Von Helmuth Fuchs Moneycab: Mr. Fehlmann, you have been leading the country branches of Spitch in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria (DACH) since February 2022. What were the most important changes and innovations that you have introduced during this time?
Stephan Fehlmann: In addition to continuously adapting our organization to the current market situation, the most significant change is undoubtedly the expansion and restructuring of our sales team. This allows us to provide even better advice and support to our customers. We now have industry experts who engage with customers on an equal footing and actively bring in ideas and experiences from other customers in the same industry. This has proven to result in closer and more competent customer relationships. The formation of a Customer Success Team has also contributed to this by providing us with better analysis and consulting capabilities.
“The Conversational AI market has gained even more importance during this time. This development has been dramatically accelerated by the publication of ChatGPT.” – Stephan Fehlmann, Country Manager DACH at Spitch
Digitalization, artificial intelligence, and cost pressure from customers should give a boost to speech and text dialogue systems. How does Spitch benefit from these developments, and how does Switzerland compare internationally?
This is not just theoretical but also very practical. The Conversational AI market has gained even more importance during this time. This development has been dramatically accelerated by the publication of ChatGPT. Today, we no longer have to explain what Conversational AI is and where our solutions can help. In fact, there are times when we have to temper the enthusiasm and clearly show the limits of what is possible. This accelerated development has led to Switzerland making significant progress internationally and gradually catching up with its slight lag. In the past, customer references were exchanged with foreign companies, but now it is increasingly Swiss companies that serve as references internationally.
Switzerland has a particularly challenging language landscape with its four national languages and countless dialects. How precise are your solutions regarding content analysis and dialogue management?
I dare say that Spitch is still a leader when it comes to understanding national languages and local dialects. Even though other companies now claim to do the same, we still convince with our quality. I see this not only in internal tests but also from partners and customers who have tested other solutions. Customers are mostly confronted with rather modest systems that often come with many questions and outdated predefined choices (“press X for option A”).
Which industries or companies are leading the way in seamless integration of human and machine in customer dialogue?
Staying in Switzerland, I believe it is the banks, which may sound surprising. But it is true. There are also some insurance companies that have already made significant progress and continuously expand their efforts in this area. Public services and telcos have also recognized the benefits and are investing in corresponding solutions.
“A greater surprise for me, however, is the e-commerce sector. Although it faces numerous standard inquiries, it seems to be more hesitant when it comes to implementing Conversational AI. Yet, the obvious benefits of such solutions are particularly high in this industry.” – Stephan Fehlmann, Country Manager DACH at Spitch
ChatGPT has received a lot of media attention and has shown that artificial intelligence (AI), large-scale language models (LLMs) based on big data, and machine learning (ML) can reach great relevance and acceptance in daily life. What does this development mean for Spitch?
As mentioned before, this had a very positive impact on our operations. It has generated a great interest in the topic, and many people have had their first conscious experiences with AI. This tremendous progress of LLMs is, of course, also beneficial for us, as we can now integrate it into our solutions as well.
“Despite the obvious benefits of such solutions, the e-commerce sector seems to be more hesitant when it comes to implementing Conversational AI.” – Stephan Fehlmann, Country Manager DACH at Spitch
Financial institutions are still very cautious about using generative AI in customer contact, mainly due to data protection reasons. What can providers like Spitch already incorporate into their solutions to ensure data protection in free dialogues with language systems?
At Spitch, we have the advantage that the entire technology stack has been developed in-house, giving us full control over technology, models, and data. This allows us to deploy various models, on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment. Therefore, the customer determines at all times what happens to their data, where it is hosted, and who has access to it.
Tech giants like Google or Apple have access to a vast amount of interaction data (speech and text) through their personal voice assistants Alexa and Siri and invest significant resources in areas such as AI, ML, or LLM. Where do you see the market opportunities for companies like Spitch, and in which areas does Spitch invest the most resources?
It is important to distinguish between everyday gadgets and business solutions. Especially in business applications, it is crucial to make the technology adaptable and ensure data protection. This is not the case with “commodity” solutions, as they follow a completely different approach. Their learning curve depends on the general usage of all users. Therefore, the data must be centrally managed if you want to benefit from accumulated insights. However, I believe that in both worlds, the main investments are in data preparation and R&D to stay up to date.
“In both worlds, the main investments are in data preparation and R&D to stay up to date.” – Stephan Fehlmann, Country Manager DACH at Spitch
At the end of August, Josef Novak, one of the founders of Spitch, was appointed Chief Innovation Officer. How will this appointment influence Spitch’s strategy, and what topics do you expect new innovations to come fastest?
This step was very important to ensure that we are constantly moving with the times and keeping up with developments. Joe brings a huge wealth of experience both technically and at the user level and understands the connections very well. This greatly helps us to consider technological developments in our own R&D and to recognize and implement the “meaningful” technological advancements. Not everything that glitters is gold, so it is important to understand which innovations to focus on and which are not beneficial. In addition to technology, customer expectations and application areas are also changing, becoming increasingly complex. It is important to understand which of these are truly meaningful and offer the desired added value for customers and companies.
“What matters to us is not only successfully completing ongoing projects but also actively supporting customers in developing their future roadmap.” – Stephan Fehlmann, Country Manager DACH at Spitch
What are the most important projects that you want to implement in the DACH region in the coming year?
We have several “major projects” underway where the customer is implementing multiple use cases at the same time from the beginning. Our goal is not only to successfully complete these projects but also to actively support customers in developing their future roadmap. In addition, we are focusing on the German market, where we want to prove ourselves and further expand our presence after establishing a solid customer base.
Spitch, led by Stephan Fehlmann, has made significant progress in the Conversational AI market. With the publication of ChatGPT, Conversational AI has gained even more importance and recognition. The company excels in understanding national languages and local dialects, making their solutions highly accurate in content analysis and dialogue management. Spitch has observed that banks, insurance companies, public services, and telcos are leading the way in seamless integration of human and machine in customer dialogue. While e-commerce sectors have been more hesitant, the benefits of Conversational AI in this industry are substantial. Spitch has incorporated the latest developments in AI and LLM, thanks to the publication of ChatGPT. They ensure data protection by having full control over their technology stack. Spitch focuses on data preparation and R&D to stay up to date and offers adaptable technology for business solutions. The appointment of Josef Novak as Chief Innovation Officer will keep Spitch at the forefront of technological advancements. The company aims to successfully complete ongoing projects and actively support customers in developing their future roadmap.