Speech Analytics Is Important to Your Future

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With more than 3.5 million licensed seats, speech analytics has rapidly become a mainstay in contact centers. Enterprises and companies of all sizes appreciate the power of speech (and text) analytics. They may not yet know how to most effectively employ it, but they understand the concept and appreciate the potential of an application that enables them to convert phone conversations into data that can be analyzed and used for the benefit of the organization and, hopefully, the customer.

ADOPTION OF SPEECH ANALYTICS IS ON THE RISE

DMG has been bullish on speech analytics since these applications entered the commercial market in 2003; we've discussed the value and benefits of applying speech (and text) analytics both inside and outside of the contact center. Speech analytics can assist contact centers in achieving better productivity and quality, but its true value is as an enterprise analytics solution that helps improve the customer experience, increase revenue, reduce attrition, identify new products, etc. And after 12 years, during which the uses of this application have changed and matured, companies are starting to move in this direction. Based on DMG Consulting's 2015 speech analytics end-user satisfaction study, the top three uses of speech analytics are improving agent and operational effectiveness and efficiency; understanding the customer experience/capturing the voice of the customer; and improving sales effectiveness.

The first of these is contact-center-oriented, which makes sense: This department typically owns and operates the application, as it is where conversations are captured. The second, understanding the customer journey and capturing customer insights, is much broader, and such findings would be supplied not only to contact center managers but to many other departments in an enterprise. Delivering an outstanding customer experience is the top enterprise servicing objective for 2015 (based on a worldwide DMG benchmark study), so it's good to see companies doing more than just talking about this essential goal.

The third, increasing sales effectiveness, involves a highly quantifiable and impactful use of speech (and text) analytics, as customers frequently share their ideas and recommendations. This input is typically communicated to a contact center agent who may be dedicated to delivering a great service experience or closing a sale but requires additional motivation to collect these ideas and pass them on to a department manager or the company's product management department.

Along with these uses are many others that benefit contact centers and, increasingly, other departments in the enterprise. Of course, one of the top uses remains the identification of the underlying reasons why customers (or prospects) call, if the application is being used by a customer service group. And for collections departments, speech analytics is used primarily for script adherence and regulatory compliance. However, even for the most standard and common uses, the analysis is becoming significantly more targeted, allowing the insights gleaned to be more actionable.

Speech analytics solutions hold tremendous potential for contact centers and other enterprise departments, but companies have to satisfy three conditions to realize it: The findings need to be identified on a timely basis; there must be a way to tie the insights to specific issues or departments; and the results have to be actionable. Alerting a department manager about a problem is a good first step, but accompanying this alert with a targeted action plan will help turn speech analytics from a nice-to-have application for companies with deep pockets to a must-have application for all companies.

Vendors are finally listening to their customers and starting to deliver speech analytics solutions that are tied to other analytics tools and performance-management or next-best-action solutions, ones that are prescriptive and identify the specific actions needed to address identified opportunities. This means that speech analytics vendors are starting to appreciate that their applications are useful by themselves but gain immensely in value when combined and used with other applications.

WHERE SPEECH/TEXT ANALYTICS FITS INTO THE BROADER ECOSYSTEM

Speech (and text) analytics solutions perform a unique function—identifying the meaning and insights contained within spoken (and written) conversations and discussions. (They also identify customer sentiment, which is just another dimension of identifying the actual issue.) But consider the implications if, for example, someone leaves a message for an energy company about a gas leak, but the issue isn't identified until a couple hours later or the next day—the information will not be useful if the leak has already caused an explosion. So being able to transform metadata into actionable insights on a real-time basis, along with the ability to use the findings for post-call strategic analysis, is the way to go. The question the market has been trying to address is how to get there.

According to DMG's strategic road map, predictive analytics will be instrumental in the future of contact centers. Contact centers will play an essential role in helping organizations deliver an outstanding, personalized service/sales/collections experience that is cost-effective. While this sounds similar to the primary objective for many contact centers today, the practices and actions will be different. The major change is that the contact center of the future will be equipped with tools and data and be empowered to make decisions for the organization instead of just "following orders." Of course, since people need guidelines and rules, the structure will be provided by a variety of predictive and prescriptive analytics solutions, as well as a variety of operations solutions.

Speech and text analytics will provide real-time and historical data and feed into the contact center analytics ecosystem. Real-time speech will be used to automate the verification process—voice biometrics—which will improve security and reduce the risk and cost of fraud. Real-time speech analytics will be used for personality-based analysis and matching of customers to the right agents, to enhance the satisfaction of both and improve productivity. (Getting interactions to the most appropriate resource will allow for a more customized service/sales experience, which will also increase revenue.) And real-time speech analytics will be used to drive real-time guidance, so that agents know precisely what to do. This will be followed by next-best-action recommendations, driven by a variety of predictive and prescriptive analytical capabilities.

But this is just the beginning of the process, as there is a great deal that cannot be done in real time, which is why there is still a need for post-call speech and text analytics, as well as inputs from customer-facing applications, operational systems, customer relationship management solutions, and many others. While this all sounds complex, it will be a gradual process, and is consistent with the direction the market has been taking for a number of years.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Speech analytics is a high-value application with great potential for delivering quantifiable strategic and tactical benefits for companies and their customers. But there are still significant challenges that are impeding the success of these solutions. The most significant one remains the shortage of experienced analytical resources to implement and manage these solutions. The second is the lack of maturity and functionality in some of the applications, which greatly limits what they can do. However, over time, these issues will be addressed, and speech analytics will be perceived as mission-critical.

Speech and text analytics are valuable on a stand-alone basis, but when combined with other applications, their contributions become even greater. Speech and text analytics will be an essential component of many of the analytical solutions and frameworks that are emerging, and will power the contact center of the future.

Donna Fluss (donnafluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and principal of DMG Consulting, a provider of contact center and analytics research, marketing analysis, and consulting.

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