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August 14, 2019Emma Martensson
Charlie Cadbury, CEO of Say It Now, has adapted alongside technology since 1999 when he sold his first website. In 2015 he began playing with voice with a proof of concept for Allegiant Air. Charlie then spent most of 2016 and 2017 attending conferences with an Amazon Echo, pitching (and winning) several travel innovation competitions for a conversational hotel concierge service called ‘Dazzle’. Charlie got early support from Marriott Hotels for Dazzle and was able to build out the proposition in Marriott Hotel London County Hall. “That recognition gave me confidence that voice had potential; however at that point in 2017 the business case for voice wasn’t very well established and often guests had never seen or heard of a smart speaker before,” Charlie says. Dazzle grew into a multi-award winning conversational service, and together with the VP of product, Sander Siezen, Charlie went on to set up Say It Now, a voice agency, at the end of summer 2018.
Today, Say It Now is a group of enterprise natural language processing (NLP) experts building out conversational strategies and products alongside Fortune 500 companies. “The business benefits being reaped are better articulated now we’ve been in the NLP space for 4 years and are clearer than ever about the strategies brands should adopt,” Charlie says. Recently Say It Now won the UK and EU rounds of The Alexa Cup, both incredible milestones for them, and won the Bronze medal in the global final. Charlie adds “We’re happy with the top spot in Europe and third in the world!”
Say It Now has, together with their clients, developed a workshop technique that allows them to assess whether voice is the right approach and, if so, where the most value can be found right now. They also create a roadmap for where the value and growth will come from over time. In this workshop they then form an actionable plan that is carried out collaboratively with their client. Whilst Say It Now brings their specific industry expertise to the table to deliver insight and guidance, the clients educate them about the internal machinations of their organisation and their strategy.
This is exactly the way they work with their client Diageo on their Alexa skill, Talisker Tasting. Diageo has stated that this kind of relationship has the desired effect and as a result they have committed to continued investment in voice.
For Say it Now’s own skills, like the Alexa Cup’s winning submission Book It Now, they took a slightly different approach. “We sought to find a solution for booking services through Alexa and adding that functionality at scale,” Charlie says.
“I started talking about ‘emerging commerce’, the idea that the way we transact has always and will always evolve, in 2012 when building out some early mobile payment apps.” He continues, “I’ve taken a very keen interest in the development of ‘conversational commerce’ over the past few years and believe it is inevitable and will be transformative to the voice industry.” Charlie believes the way it manifests will take a few years to mature but there are big rewards if some of this transaction value can be captured. Say It Now is working hard to ensure they’re part of this evolution.
Charlie sees relationships and community as key when building skills and starting a voice business. Say It Now has had a lot of success building relationships with other developers, voice designers and the community at large. “It means you are abreast of the latest developments and have the right kind of people around you to make sense of this rapidly changing world,” he says. He recommends the vux.world podcast and Voice First Community for any aspiring voice developers.
Say It Now is interested to see how Name Free Skill Interactions (NFSI) and Alexa Conversations develop in the future. “Discovery and cross skill flows are still a challenge,” he says, “but when unlocked we expect to see more ‘wow’ and utilisation of voice as a place where even more complex tasks can be seamlessly delegated to your Amazon Alexa.”
Charlie thinks this change has to come from a place of trusted personalisation, and that trust will take a while to be built up and must stem from delightful voice experiences that will provide the data businesses need. “But get there we will,” he concludes. Charlie and Say It Now is excited to play their part in the rapidly evolving story of voice.
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