Voice Analytics: Enterprise Value Rising

One of the biggest pieces of news coming out of Enterprise Connect 2017 was cloud infrastructure giant Amazon Web Services' entry into the contact center space with its Amazon Connect product (see, "AWS Announces Amazon Connect"). Announced during AWS's Tuesday keynote (view here), Amazon Connect is the company's answer to a need for a simple-to-use, cloud-based contact center service. The solution was designed with an eye toward the contact center agent experience, complete with integrations with CRM, workforce management, analytics, and helpdesk offerings.

While the Amazon Connect news is big in and of itself, the integrations and partnerships AWS had made around the service are what I find the most interesting. One of the partnerships announced when the Connect news hit the wires is that of VoiceBase, a provider of speech analytics for cloud solutions.

Via the VoiceBase API, Amazon Connect users can extract insights from spoken voice, so enterprises can leverage that insight to make more informed business decisions, VoiceBase said in its announcement. With the integration, call recordings from Amazon Connect are automatically sent to VoiceBase for transcription and analytics, and the insights are then delivered back to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Kinesis, or Hadoop to be processed, and on to Amazon QuickSight, Qlik, or Tableau for reporting.

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I spent some time catching up with Jay Blazensky, chief revenue officer and co-founder of VoiceBase, to learn about the company's technology, and it turns out that VoiceBase has quite a few partnerships with other enterprise communications providers.

I visited some of these VoiceBase partners on the Enterprise Connect show floor to see the integrations for myself. At Vonage's booth, I got to see how real-time speech analytics can play into a voice call. As Omar Javaid, chief product officer at Vonage, explains it, Vonage's API platform Nexmo provides cloud-based APIs, enabling business customers to embed voice, messaging, phone verification and more into their applications for effective internal and external communications. Vonage is now working with the folks at VoiceBase to integrate the Nexmo API platform with VoiceBase APIs so that customers can build intelligence into their communications systems and create "more meaningful customer engagement."

It works in a similar way as the Amazon Connect example above: Media from the Nexmo Voice API is streamed over a PSTN link to VoiceBase's API for real-time transcription and analysis, using sentiment analysis and keyword detection to deliver insight into a caller's mood and the overall customer interaction. The result is the capability to manage customer interactions in real-time, which Javaid believes can be customized for any vertical market.

To explain, Javaid used a healthcare services provider as an example. The provider can track patient calls using key terminology. As another example, a sales professional could monitor the sentiment of customer calls to feed predictive models that would assess the likelihood of a sale or even churn.

"Real-time transcription, insights, and analysis can play a key role in both enhancing person-to-person communication, as well as improving the accuracy and performance of person-to-machine communication, or 'bots,'" Javaid said. "The use of automated bots and enhanced contextual communications for business continues to grow, as does the demand for new and innovative ways to better engage with their customers for deeper relationships and more meaningful connections."

Similar voice analytics solutions were shown at ShoreTel's booth. In my conversations with Blazensky, I learned that VoiceBase is also engaged in similar partnerships with Twilio, AVST, Serenova, FreeConferenceCall.com, NetSapiens, VBrick, and Gong.io.

A walk around the Enterprise Connect show floor made it evident to me that more of these type of partnerships and integrations are cropping up. At my first Enterprise Connect four years ago, it sticks out in my memory that one of the questions, asked to a panel of UC executives, that got a round of applause from the audience, was asked by Fred Knight. He said something to the likes of, "Alright, that's great and all, but when is all of this stuff going to work together?" Now four years later, I'm struck by the level of co-opetition among various vendors. Yes, there're still the long-held rivalries in which vendors compete at the strategic level, but it seems that we're also seeing more providers seeing the benefit in working together to enhance their solutions.

In the case of VoiceBase, the technology integration aims to extract the kind of value from voice interactions that enterprises are already trying to gain from data. Blazensky likes to use the term "big voice" to describe this effect, likening it to the value that enterprises are finding in "big data."

To Blazensky, API darling Twilio has really led the way for VoiceBase's entry into communications. "Twilio has changed the world in ways you don't even know," Blazensky said. "They made it cool to expose voice recordings."

And VoiceBase isn't stopping at voice recording and analytics. The company will soon announce PCI certification, and has laid out its plan to deploy instances of VoiceBase in Europe, Blazensky told me. VoiceBase boasts some big brand names as customers, too, namely Home Depot, Nasdaq, and Yellowfin. Blazensky's message to the rest of the enterprise communications space? "VoiceBase is doing to speech analytics what Twilio is doing to cloud communications. ... There's a new sheriff in town in voice analytics."

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