You are on page 1of 7


Voice data expands SFA’s capabilities making it easier for sales peo-
ple to capture correct meeting notes. Voice interface in general
promises to add significant capabilities to all business applications.

Adding voice data capture and manipulation to standard business applica-
tions is an idea that leapfrogs conventional computing. With voice as a stan-
dard input modality, devices can be smaller and applications simpler by vir-
tue of the fact that keyboards are less necessary. Keyboards are obviously
still needed but in addition to reducing reliance on a keyboard, a voice inter-
face opens many business processes to management by smaller platforms like
PDAs and cell phones.
As sales representatives and other customer facing people become more mo-
bile, capturing and integrating voice input will enable more dynamic business
processes and reduce process latency. Moreover, capturing voice — both the
user’s and the customer’s — provides a richer and more accurate record of
an encounter.
Ribbit, an emerging software and phone company has delivered to market
technologies that will enable a new era and a new dimension in the user in-
terface. Ribbit’s integration of IP based phone service and developer’s tool
kit make it possible to voice enable any application. Beginning with CRM
and SFA the company expects to revolutionize the way that business applica-
tions are made and used.

This Beagle Research Group Executive white paper is based on extensive

research conducted during May 2008

Published June 2008

In the latter phase of a product lifecycle it is common to see the center of innovation
move from pure product innovation to innovations in customer intimacy and/or process
excellence. Having perfected a product through the first part of its lifecycle, many
companies find that the next areas of improved profitability are in making their com-
panies easier to do business with or in developing greater rapport with their customers.
Innovating at these levels starts a virtuous circle that leads to better understanding of
customer needs and results in better and more focused products and services. It is
somewhat rare that a single innovation might help a company in both areas and the
addition of voice capture and voice file processing is a case in point. There are multi-
ple reasons that support this contention.
Adding voice processing to standard customer facing applications simplifies the user
interface and reduces the size and complexity of input devices. Voice processing also
enables capture of more detailed and accurate user and customer input reducing the
possibility of error which further enhances the use experience for the user and the cus-
As CRM users, especially sales people, become ever more mobile it becomes harder
and harder to find the time and a location to open a laptop computer to record notes
or communicate information to a conventional office. A voice interface streamlines this
process because mobile users can issue voice commands that initiate workflows and
make notes directly into SFA systems via their cell phones.
Modern applications provided by Ribbit and ensure that voice files are
treated like conventional data. For example, voice files captured in this way are auto-
matically associated with customer records in the SFA system and users can access and
use these files like any other data and customer voice data is treated in the same way.

Business problem
One of the still-lingering issues for CRM remains user adoption, especially by sales
people. Some sales representatives use SFA daily while others find it too difficult
given their personal work styles. In fact, SFA has been developed for a narrow range
of users who have the luxury of sitting at a desktop or laptop computer and who can
type notes any time they want.
However, the role of a sales representative has been changed significantly in the past
five years by market forces and technology. Sales people spend less time in the office
or other stationary places and they rely more on hand-held wireless devices and cell
phones than ever — systems not well adapted to typing. Consequently, many sales
people behave as they always have, writing notes on scraps of paper and entering
what they recall when they can into SFA systems. It should come as no surprise that
much of the information a sales person is exposed to in a sales process either remains
in the sales person’s head or is forgotten.
Predictably, sales representative adoption of SFA has been a running issue for as long
as CRM has existed. Management wants the data that sales people can collect and
sales people are either reluctant to collect it or fail to report it accurately. Rather than

Page 2
continue a fruitless debate about data entry, identifying new and frictionless ways to
capture data could do much to improve the impact of CRM — and SFA in particular —
on many organizations’ business practices.
The cell phone can be an important data collection device for CRM if it can be appro-
priately configured within CRM business processes. Dictation, rather than typing is a
logical alternative. Unfortunately, dictation has historically been relatively expensive
due to the eventual need for converting dictation to text by transcriptionists. Medical
and legal professionals have been the primary beneficiaries of dictation solutions,
mostly because their business models can carry the expense.
Sales people come from a different business culture that does not support a dictation
tradition; however, the ubiquity of the cell phone and its penetration into the sales
ranks provides a ready infrastructure for creating dictation and for using it within the
data intensive sales process. The key to success is in either making transcription auto-
matic or in enabling voice data to participate in front office business processes.

