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Nuance Natural Language Solution Helps U.K. Telecom Hear What Customers Are Saying

TalkTalk realizes increased contact center efficiency, plus $5 million in savings.
By Michele Masterson - Posted Feb 2, 2015
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London-based TalkTalk Telecom Group bills itself as a "value provider" of mobile, television, and Internet services for consumers and businesses across the United Kingdom. The company launched in 2002, as a division of the Carphone Warehouse Group, but business really took off in 2004 when TalkTalk began offering free phone calls between its customers.

TalkTalk has continued to grow through subsequent acquisitions, including its 2007 purchase of AOL's U.K. broadband business. In 2010, TalkTalk divested itself from Carphone Warehouse and became an independent company. Currently the fourth largest broadband and TV provider in the U.K. market (the top three are BT Retail, BSkyB, and Virgin Media), TalkTalk refers to itself as the largest "unbundler" of telecommunication services. The company has installations in more than 3,000 of Great Britain's local telephone exchanges, which serve approximately 97 percent of its households.

On the business side, TalkTalk Business operates what it calls Britain's biggest next-generation network, providing broadband and voice coverage for nearly 95 percent of the businesses in the United Kingdom. The business arm has more than 180,000 business and public sector customers, with more than 350 wholesale partners. Combined, the company serves more than 4 million residential and business customers.

As the company continued to grow its TV services in particular, it began to realize that its booming call center volume was not its only issue. Callers were unhappy and frustrated as they were forced to navigate lengthy prompts in TalkTalk's interactive voice response (IVR) system. This, coupled with ever-increasing customer expectations for uncomplicated and fast service, left agents overwhelmed.

"Every year, TalkTalk has tens of thousands of calls from customers and others interested in learning more about our products and services or wanting to upgrade or receive technical advice," says Sarah Bramwell, head of interactive voice response, telephony, and real time at TalkTalk. "We knew our customers found [the] phone system menus frustrating and repetitive, so we needed a solution that was a quick and efficient way to handle all of these calls."

The company began working with Nuance Communications in August 2013 to help realize its goals of call volume reduction, decreased call transfers, and improved first call resolution. Initially, TalkTalk implemented a proof of concept to attain previously agreed upon target numbers. TalkTalk's assessment of Nuance's Natural Language Call Steering Solution was a company-wide endeavor, involving not only the IT department, but also the contact center and commercial, legal, training, and marketing units. These business divisions reviewed issues such as customer journey mapping to make sure the proposed system was correctly mapped to meet its predetermined goals. Management information, analytics, and planning teams were then brought in to review the findings.

The Nuance Natural Language Call Steering Solution was able to pinpoint more than 500 unique call paths, which were predicated on customer intent and allow customers to be immediately routed to an appropriate agent or a self-service option. TalkTalk customers now hear IVR prompts such as "What can we help you with today?" and can speak naturally to answer them. The solution is 

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