there is more interest in SpeechTEK than ever before.

So what makes SpeechTEK relevant? First, virtual agents, and not just the consumer version like Siri, but the enterprise version which take the form of FAQ boxes on company websites. Virtual agents are important because the consumer trend is for “self-service”. Forrester Research’s Kate Leggett says that customer channel usage for self-service is up. For the first time web self-service usage (i.e., the FAQ pages on a company website) has increased to 76% in 2014 while phone interactions remained stagnant at 73%. Virtual agents on enterprise websites are often text-based but will increasingly be speech-enabled.

Second, customer omnichannel interactions demand that IVRs be an integrated channel along a customer omnichannel journey. The recent [24]7 Customer Engagement Index reveals that 64% of consumers start their omnichannel journey on a website. The IVR is not the first channel but the second or third channel. Knowing this fact, the most advanced IVRs are integrated with the website and other channels, so it has the context of the customer’s interactions in the channels before it.

Third, the new IVRs are smarter and better than ever. Big data and predictive analytics are used to make contextual and intelligent interactions. [24]7.ai just announced that it is the first to use Deep Neural Networks (DNN) technology in enterprise IVR in collaboration with Microsoft. DNN seeks to emulate the human brain when it comes to the spoken word. DNN dramatically improves recognition when it comes to noisy environments, language dialects, and non-native speakers.

These three reasons make speech technologies important for enterprises to understand. As crazy as it seems, even after 20 years, SpeechTEK is more relevant than ever.

Here are some interesting sessions that [24]7.ai executives are participating in. Enjoy the show!

A101 – PANEL: Virtual Agents for All?

August 17th, 10:15 am - 11:00 am

MODERATOR: Bruce Pollock, Vice President, Strategic Growth and Planning West Interactive

Samrat Baul, Director, Application Design and Speech Analytics [24]7.ai

Jason Mars, Assistant Professor, EECS Dept. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor

Wayne Scholar,CTO and co-founder GetAbby

Virtual agents (VAs) seem to be everywhere, but should every mobile app be built with a VA interface? What does an organization gain by using a VA, and what are the costs of doing so? Do VAs make sense for all organizations and all customers? Will each organization have its own VA, or will there be one unified agent interface for all of your apps?

C201 – IVR’s Vital Role: Real-World Experience With Omnichannel Interactions

August 18th, 10:45 am - 11:30 am

Samrat Baul, Director, Application Design and Speech Analytics [24]7.ai

Tajinder Singh, Director of Product Management [24]7.ai

The vision of omnichannel interactions is being realized here and now, but what is the role of the traditional IVR in this vision? The goal is to treat all channels consistently and allow users to move among them seamlessly. We suggest that IVR’s unique characteristics enable it to be pivotal in successful omnichannel journeys. Join this session to hear about three commercially successful use cases that illustrate the role of IVR in the omnichannel experience.

A304 – PANEL: A Decade at SpeechTEK: Speech 2005-2015

August 19th, 2:45 pm - 3:30 pm

MODERATOR: Daniel Hong, Senior Director, Product Marketing Strategy [24]7.ai

Dan Miller, Lead Analyst-FounderOpus Research, Inc.

Roberto Pieraccini, Director, Advanced Conversational TechnologiesJibo, Inc.

Bruce Pollock, Vice President, Strategic Growth and PlanningWest Interactive

Art Schoeller, Vice President and Principal AnalystForrester Research

Mike Bergelson, CEOEverwise

When the SpeechTEK conference began 20 years ago, the speech industry was in its infancy, but in the latter decade, speech has become a fully mature industry. This panel provides a historic perspective of the milestones achieved and discusses the key issues that have shaped the speech industry. Join industry l luminaries and big thinkers for a thought-provoking and entertaining look back at where we’ve been, and where we’re heading in the next 10 years.