Finding a solution
Many of the components that support a dictation solution already exist in the salesper-
sons’ kit, including the ubiquitous cell phone and wireless infrastructure as well as cus-
tomer facing applications such as SFA that could capture and store dictation files. Us-
ing digitized voice as a data type can do a lot to improve the sales process. For ex-
1. Digitized voice from sales people gives them the ability to make notes while
an interaction is fresh, ensuring better quality information later.
2. Digitized voice from the customer eliminates errors due to misinterpretations.
Customer voice data added to the business process workflow gives everyone
richer information about the situation and enables greater precision ultimately
speeding up the process.
3. Better information around customer processes — no more sticky notes, frag-
ments or faulty recollections and better documentation of the customer rela-
4. Like any other data input, digitized voice can be used to kick off additional
business processes such as letter, proposal or invoice generation, report print-
ing and approvals, which can also aid in compliance workflows.
5. It also provides the basis for a transcribed version of any voice recording for
those times when text is preferred, such as when searching for key words or
Still needed is a tools based platform that enables integration and manipulation of
voice files as a valid data source.

Ribbit describes itself as an Internet phone company but it is more of a hybrid telecom-
munications provider and on-demand software company, with the technological ability

Page 3
to bring elements of what would traditionally be phone-based voice communications
into Web and other applications. The company provides a telecommunications service
for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calling as well as an API and development plat-
form that enables users to build innovative voice centric applications for today’s mobile
For example, the company supports VoIP but takes its solution up-market from pure
low cost utility service to make it an integral part of SFA. Within the Salesforce SFA
paradigm, Ribbit can be used to capture voice input and more importantly, the com-
bined Salesforce-Ribbit solution can use these voice memos to kick off workflows and
they can be stored as notes or be turned into traditional transcriptions. A sophisticated
“soft” phone switch enables users to route all calls from any phone through Ribbit (and
record them) so that users can determine which calls they want to keep in customer re-
cords and/or have automatically transcribed.

Ribbit for Salesforce

In CRM and Salesforce SFA specifically, Ribbit enables users to add digitized voice
data to their work processes and to integrate it into their workflows. Rather than typ-
ing input, sales people can call in a voice memo that will attach to their Salesforce ac-
counts. Within Salesforce a sales person can, through a simple menu, attach any file to
the appropriate customer or opportunity record and create a new task based on the
information content. The voice file is accessible and can be played back to the sales
person whenever that sales person calls into the system.
Ribbit will also transcribe the memo so that a written record can be used when needed
and the written content is searchable for quick retrieval of important information. Most
importantly, Ribbit can bring together all phones including land lines and cell phones
into its service so that all calls can take advantage of Ribbit’s call logging and low cost
VoIP. Therefore, all relevant customer calls can be captured and the sales person can
determine which should be attached to the customer record.

Several benefits flow from this arrangement, including improved workflow and the
seamless integration of called-in voice memos and transcriptions. Ribbit also adds cell
phone capability to a Salesforce instance — effectively enabling the user to access his
or her cell phone service — so that users can make calls from within the application,
regardless of whether or not there is good cell phone coverage. This arrangement
forms the nucleus of a new user-computer paradigm.

Ribbit for Salesforce enables sales representatives to initiate workflows with voice in-
put, for such things as sales call follow up — even when they are traveling. Users sim-
ply call into their Ribbit for Salesforce accounts with their cell phones and voice files
will be positioned in the users’ Salesforce account for further disposition the next time
that user logs in. Most importantly, the action is asynchronous so that rather than re-
quiring a representative speak with an assistant, the direction can be given when it is
most convenient, and top of mind for the road warrior.

