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Virtually Speaking

Next IT Still Dominates the Enterprise Virtual Assistant Space

Posted by Denise Caron on Jan 11, 2013 2:28:08 PM


Ever since Siri went live, Next IT has seen a new company touting natural language virtual assistant capabilities nearly every week, providing the market with escalated expectations and – just as quickly – rapid disappointments.  All the while, we have held steady – always innovating, always delivering.

When Nina was announced last August, we were eager to see a big name bring attention to our space.  While Next IT was the first to launch a mobile, intelligent personal assistant (see US Army’s SGT STAR), we were anxious to see what the competition would bring.

Entering the New Year, we’ve been very interested in seeing the first implementation of Nina go live this month.  So, imagine my surprise when I opened the news to read that Nuance bought the European virtual agent company, VirtuOz.  Hmm… maybe Nina isn’t so smart after all.

There are four things the market can learn from this acquisition:

1. Delivering a Virtual Assistant isn’t easy

Be wary of companies boasting about what has yet to be seen.  Next IT has been building complex, multi-modal virtual assistants for enterprises for over 10 years and has invested over $100M to deliver the world’s leading dialogue management system.  We pride ourselves on providing the best implementation expertise in the industry by treating each client as a valued partner, so much so that we contractually guarantee success.

2. IVRs don’t translate into IVAs (Intelligent Virtual Assistants)

Like most self-service platforms of the past, IVR systems were not designed to provide a positive experience, but rather to allow customers to complete simple tasks at extended hours. Common industry practice states that the best IVR systems only offer 4 or 5 menu options, putting people into buckets, or actually just funneling them to the appropriate human for help. According to Forrester, phone self-service experiences are consistently the least satisfying for customers. In fact, 57% of inbound calls are from customers who first attempted to resolve their issues online.

IVAs are focused and designed around the end-user, and their goal is to provide full resolution: anytime, anywhere, and your way. For a refresher on how IVR and IVA systems stack up, check out “Customer Experience Tech Showdown” for a side-by-side comparison.

3. Speech recognition is not conversation

Speech or voice recognition has become a valuable commodity, offering accurate transcription abilities, but what’s missing is the ability to offer in-depth information through context and understanding. So, the choice really comes down to picking a good voice recognition commodity or a proven intelligent virtual assistant partner. The Next IT platform is able to work with any speech commodity, since the power of the interactions is in the conversational understanding.

4. Successful integration requires more than just APIs

Large enterprises want – and need – integrated solutions.  Any software product can offer APIs, but few are able to successfully integrate into complex back-office systems.

Next IT knows the critical importance of offering an integrated experience backed by a robust professional-services team available on the continent. Integration offers the ability to uniquely personalize conversations and build strong relationships with users.

Topics: Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVA), Natural Language Understanding, Natural Language Processing, Technology