Speech Self-Service a Top Priority in 2008

Speech self-service is quickly becoming an essential application for any organization interested in delivering the best customer service possible. In fact, the technology ranks as the top strategic action in 2008 for companies considered Best-in-Class, according to a new benchmark study of more than 300 companies by Aberdeen Research. (Aberdeen assigns the "Best-n-Class" label to the top 20 percent of companies in a given category.) Alan Hubbard, senior vice president of Aberdeen's customer support practice, and a co-author of the report entitled "Speech Self-Service: Say 'Yes' to Reduce Costs and Improve Customer Satisfaction," says a portion of the end-user feedback surprised him. "We knew going into this that the overall implementation of speech self-service was low," he explains. "We had seen in previous surveys it was in the 3 to 10 percent range of companies that actually installed it." Among the Best-in-Class companies over the next 12 to 24 months, however, "upwards of 30 percent will implement some form of speech self-service," Hubbard says, "literally tripl[ing] what we have out on the marketplace today." According to the study, 43 percent of companies surveyed are either seeing higher call-abandonment rates or fail to even measure this statistic. Another important impetus for the move toward implementing speech self-service comes from other aspects of businesses outside of the contact center and the IT management chain. "Now marketing and sales are looking at this, saying, 'We need to understand the context of why our customers are calling our company,' " Hubbard says. "We can get that from tone and the context of what they say. That is going to give us a better understanding of why our customers are coming back to us asking questions and discussing issues they have, and in turn [let us] improve the overall customer experience, not just at the contact center level." While more companies are looking to incorporate speech self-service into their customer service arsenals, Hubbard cautions that implementations will create several challenges, including misconceptions about the underlying technology, which is more advanced than many laypeople believe. "Speech self-service and speech recognition have made tremendous strides over last three to four years," he confides. "From that perspective, people need to say, 'OK, speech recognition works and it will handle whether [callers are] from Boston or someone from the South and be able to understand what they say.' " Aberdeen lists the following key players in speech self-service technology:
  • Nuance Communications;
  • VoiceObjects;
  • Voxeo;
  • Aspect Software;
  • Avaya;
  • Cisco Systems; and
  • Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories.
Some of the larger companies -- such as Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys -- are partnering with smaller companies specializing in speech self-service, but Hubbard says that's not surprising given the fact that 38 percent of Best-in-Class companies surveyed named "competition" as a top pressure. "No longer is it just [interactive voice response] and [computer-telephony integration]," he explains. "Companies are saying they need to have IVR with speech self-service." For companies looking to improve upon their current customer service solutions with speech self-service, Hubbard has a clear message: "What you need to do is not mimic your old touch-tone world, but spend the time and ask yourself, 'What problems am I going to solve? What are the applications I'm going to address?' Then create your speech self-service implementation around that." Related articles: Feature: Listen Up! Just because your customers are calling in to an automated response line doesn't mean your script is automatically going to work. Designing a truly interactive conversation is anything but simple. Feature: Speak Up! 11 strategies to ensure that you're hearing your customers loud and clear. What Contact Centers Need to Do Systemic challenges are driving the industry toward self-service and automation. Speech Gets Loud and Clear Two sessions at SpeechTEK 2007 center on the importance of speech as a self-service enabler and its ability to serve as a gateway to CRM applications. Feature: The Voices of Reason Speech technology experts reveal the value of analytics and the secrets of locating what your customers say about you. Raging Against the Machine Customer frustrations with automated phone systems abound, but easy-to-use systems that provide customers with the option to speak with live reps can help build loyalty and enhance the brand. The Tipping Point: Analytics Is the Answer What do contact center managers need to generate revenue? New tools and technologies. Front Office: Speech Is All the Talk Analysts will likely be less forgiving of WFO vendors that ignore speech technology in the future.
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