inQuira Upgrades Self-Serve Search

InQuira, a San Bruno, Calif., maker of natural language search technology to improve online customer service, has upgraded its software.

Rather than request keywords, InQuira 6 encourages users to ask questions, which help it determine users’ intent and return relevant results. The offering starts at $150,000 and can be installed in three weeks.

“Getting those additional three or four words makes all the difference,” David Downing, an Inquira vice president told

In addition to keeping customers happy, licensees also have a financial incentive to provide accurate results.

When searchers find answers online, they don’t dial the call center. The savings from ‘deflecting’ calls adds up. While it can cost a company $3 or $4 to handle a call through a call center (considering customer representative’s salary, 800 number costs, facilities leasing), online assistance can be as little as 10 cents to 18 cents per inquiry.

Two other features business like. First is the product’s ability to search interior pages such as catalog listings for links to additional information, and opportunities to purchase related products and services.

Second, the new software has an improved analysis package to give information on customer behavior. By analyzing queries, site managers can reposition information or craft and present special deals that may have appeal.

Reports include: volume (total number of requests), concepts (showing the frequency of a given concept, plus associations with other concepts), and content (summarizing frequently asked questions from the question logs).

InQuira was formed last year by the combination of two complementary firms — Electric Knowlege and Answerfriend. Since then, the privately held firm has landed AT&T, Fidelity Investments and Honda as customers.

The company faces competition from iPhrase (which announced that it won a contract from Staples today) and others, but believes that potential customers are only starting to move to more sophisticated search tools.

For example, one promising sector is telecommunications companies that operate large data centers. Too often, those companies have not integrated their infromation into a single searchable source, a costly and ineffecient mistake.

“Eventually, there will be some consilidation,” Downing said. “The economy is tough, sales cycles long and money is tough to raise. Some smaller companies will run out of oxygen.”

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