• April 1, 2007
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Speech Is All the Talk

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Speech technology heavily influenced the results of 2007's CRM magazine Service Awards--and this shouldn't come as a surprise. Speech technologies are becoming more pervasive, which is why Information Today Inc., our parent company, acquired Speech Technology magazine last summer. Small wonder that the biggest investments in the interactive voice response category are in speech technology. Assistant Editor Colin Beasty, who covers IVR in the Service Leader awards section, states that topping the list of standards-based technologies are vendors developing VoiceXML and speech recognition. "Over the past year the adoption of these new technologies has 'really taken off,' says Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics," Beasty writes. McGee-Smith is right. In fact, five of seven of this year's Service Leader award categories incorporate speech technology--Computer Telephony Integration, Interactive Voice Response, Workforce Optimization (WFO), Quality Monitoring (QM), and Outsourcing Services. Any customer service vendor in these five categories that isn't making strides in speech technology better brace itself, as analysts are making notes. Beasty quotes another analyst about Witness Systems's efforts in the Quality Monitoring category: "They're great with acquisitions and they're enhancing their enterprise offerings, but they've been slow with improving their speech analytic and QM offerings." Analysts wouldn't be pushing so hard for speech technology if it didn't work. Bright House Networks (BHN) is proof that it does. BHN, the eighth largest cable company in the United States, won a Speech Solutions Service Elite award this year for its strong results from a speech technology implementation. The company cut costs in its contact center by implementing Aspect Software's Customer Self-Service speech solution, enabling customers to quickly get answers to routine queries. Not only did this cut company costs, but J.D. Power and Associates also honored it as the top landline cable provider for the southeastern U.S. for its customer service. Taylor Corporation, a provider of semicustom printed materials, won a WFO Service Elite award this year largely because of its achievements with Witness Systems's call-recording technology. Editorial Assistant Jessica Sebor writes that among other benefits, "The cost per monitored call also decreased significantly--from $7.25 to $3.15." One Witness exec says, "'With hundreds of calls monitored over the course of a week, that is a huge savings right on the bottom line.'" WFO vendors should learn from Taylor. Those WFO vendors that don't incorporate speech technology into their products better beware, as the industry's focus on speech technology will probably not let up any time soon. Because we also include QM as a component of the WFO category and because of the potential speech technology has with e-learning applications (another WFO component), analysts will likely be less forgiving of WFO vendors that ignore speech technology in the future. Congratulations to this year's winners. May you continue to develop your customer service initiatives and inspire others to do the same. David Myron Editorial Director dmyron@infotoday.com
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