Tech

WellSaid and Five9 make bots sound more like humans on the phone

WellSaid engineer Rhyan Johnson watches over the training of a virtual voice avatar. (WellSaid Labs)

Earlier this year, Seattle-based WellSaid Labs helped create an AI disk jockey with a voice that sounds like it’s coming from a flesh-and-blood DJ. Now WellSaid’s lifelike voice bots could be coming to a customer-service line near you.

California-based Five9 says it will incorporate WellSaid’s voice synthesis technology into its Virtual Voiceover menu of synthetic voices suitable for self-service contact centers. The new capabilities will be provided to users of the Five9 Inference Studio 7 platform at no additional cost, with wide availability planned in early 2022.

WellSaid Labs, a three-year-old startup fostered at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence’s AI2 Incubator, takes advantage of artificial intelligence to produce natural-sounding synthetic voices like the ones that Five9 will give its Intelligent Virtual Agents, or IVAs.

“In our experience, the more lifelike an IVA can sound, the better the reception it will receive from the customer who is speaking with it,” Callan Schebella, Five9’s executive vice president for product management, said today in a news release. “We’re continually looking for the latest and greatest technologies to enhance the Studio platform, and we are excited to partner with WellSaid to bring this new innovation to our customers.”

Five9 used WellSaid’s technology to create a customized voice avatar with the aid of University of Manchester linguistics expert Alex Baratta and voice coach Liam French Robinson. Baratta and Robinson enlisted a professional voice actor to serve as the model for Five9’s in-house phone agent.

The customized agent will be available to Studio users along with WellSaid’s 25 standard voice avatars. Last month, WellSaid expanded its avatar menu to include voices that are optimized for applications such as reassuring new employees who are going through training, or giving a playful boost to a new marketing project.

Martin Ramirez, head of growth at WellSaid Labs, said in an email sent to GeekWire that his company’s technology could make the experience of contacting customer service a little less irritating:

WellSaid Labs creates lifelike synthetic voices from the voices of real people. We partner with voice actors to capture all the unique elements of their voices, and – with our proprietary deep learning technology – we can then generate entirely new, customized audio content for a range of business-use cases, from customer service centers to corporate training materials. 

“This is important because when you dial in to an automated service line, for example, a sub-par experience is incredibly frustrating … and it costs the business money due to customer churn and lost revenue. Going into 2022, for contact centers that leverage WellSaid technology, instead you’ll be greeted with a dynamic voice that sounds virtually identical to a human voice, and is designed to answer your questions in real time using natural conversation. Suddenly the brand experience becomes warm, welcoming and helpful. It’s great to see our technology help so many different brands enhance their customer experience.



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