Werewolves of London
Healthcare company Parlance carves a different path to voice AI success
In 1977, when Warren Zevon got in the studio with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac, he had no idea the song they created would go on to be the band’s biggest hit. He reminisced:
I don't know why that became such a hit. We didn't think it was suitable to be played on the radio. … I still think it’s funny.
In fact, the song never would’ve been recorded at all if Crystal Zevon, Warren’s wife, didn’t have the wherewithal to write down the lyrics that the bandmates were throwing around.
The result is one of the most covered songs in history, with versions from the likes of The Grateful Dead, David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, and Adam Sandler.
As more and more venture capital flows into the conversational AI space, it’s important to be reminded there’s more than one way to be successful.
There’s no better example than Parlance, started back in 1996. The company took VC funding many years ago, but in a distinct departure from many companies today, bought the company back from the same VC investors as the company achieved financial sustainability.
Parlance today has a simple business model: work with healthcare organizations (which comprise 80% of the company’s revenue) to reduce call volume and increase call efficiency, with a solution that embraces merging human interaction with conversational AI approaches.
Over the last year, Parlance began working with a large division within HCA that was having trouble managing their call volume.
HCA brought a unique demand to the table: while Parlance typically sees call volume efficiency immediately improve by 30% and sometimes get as high as 50%, HCA wanted 70% reduction of call volume without any dropoff in customer satisfaction.
Joseph Maxwell, the company’s soft-spoken CEO now entering his 7th year at the helm, stepped up to embrace the challenge, and worked with his new partners at HCA to make this 70% target a reality.
The result was HCA immediately handing over another large business unit to Parlance, and doubling their work.
While the company has occasionally veered into enterprise use cases, along with education use cases, they see the intersection between voice AI and healthcare as now reaching a new taking-off point.
The company’s recent success is evident from the increased headcount needed to service Parlance’s growing client list. Maxwell estimated that 25% of the company’s employees are new, coming on board over the last 12 months.
The company has benefited from merging a distinctively legacy approach with cutting edge conversational AI and voice AI. They don’t shy away from their 26 year history - rather, they lead with it.
I can certainly tell you there are plenty of VC-backed conversational AI startups that would love to have their growth metrics and positive cash flow.
Kudos to Parlance for daring to be different.
You can catch Parlance in a webinar on November 2 that they are doing with their partner UC San Diego Health System. Registration is available here.