CRM applications, Portals, and Contact Centers are contributing to the improvement
of customer relationships and the effectiveness of employees; in many cases
they remain convoluted to users whether they are customers or company employees.
Some software solution vendors have developed a noteworthy approach to alleviate
those complexities using natural language recognition or LEAP (Language Enabled
Application Platform). We met with one of them at the Microsoft Convergence
Conference in March, 2003. Catalyst
Evaluation Group, LLC from Irving, Texas and Leverance,
Inc. from Bothell, WA were presenting the release of PowerTrieve,
a data reporting tool that recognizes human language and responds instantly
to verbal requests.
CRM applications provide so many features and functions that end-users have
a hard time navigating through all available options. Continuous training is
necessary to pave the path for better usability. This issue is crucial since
the success of your CRM is at stake. See previous article: CRM
Application Users are Key to Project Success.
are driven from the various interfaces users have with the application. In many
cases, familiar processes have been modified to either fit the application structure
or redesigned to be more client oriented. Users are required to navigate through
a series of applets and views knowing where to start and where to end in order
to complete the entire process. The same situation applies to Contact Centers
where customers have the advantage of self-service either through the browser
of a portal or via an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) services.
capabilities are now being used to confirm user input and to vocalize feedback
from database readings. Users can interact with systems by simply pronouncing
a specific word or number and even in a more sophisticated environment use continuous
and fluid speech where complete sentences can be spoken instead of one-word
commands. This is made possible by the system's capability to recognize natural
language. The real benefit from this technology is to empower end-users and
customers to short-circuit the drill downs in multiple layers of web pages or
selection choices. Imagine a potential caller to a help desk regarding a problem
with a product he has just purchased. The system may ask: "What would you like
to do?" The caller's answer can be: "I would like to be transferred to Support
please". In this case the caller gets directly routed to the required department.
Pronexus based in Kanata, Ontario,
Canada, is among the providers of such technology.
technology involving voice is VoiceXML. This technology provides end-users
the ability to develop a rule based command execution allowing customers to
navigate through a site without prior knowledge to the site map. Elix
a Montreal, Canada based company offers such solution. Guiding customers through
complex processes by using natural language is definitely a breakthrough for
reaching higher customer satisfaction and improved effectiveness.
Product Strategy and Trajectory
Chuck Cosby the creator of PowerTrieve has positioned its language recognition engine to help Enterprise Application users improve their effectiveness from a different angle. He has tapped into the complexity of generating reports by non-technical people. This is certainly an area of concern to most end-users. Today many Enterprise applications are offering preset reporting templates, but in reality they are not always suited to the user's need. Opportunities to take positive actions at the right time could be lost if the user has to wait for a programmer to create his special report. This could result in higher frustrations and criticism towards the application.
PowerTrieve allows users to access information from any LEAP-enabled database and builds a report using a Conversational Data Query. In other words, users simply say what they want and the system generates the report. Conversational Data Query is a non-technical data request transformed by the system to a database Query. The user speaks in familiar conversational phrases like:
"I need inventory stock status information"
"I would like to see summary sales of item B for the last 2 months"
only items sold in the first quarter of last year"
The only limitation is the need to ask a logical business question in a conversational manner. PowerTrieve is a powerful tool that will make the life of many executives easier.
are many possible applications of this technology. Microsoft Business
Solutions Great Plains is the first application to use PowerTrieve
and its Conversational Data Query technology. Additional commercial products
are in the process of being language- enabled with PowerTrieve. We had a demo
of the beta version during the Convergence event, and can see it being a valuable
tool for any company.
recognition has been around for a while and is relatively simple technology
in which the system recognizes previously recorded phrases. However, the LEAP
(Language Enabled Application Platform) language recognition system distinguishes
itself from other language recognition systems by allowing the computer to recognize
words by organizing them into a matrix where they are analyzed by a series of
algorithms that identifies and categorizes each word as an action word, field
name, date interval, data record, etc. From the concept matrix, the system then
reconstructs the words and phrases into the most likely meaningful request and
acts upon it. PowerTrieve may not exactly understand a word or phrase, but it
can often recognize what was asked based on the context of the entire sentence.
PowerTrieve builds your linguistic profile as you use it. This profile allows
PowerTrieve to increasingly more accurate.
PowerTrieve in its beta version has relied on Microsoft SAPI for word recognition and the Microsoft Excel engine to display all resulting data. This has limited the reporting capabilities, because the Excel environment is limited to 65,535 rows. The company is looking to replace both with more proven and extensible technology. The challenge for Catalyst Evaluation Group and PowerTrieve is going to be the company and the technology they will partner with to support their engine. The database technology is certainly an attractive place to start, and since this is where PowerTrieve has selected to be, why not expand to partnerships with data warehouse and analytics companies where reporting issues are at their center of gravity.
Today's challenges for end-users are to access the required information in a timely manner with minimum resources. It would be helpful to reduce the need for specialized resources and programmers and to enable non-technical users to produce ad-hoc reports and better perform their duties. However, the reality goes beyond that. The real challenge for companies with disparate and distributed databases is how well internal and external systems are integrated. Many Enterprise CRM applications, for instance, have shown weak and lengthy reporting capabilities and, as you add queries from other systems, the process gets even more complex. You may want to spell out your query; the question is how long would it take to show the result and how this will affect the system performance.