Speechworks Talks Stocks

Speechworks has implemented an Australian-first through a corporate voice recognition computer system for the local arm of global discount broker TD Waterhouse, allowing punters to retrieve stock quotes by saying the name or abbreviation of the stock over the telephone.

TalkBroker has driven 25 per cent of TD Waterhouse's call volume away from advisors, freeing their time for more valuable trades, said TD Waterhouse Australia CIO Jonathan Pain. In turn, this has relieved the firm's PABX traffic of routine customer calls.

TalkBroker is 99 per cent reliable and holds 20,000 speech utterances in its computer model, according to Mark Holthouse, Speechworks senior VP of operations. The system is also accessible from wireless PC and remote devices, he said, allowing for live market information access anywhere, anytime.

According to Holthouse, with routine transactions costing $4 to process, it costs businesses 40 to 50 cents to recover that outlay, which meant substantial cost savings for TD Waterhouse. While Pain could not comment on cost savings experienced so far, he said the system has improved business activity analysis by tracking customer patterns better, which has boosted the firm's strategic marketing efforts. TalkBroker has also given customers multi-channel access to live stock quotes in the privacy of their own time, he added.

TD Waterhouse will expand TalkBroker's functionality in the next 18 months to offer speech-activated share trading services, Pain said.

He was confident TD Waterhouse would break even on its investment in TalkBroker ($A500,000 to $1Amillion) within 12 months.

Speechworks will target the financial services, travel and retail sectors with voice recognition solutions, freeing such industries of "painful" customer service processes typical of more impersonal touch-tone systems, Holthouse said. Speechworks has provided speech-based transaction systems to the Singapore Stock Exchange and US broking firms E*Trade and Ameritrade.

According to ACA Research, over the next two years 20 per cent of Australian businesses plan to employ speech recognition technology to ease some of the more tedious duties of customer interface.

Speechworks is considering delivering speech-activated solutions and voice portal applications through an ASP model, according to Holthouse.

TalkBroker will be implemented on an advanced interactive voice response (IVR) platform by InterVoice-Brite. Local systems integrators Trilogy Business Systems Australasia will provide the total TalkBroker solution.

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