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Karen Schwartz Speech Analytics: Effective, but Underused

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 By Karen D. Schwartz

Speech Analytics Offer Proven Technology For Long-Standing Call Center Challenges

Do your call center agents make customers happy? Do they solve customers’ problems? Do they upsell or renew when possible? Do they ever get frustrated with customers?

And how about your customers? Do they threaten to leave you for a competitor? What are they complaining about? Do they end the communication satisfied or frustrated?

When it comes to agent-customer interaction, one communication that goes awry is one too many. There is a way around it, but many companies consider it too expensive, too complicated, or too telling.

I’m talking about speech analytics — technology from companies like Envision, CallMiner, Aspect, Nexidia and Utopy that analyze voice calls in real time. Speech analytics systems can analyze tone and sentiment of voice and talk/silence patterns to gauge emotion and satisfaction, tie detection of user-defined phrases to specific agent actions—in short, identify and prioritize what needs fixing, and then contribute to the resolution.

If you monitor agents’ interactions with customers, for example, you can easily ferret out which agents aren’t being proactive, or which are not succeeding in satisfying customers. You can then pull that call center agent aside for education or training in order to improve agent performance. If you identify from your speech analysis that certain types of calls are difficult for agents to handle, you can segment those calls and implement specific business processes, or otherwise treat them differently.

You can even set up the speech analytics software to listen for specific phrases and, based on those phrases, immediately prompt the agent with proactive response alternatives. Call center managers can also monitor the system for the amount of times customers mention a competitor or say “Thank you”. You can even monitor how many times customers are getting angry by their vocabulary and pitch of the customer’s voice during the call.

What’s more, you can use the speech analytics system to monitor for tone and silence patterns, which can help ferret out when customers are frustrated or about to become angry. Tone also can signify age, which can be used to determine how effective a marketing campaign is on specific age segments.

Despite clear evidence that it makes a big dent in productivity and customer satisfaction, relatively few contact centers have begun using speech analytics solutions. According to Ventana Research, about 20% of contact centers have deployed this technology, and only another 16% plan to deploy it this year.

One reason for the slow technology adoption is cost and justifying ROI. Unlike the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which is an IT expense because it used throughout the company, speech analytics is seen as a contact center expense, which makes it an operations expense, and therefore harder to justify. But that’s just not a good enough reason; according to research by DMG Consulting, speech analytics has a payback of less than a year. How many other call center or IT software projects achieve a payback of less than one year?

It’s also partly the fault of speech analytics vendors, who have made the technology seem unnecessarily complicated. It really isn’t; it’s mature and definitely ready for prime time. It’s easy to integrate with CRM software and call center productivity systems - and it works.

So maybe it’s the fear of the unknown. If you don’t know exactly why your sales are down or customers are leaving, you can’t be blamed, right? Sorry, that’s just not good enough. Not with technology like this available.End

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Comments — Comments for this page are closed —

x Frank James
  Where do you think speech analytics goes from here?
  Denise Denise Holland
    I think speech analytics will evolve into every day applications and transcend from just inbound receipt to also outbound communications. Speech systems such as the popular Dragon from Nuance are being integrated to a plethora of different personal and business applications. Microsoft is embedding deep speech into their Windows 7 operating systems for PCs and phones - and even their Xbox for gaming. We're also witnessing some early successes in outbound speech notifications. Canada's ScotiaBank allows banking customers to setup InfoAlerts based on bank account parameters, such as when your checking account gets low. Nearly 90% of their customers are using these speech services and are paying a small fee for them.

Janice C Monk
  Do you expect speech services to replace CSRs?
  Denise Denise Holland
    No. There will always be a need for human to human interaction. However, speech analytics and services will inspire new innovative customer support services, contribute to improved service levels, aid in regulatory compliance requirements, permit companies to route calls to automated systems in order to expedite resolution and save money.


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Speech analytics systems can analyze tone and sentiment of voice and talk-silence patterns to gauge emotion and satisfaction, tie detection of user-defined phrases to specific agent actions—and in short, identify and prioritize what needs fixing, and then contribute to the resolution.


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