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January 14, 2009

Haim Argaman Talks About Crimsonet, ITEXPO

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Technology Marketing Corporation

Crimsonet is an all-in-one solution for the development and management of voice recognition software projects. By using custom voice recognition software development the company provides high-quality speech recognition consulting and project management that increases business efficiency and ROI.

Services include ROI analysis to maximize returns, strategic planning and project scoping to select appropriate software, vendor research and selection to ensure good service, project management to minimize risk, and retrospective monitoring and tuning to keep the IVR system functioning optimal.
From ROI analysis, to the application development of speech recognition software, to system monitoring, Crimsonet claims they are a one-stop solution for all IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) needs.
Recently, I spoke with Haim Argaman from Crimsonet Technologies about what we can expect from them and a little about the ITEXPO, Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami.
Who has influenced you most in your career and why?
Someone like Jack Welch, former General Electric Chairman and CEO, reflects a lot of the principles behind Crimsonet Technologies. Everything Welch accomplished in terms of promoting efficiency and raising the business bottom-line—that’s what Crimsonet aims to accomplish with our IVR consulting services. Our company philosophy is based on the belief that informed, strategic change can have a decided impact on a company’s return on investment, especially if proper ROI analysis is performed in advance. That same philosophy of strategic change on a large scale is what made Welch the figurehead he was for General Electric. 

What excites you most about our industry?
It’s exciting to see how even small changes may have a drastic impact on a company’s bottom-line. At Crimsonet, we’re passionate about usability and voice recognition technology, and IVR systems in contact centers are all about usability. Ultimately, the more user-friendly an IVR system is, the greater is the company’s return on investment. The detective work of figuring out where and how to improve voice recognition usability—tracing and addressing the origins of the customer service challenges that an organization faces every day—makes up one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of what Crimsonet does.  
What areas do you wish you could devote more energy/attention/resources to?
Crimsonet is always seeking out new methodologies and best practices to optimize IVR implementation. The outcome of every IVR implementation should be a better service experience, and it’s critical to keep abreast of voice recognition industry trends to deliver it. We wish we could devote more time to promoting the importance of the customer service experience, showing how small changes can make a world of difference.
What pain does your company take away for customers?
For callers, Crimsonet resolves usability issues in voice recognition and takes away the frustration of dealing with poor IVR design. This means developing IVR scripts that are in line with the mindset and expectations of callers, resulting in enhanced system efficiency and more user-friendly IVR systems.
For companies, Crimsonet takes away the investment risk on new and improved voice recognition projects. In tough economic times like we’re in now, Crimsonet makes sure that IVR investments contribute toward reaching business goals with in-depth ROI analysis and specialized IVR designs  
How did your company get to where it is and where is it headed?
Crimsonet Consulting was formed out of hard work and a high emphasis on measured data. You have to think out of the box to succeed, and Crimsonet’s focus has been not only on IVR systems but also on working together with clients to make sure systems yield the expected results. As a company we aim to continue growing and providing the best possible service to our clients.
What does your dream mobile device look like?
My dream mobile device would look something like an iPhone (News - Alert), but with faster response time, and a Multi-Modal user interface with a highly usable voice recognition interface. It would include total integration with location-based services to ensure that the caller decisions are knowledgeable, secure and smooth.
If you were forced to head Nokia, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft (News - Alert), GM, Cisco, Nortel or the US… Which would you pick and why?
Microsoft. Creating usable software for such a large body of people is a very challenging task to say the least, and the new Office 2007 had a lot of usability problems. It seems it was developed without thinking of how users would respond to such dramatic changes, and now it’s failed to the point where Microsoft is working on a new release to supersede the Vista version. It’s a typical example of how changes need to be properly tested for usability by real end-users before implementation.
Poof – you become President Obama’s top advisor on tech. What should he do to foster more technology use in the US and abroad?
I believe the direction should be towards making technology more user-friendly and intuitive. The best way to encourage the growth and use of technology is simply to make it easy to use, without the need for manuals and user guides. Apple’s (News - Alert) iPhone is a good example of how a very good, new, and usable technology has been widely embraced. Creating government grants for companies that invest in usability and customer experience research would do a lot to promote the use of technology.
How has open-source changed our space and what more can it do for us?
What’s nice about open-source is how the creativity of diverse users contributes to usability. Firefox is a good example of how open source software creates applications that are both sophisticated and extremely user-friendly. Also, the combined source code allows for faster implementation of well-tested codes in shorter periods of time.
When does Microsoft become a major force in communications?
Microsoft is already a major force in communications. They just need to adjust the usability of the Windows platform to accommodate the natural habits of users. It’s a question of listening and researching those habits in-depth prior to implementation.
Apple? RIM, Nokia (News - Alert)?
Apple is developing very quickly and in an extremely sophisticated manner. RIM is getting there. They have innovative products, but they constantly need to redefine themselves with an easy to use interface. Nokia is also very innovative, and often way ahead of the curve, but the user interface is too clumsy. It wasn’t thought out enough before it was introduced. Good ideas aren’t enough, they need to be properly researched and developed prior to launch.
What surprised you most about 2008?
The impact of the economic slowdown on businesses has been surprising. It has hit in a very sudden manner, with a rapid snowball effect, and the economy has been slowed in an extremely short period of time. In a recession, people aren’t ready to take risks, so in that regard services like ROI analysis are all the more indispensable. Still, in the past some companies have achieved miracles in such tough periods and come out even stronger.
Is the green movement dead now that oil is plummeting in cost?
The green movement is motivated by more than economics. It’s a matter of necessity. We’ve seen that people are willing to pay more to invest in the future of the planet, with the purchase of reusable bags, for instance. But this recession is undoubtedly an important crossroad for the green movement. We’ll see whether the individual interest to survive the economic slowdown will prevail over environmental concerns, or whether green consciousness will be put aside for “better” times.
How does IP communications help in a recession?
There are a lot of benefits. IP communications allow for seamless inter-office integration, which means that different offices can have the same functionality and enjoy toll-free calling between branches, even if spread over big areas. Further benefits include the ability to communicate interactively between offices, including video streaming. But perhaps the number one advantage of IP communications in a recession is the lower cost of communication. It allows users considerable savings. Everybody, from mobile users to high-level executives, can benefit from IP communications in the midst of a recession like the one we’re in now.
You are speaking at ITEXPO which takes place Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami. Why do people need to hear what you say, live and in person?
The recession we’re facing is a big challenge, but at the same time it is an opportunity. Just like the energy crisis of the 70s was a compelling reason for the car industry to develop a new generation of economical vehicles, the current situation is a good reason to increase call center efficiency. The right implementation of IVR technology for customer service, if properly aligned with business goals, can put companies in a much stronger position for the future.
Also, the ITEXPO (News - Alert) conference gives people the advantage of meeting and networking in person with people of similar backgrounds and shared experiences. Even in the tech world, there’s no substitute for meeting people face-to face. The interactions that take place in-person can be very fruitful for potential collaborations, and you have the opportunity to network with a much greater number of people than with, say, an online webinar. In the case of ITEXPO, it can really help to speak directly with speakers or organizations who have successfully implemented similar voice recognition or call center solutions in past. They can serve as models to solve challenges in other call centers and offer focused approaches to different call center issues.
Make some wild predictions about 2009/10.
We’re going to see much more green IT. Tech companies will optimize power usage, and there will be more and more innovative ways of increasing energy efficiency. Also, we’ll see voice-activated computers and mobiles begin to take over as the norm. Typing will become less a staple on mobiles and computers as people move towards dictating their work documents and correspondence.

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Jessica Kostek

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