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PeopleSoft and JustTalk partner for voice-activated SFA interface

PeopleSoft is taking aim at mobile sales professionals, who have been reluctant to embrace a single standard for managing their contacts on the go. The CRM software vendor is partnering with speech recognition technology company JustTalk, Inc. to add the telephone to their list of points, including the Internet and PDAs, that sales representatives can use to access their company's PeopleSoft 8 database.

The plan calls for the integration of JustTalk's speech recognition engine with PeopleSoft CRM's mobile sales force automation (SFA) software and PeopleSoft 8 pure Internet Financial, Human Resources and Supply Chain offerings. Adding JustTalk's service to the mix allows PeopleSoft's customers to review contacts, initiate conference calls, organize appointments in their calendars and manage to-do lists by using natural language voice commands.

"JustTalk is unique relative to most systems [because] it is a natural language dialogue, using full phrases in combining multiple types of information," said Pamela Emery, vice president of strategic planning for JustTalk.

During a demonstration of the JustTalk capability, Emery searched for contact information through a mock database of celebrity information by using language such as, "Find Matt Damon's cell phone number." She added appointments by saying, "Pick up Matt Damon at the airport next Friday at 10 a.m." When she said, "Confirm," the system repeated the information to her.

"As a former salesperson, I would have loved to be able to say to my cell phone, 'move this contact here' ... via speech as opposed to seeing it via a keyboard or phone keys," said Vanessa Fox, senior analyst, sales strategies, AMR Research. "As you get older, the keys get smaller," she added.

"One significant [feature] is real-time updates to the database," said Peter LaSalle, manager of SFA product strategy for PeopleSoft. If a salesperson in the field calls in an update to a to-do list or calendar appointment, for example, when the salesperson gets back to the office and logs in to the database, the data entered by phone would be displayed.

The speech recognition engine controls four functions, according to Emery. Contact information can be accessed and reviewed; tasks and to-do items associated to contacts can be added, deleted or modified; contact-associated calendar items can be managed; and the system can dial contact through voice commands. "Call management is being able to call by saying, 'call Peter LaSalle on his cell phone,' " she added.

"The features were designed and picked because they provide personal productivity," Emery said.

In general, the partnership is a good idea because companies are implementing their CRM systems, and salespeople can and need to utilize information in their systems, Fox said. "It's a good move forward," she said.

According to LaSalle, PeopleSoft partnered with JustTalk for several reasons. First, "JustTalk's technology and architecture are very solid," LaSalle said.

PeopleSoft also appreciated JustTalk's focus on SFA. "The management of JustTalk comes from a sales management background," LaSalle said. "We feel like you have to understand that environment... to address the challenges of it."

JustTalk also has a "passionate dedication to SFA usability," LaSalle said. The entire focus, he said, is on the ease of use for field sales professionals.

Additionally, JustTalk is hosted, which, given the intricacies of computer telephony integration, would be easier for the customer to implement, according to LaSalle. PeopleSoft's customers would have their own enterprise systems and have a data link to JustTalk for speech recognition.

Lastly, JustTalk offers a concierge service, a human call center to back up the speech recognition technology. "We think it's important because sales people are not the most patient people," he said. If a problem or question arises while using the JustTalk engine, all a salesperson has to do is ask for it, and the question is routed to human help.

"One of the main problems with implementing SFA is the sales force hasn't been enamored with filling in information," Fox said. With the addition of speech recognition for adding contact information, more customer information is captured, aiding in companies' CRM efforts.

The first release of the JustTalk capability for PeopleSoft is set for February, to be released at the DCI Customer Relationship Management Expo in Chicago. It will initially be available in the U.S., although since the speech engine handles multiple languages, there may be plans to offer the service in other countries. Pricing will be on a subscription basis, which is expected to be in the range of $40 to $50 per user per month.

In the second release, available in April, the service will include features such as opportunity management, account management and call reports.

For more information, visit PeopleSoft and JustTalk.

Also check out searchCRM Best Web Links: Sales Force Automation: Contact and Account Management.

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