• August 1, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

The Next Step in Anger Management

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One of the puzzles facing the CRM industry revolves around two at-times conflicting corporate strategies: cutting costs and improving customer satisfaction. It stands to reason that the more companies invest in customers by providing well-trained agents, the best technology, and improved business processes, the happier customers will be. That requires money, but speech analytics apps appropriately used can help shave call center costs and improve customer satisfaction. "There's a lot of data to analyze in a contact center, but until very recently no one's really looked at analyzing the verbal flows of information in a recorded or a real-time sense," says Ken Landoline, vice president and principal analyst at Saddletree Research. As these solutions continue to evolve, though, they are allowing contact center managers to identify and analyze information previously not extractable, which could improve the customer experience. "In a nutshell [speech analytics is] the application of speech technologies to glean information that's missing," says Nancy Jamison, principal analyst at Jamison Consulting. For instance, speech analytics solutions arm organizations with the capacity to detect emotional cues for customers and agents, identify keywords or phrases like a competitor's name, and identify call trends. "The first step is to identify those emotional calls, but the second step is to know what's driving those emotional calls without actually having to listen to [them]," says Daniel Ziv, director of business analytics at Verint Systems. Speech apps vendors, including Utopy, Nexidia, and CallMiner, develop solutions designed to help organizations extract the most information from captured data. Utopy's SpeechMiner product suite, for instance, converts recorded calls into structured reports and alerts; lets users create, define, and translate categories based on their organization's needs and focus on specific information that transpired during calls; and capture the speaker's intent. Either through internal development or partnerships, companies like Envision Telephony, NICE Systems, SER Solutions, Verint, and Witness Systems have speech analytics functionality. Of course, there are some caveats. Todd Beck, a senior product manager at AchieveGlobal, which provides performance improvement consulting and training services, says that "if the technology encourages your organization to put too much emphasis on what the agent does versus how the customer responds, [and] if your organization stops measuring--or simply doesn't measure--what the customer really feels, not just what the technology can infer from analyzed conversations," these systems may not be a good investment. Still, Landoline sees the speech analytics trend emerging as companies are moving from technology implementation to optimization. "We're moving from an era of cost containment into really making better decisions." In fact, speech analytics is allowing organizations to target issues with certain business processes that extend beyond the contact center into the rest of the enterprise. "You could do [speech analytics] for root cause analysis and then go back and fix something that's not even related to the call center [like] a billing problem," Jamison says. Speech analytics solutions could be a good investment if firms both make the process efficient and standardize policies for recording and analyzing calls.
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