Accenture and AnswerFriend Unveil Alliance to Help Companies Apply Powerful Natural Language Software to Significantly Improve Customer Experience

Accenture Technology Ventures Invests In New Technology That Could Help Companies Save Billions While Providing Superior Customer Service, Knowledge Management and Assisted E-Commerce

LOS ANGELES, Calif. and NEW YORK- August 24, 2000 -- Advanced new software that allows computers to understand the exact meaning of questions and answer them with speed and precision became available today through an alliance between Accenture and answerFriend. Accenture is a leading global management and technology consulting firm and answerFriend is a leader in developing natural language processing technology to improve customer relationship management, knowledge management, and e-commerce.

Accenture Technology Ventures, the venture capital unit of Accenture, has made a significant investment in answerFriend to help take the company’s technology global.

questionEngine, the natural language software developed by answerFriend, understands customer requests in everyday language and specialized jargon. It can provide an answer in plain English by finding and retrieving relevant and concise information instantaneously from large bodies of data containing text, tabular data, numbers, or a mixture of both. Answers are immediate, precise and concise. This means, for example, that customer calls routed to a call center could be handled by fewer customer service representatives and in a fraction of the time it normally takes to use old-fashioned keyword-based tools, and that web-based customer self-service can truly meet the need of the customer.

"The personal computer became ubiquitous in businesses and in homes when the green screen computer interface was replaced by graphical user interface. Likewise, answerFriend’s patent pending technology eliminates all barriers for everyone to use the Internet. If you can ask a question, you are computer literate. Or as we think about it, the computer has now become literate," said Gary C. Mekikian, chief executive officer of answerFriend. "We knew we had a powerful product that could redefine the customer experience but to be truly successful, we knew we needed more. That’s why we turned to Accenture. We wanted access to their significant global relationships, deep knowledge of the industry and thought leadership. Together, we will establish a new computing standard in the global marketplace."

"Internal and external customers today expect superior service regardless of how, where or when they interact with a company. As a result, our clients recognize that they must reorient themselves to deliver exceptional customer experiences," said Robert N. Frerichs, managing partner of the Electronics and High Technology industry group at Accenture. "By teaming with answerFriend, we will be able to provide a leading-edge solution that makes it easier for companies to respond to their customers and deliver improved services."

Accenture plans to use answerFriend’s technology across its practices in the areas of customer relationship management, e-commerce, knowledge management and wireless portal implementations.

"The answerFriend technology is revolutionary in terms of the range and breadth of data it can manage. It can change the way people work and the way companies do business," said Thomas S. Fischer, a partner with Accenture Technology Ventures. "We believe that answerFriend’s forward-thinking management team and innovative products show great potential in markets around the world."

AnswerFriend’s technology has many business applications. The solutions can simultaneously strengthen a company’s customer support processes and customer experience, while significantly reducing the cost of doing business. For example, companies that use answerFriend’s technology will be able to curtail the need for specialists who can answer questions about new products or services. As a result, answerFriend will help companies get their products to market faster -- thus generating increased revenue, while reducing support costs. The technology is applicable to online, offline and wireless interactions between companies and their customers.

"Our technology will also help companies forge better relationships with customers through Internet interactions," said Mike Murphy, answerFriend’s chief operating officer. "Today, two-thirds of all e-commerce orders are abandoned, often because customers can’t get good product information fast enough. Potential customers just give up and log out, often switching to a competitor’s web site. In short, if your call center costs are high and getting higher, if you can’t get the right knowledge to the right person at the right time, and if you are not happy with your on-line user to customer conversion, then you need Accenture and answerFriend."

About answerFriend

answerFriend enables people to use computers and the Internet to obtain the right information on demand, using plain human language rather than computer-speak. The company’s unique and patented natural language processing system has the power to dramatically change the way companies manage relationships with their customers and people use digital information resources. By making it possible for any person to access any computerized information without special training or experience, answerFriend is removing the most significant barrier between people and computers. answerFriend will disseminate its technology throughout the computer-using world through strategic alliances with leading Internet and computer players. Its goal is nothing less than to enable universal access to computerized information for anyone who can read and write, or speak and listen, in any language. The company’s web site, , provides additional information.