RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — LiveWire Logic is turning the hype into reality.

The RTP startup has signed its first four paying customers for its RealDialog intelligent online support agent that was released in September. And the company’s executive team sees many benefits coming from these deals beyond the cash.

“These certainly are good indicators for us,” Michael Lough, the vice president of marketing, tells Local Tech Wire. “These are not freebies. They are paying for software and services.”

Business plans, neat technology, proof-of-concept and beta tests are fine. They all help companies attract interest and investors. But getting clients to buy and install is the validation stamp LiveWire has been seeking.

Lough likes to talk about the “secret sauce” of LiveWire’s computational linguistic technology and how RealDialog is such a “breakthrough” in customer support — helping firms reduce costs while also improving service. Now, he and LiveWire’s sales force can leverage real customers with real services and real results.

“They will be references for us in key markets,” Lough says enthusiastically.

The four cover retail e-commerce, financial services, consumer products and outsourced customer support.

And now that the agent program, which LiveWire offers a sample of as “Talk With Sandy” on its web site, is embedded at the first four customers, Lough says the company sees them expanding its use.

“The expectation is that we are going to do more with them,” Lough explains. “We may start with one product line and that certainly can lead to many more.”

LiveWire won’t identify the customers or what they are paying.

“These would be in the $200,000 to $250,000 range, but they’re not paying that,” Lough says, pointing out the four received discounts since they are the first customers. Installation will take place this quarter, he adds.

Key sectors

The companies were described as follows:

  • “Retail e-commerce site: RealDialog will be the first automated agent employed on a large consumer retail site for one of the world’s largest electronic retail companies, providing product and service information to users.”

  • “Financial services: Customer service representatives will use a RealDialog Agent to provide consistent answers to customer questions. Further use will include being deployed on an external web site for web-based customer self-service.”

  • “Consumer products: A RealDialog Agent will answer questions regarding a line of consumer products for customers and channel partners on their product web site.”

  • “Outsourced customer support center: A RealDialog Agent assists users in completing registration forms and answering questions regarding services and processes for a major technical support center for Fortune 1000 companies, including Symantec Corporation, Microsoft, 3Com, CNET, ZDNet, Sprint Communications and Expertcity.”

LiveWire also continues to work with Charlotte-based Lending Tree in a beta trial, Lough adds.

The online agent is designed to help companies reduce costly call centers and e-mail support for first-level, or Tier 1, customer inquiries. If the agent can’t answer questions as posed, the customer can be forwarded on to the next level of support.

“RealDialog is designed to understand what the user is really looking for,” Lough says. “E-mail support is great, but it’s not typically a single session. It may require three, four, five times, and the cost is $8 to $10 for every e-mail.”

More ventured?

The sales also have LiveWire thinking about more growth. The company has raised $5.5 million through two rounds of venture capital to date and is looking to raise another round, Lough adds.

Tim Hicknernell, an analyst at the META group, has become a big supporter of LiveWire and the concept of automating customer support with agents that can grow smarter as it deals with more queries. But while analyst support is welcome, LiveWire can add these first four sales to its bottom line in cash and marketplace endorsement.

“We are thrilled to be delivering our solution with enterprise-class customers to improve their customer service offerings,” said Bill Warner, LiveWire’s chief executive officer and president in a statement.

Thrilled — in more ways than one.



Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.