SOURCE: IBM

August 07, 2006 05:00 ET

OutRight Insurance Broker Improves Customer Service With Speech Technology From IBM

IBM Speech Recognition Demonstrates Immediate Benefits for Insurance Intermediary

ARMONK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- August 7, 2006 -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that The OutRight Company, an insurance company providing insurance to brokers and corporate clients, has improved customer service and enabled call center representatives to focus on revenue generation by deploying advanced speech recognition technologies from IBM and Fluency in its call centers.

IBM WebSphere® Voice Server (WVS) and IBM partner Fluency's packaged application, the Virtual Speech Agent (VSA) suite™, support OutRight's new speech-enabled customer services.

OutRight is deploying the speech recognition solution in its Stoke-on-Trent call center. By using speech technology to replace DTMF based call routing, OutRight is able to route callers quickly to the appropriate agent, provide better customer service and increase agent productivity compared to previous labor-intensive, costly, repetitive work for OutRight's skilled staff. OutRight also plans to deploy speech applications for identification and verification of customers and a travel insurance quick quote facility over the coming months.

OutRight offers a wide range of insurance products including travel, car, home and motorcycle insurance. With the new speech-enabled 'Router,' part of Fluency's VSA application suite, OutRght's automated system prompts callers to state what they're calling about. The speech application understands and routes calls to the correct team. Outright agents' time is now spent handling more complex and revenue generating transactions, as the speech system improves customer service levels and reduces costs.

"We proactively chose to test speech recognition technologies in our business and the IBM WebSphere Voice Server/Fluency VSA suite gave us the ability to do this simply and quickly and to learn from the experience," said Ray Westwick of OutRight.

Westwick at OutRight is optimistic for the future of speech commenting, "Standing still just isn't an option at OutRight. We see the efficiency and customer service improvements that we can achieve by using a virtual agent to handle simple repeatable tasks. Customers now demand 24/7 self service and that is exactly what we can provide with the IBM WebSphere Voice Server - Fluency VSA Suite solution. The opportunity to improve service levels, reduce costs and maintain an all-important competitive edge is boosted significantly with the application of speech recognition across our business."

"We operate in a fast moving and highly competitive marketplace and are passionate about the role that technology can play in increasing the speed and efficiency of our service while also improving customer experience," said Ray Westwick, head of business partnerships at OutRight. "Speech recognition, when used appropriately, can deliver immense benefit to our organization in terms of reduced overhead, better response times and an optimized and competitively superior service. This impacts customer service and retention but significantly benefits regulated industries such as ours with improved compliance."

"Our goal has been to leverage open standards to enable inexpensive, quick implementations of speech that not only can reduce costs for customers, but increase customer satisfaction by the caller," said Brian Garr, Program Director for Enterprise Speech at IBM. "Fluency's implementation at OutRight is a classic example of a strong speech ROI with a quick deployment timeline."

OutRight conducted market research on speech recognition systems and selected IBM partner, Fluency, using IBM WebSphere Voice Server, in favor of numerous competitors. Fluency's VSA Suite is made up of a series of applications, each of which can work independently, but can also be deployed together throughout an enterprise depending on specific business needs. This flexibility of options provided OutRight with a selection of applications to automate their call center workflows and to change and maintain their system internally. Using IBM's open-standards-based solutions and component-based technology, the VSA Suite has enabled OutRight to deploy speech recognition investment rapidly, flexibly and at a low cost.

Philip Padfield, Fluency's CEO, said, "We are delighted to welcome OutRight to our expanding list of service-driven organizations that see the tremendous competitive edge achieved through 24/7 service availability. Our VSA suite is perfectly positioned to help those organizations deploy speech applications quickly with the added control of being able to configure, manage, monitor and report on the applications, continuously improving how the systems best serve customer needs. Putting this capability in our customers' hands liberates them to make speech work for them without the need to rely on outside suppliers which can be time consuming and very costly."

About IBM

For more information about IBM, go to: www.ibm.com.

About Fluency Voice Technology

Fluency Voice Technology is a leading provider of packaged speech recognition applications for use in call centers. Our solutions enable enterprises to significantly reduce costs and enhance customer service by automating much of the high volume call center activities. Key sectors for which Fluency has developed applications are Financial Services, Travel & Transport, Utilities, Telecoms and Retail. Fluency has always been at the forefront of speech recognition and has changed the way in which businesses use speech by introducing the first ever packaged speech application in 2002. Fluency has offices in the UK, US and India.

About OutRight

OutRight is a specialist personal lines insurance broker providing a skilled and tailored resource to national and regional brokers and blue chip corporate clients. We also operate our own book of motor insurance under the Auto Direct brand. OutRight was a self-contained business division within HSBC (operating as HSBC Select (UK) Limited) until a Management Buy-Out in April 2003. In September 2005, the entire share capital of OutRight was acquired by Fortis (UK), although the business will remain a separate regulated entity and continue to trade as The OutRight Company UK Limited.

OutRight has a turnover in excess of £13m, and shows consistent growth. The business is profitable and very stable, having a broad spread of clients and contractual agreements covering 3 and 5 year terms. OutRight's GWP currently stands at around £55m. Our purpose is to provide multi-channel transaction, support and contact management services for personal lines business which can realise the full potential of our clients' customer bases. For more information please visit www.outright.co.uk

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