Page 4
When sales people enter call notes hours or even days after a customer facing event,
they do what any person would normally do — they summarize adding their own in-
terpretations thus changing the meaning of what they heard. While some amount of
interpretation is always possible, enabling sales people to call in a voice memo in-
creases the likelihood that they will make the call while the interaction is still fresh in
their minds, reducing the amount of errors. Voice memos also enable support repre-
sentatives to capture verbatim what a customer said and to refer back to the discussion
when necessary. Finally, if customers call in voice memos their voices can be captured
in the same way, giving rise to the ability to capture direct customer input.
What Ribbit captures as a voice file can also be transcribed into regular text which
can be used in any process that uses text. Users can cut and paste or email the content
and, once transcribed, sales people can access the text on their wireless devices.

Ribbit’s soft switch can manage all of the phones within an organization enabling users to re-
cord voice messages and append them to Salesforce accounts. At the same time, the soft
switch can enable users to integrate their cell phones into the Salesforce application regardless
of cell signal strength. This comprehensive integration ensures that voice capture will be ubiq-
uitous and places voice on a par with data that is input via conventional keyboards.

Ribbit platform
The Ribbit platform consists of a soft switch for routing calls and accessing low cost
phone service via VoIP. Furthermore, the platform offers a rich API that is based on
Adobe Flash and can be used by application developers for building new applications
or for adding voice data and manipulation to existing applications. Ribbit for Sales-
force is just one example of a voice based application that can be built from the Ribbit
Ribbit has opened up its development environment to a partner community that is
working to build new voice based applications and to add voice processing to conven-
tional applications. For example, one new product is the AIR iPhone, a virtual iPhone
that runs in a browser and gives the user the same visual experience as working with a
real iPhone. Users can access and use the AIR iPhone through a web browser taking
advantage of Ribbit’s VoIP service. Additional phone based applications are in devel-
opment which will change the way users access applications and information using their
wireless devices.

Ribbit has put voice on an equal footing with conventional text input for most applica-
tions opening up new opportunities for making business applications easy to use, light
weight and most importantly, portable. This approach will do a lot to enhance cus-
tomer intimacy and improve customer-facing business processes.
Applications that have been exclusively text driven have required large devices for
user input via typing; in contrast, voice capture now provides mobile users with a more

Page 5
natural interface — their cell phones — to get work done without the need for a lap-
top computer or a human assistant on the other end of the call. Voice is a richer me-
dium than text and adds a great deal of information — such as emotion, inflection and
word choice — to every communication and that can play a significant role in any
CRM 2.0 strategy.
There is ample evidence that the art of selling is transitioning from an era when trans-
actions were the driving force to a time when relationship building and maintenance is
the dominant approach. But relationships require more information to sustain than sim-
ple transactions and more people in an organization need access to the information to
perpetuate a relationship. Sales, sales support, corporate marketing and installed
base marketing all make use of the data collected by sales people and all can benefit
from access to original input, unfiltered by long lapses and relatively primitive input
We believe that voice data will have two important influences on computing and busi-
ness applications as time goes on. First, it will continue to blur the distinction between
the computer and the telephone whether the device in question is hand-held or desk-
bound since the data, once captured, will be available everywhere and in multiple
forms. Second, addition of voice data to existing and as yet undeveloped applications
will continue a trend of making applications and customer interactions more social.
Current social technologies are marginally useful in business applications though the
ideas embodied in them — such as gathering customer input on a regular basis — are
sound. Proponents of employing communities as a way of capturing the “voice of the
customer” have been ironically limited to typed text input from customers. Adding
voice data will reduce or eliminate that issue enabling richer engagements between
vendors and customers and potentially between customers as well. The asynchronous
nature of voice data provides an important ingredient in establishing communities that
has been ignored until now. What starts as voice enabling some applications could
easily result in an important evolutionary step involving all of business computing.

Page 6

Beagle Research Group is a consulting and market research organization

focused on emerging technologies and companies that will have an
important impact on the way business is conducted in the years ahead. Our
work is based on professional standards of quantitative and qualitative
research which informs all of our publications.

264 Greenbrook Drive

Stoughton, MA 02072

Page 7