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Voice Technology Completes the Virtual Office

Speech processing efficiencies deliver powerful competitive advantages.
By Florian Schwiecker - Posted Jan 16, 2012
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Most companies understand the benefits of the virtual office, where business gets done far beyond the confines of brick-and-mortar buildings. But even with this understanding, most still remain in bondage to the keyboard. For too long, the computer keyboard has been the primary means for turning ideas into workflow. The missing ingredient is voice technology; when you add speech processing to the mix, the virtual office finally reaches its full potential.

Businesses around the globe are discovering that voice technology dramatically boosts efficiency and productivity in ways that text-heavy solutions cannot. By greatly improving response time and workflow, speech processing has become a significant competitive advantage—and that speaks volumes to corporate leaders worldwide. 

Consider some of the unique advantages of voice technology: 

  • Spatial freedom – Voice technology precludes the need for a desk or a keyboard. Using a smartphone equipped with a speech processing app, you don’t even need a chair. Let’s say you’ve just concluded a business dinner at 9 p.m. Which is more efficient and productive: waiting until getting into the office the next morning to type follow-up notes and messages, or dictating a few words while leaving the restaurant that instantly reach a secretary or correctionist?
  • Greater productivity – Studies show that people speak seven times faster than they type—including those who type proficiently. When professionals get into the swing of using speech processing, their productivity soars.
  • Faster response time, greater accuracy – When sales reps record notes after each customer visit, they can quickly enlist back-office assistance so clients receive follow-up email or contracts in minutes, not the next day. And by dictating immediately after the visit, the rep's notes are fresh and accurate. They are far more reliable than notes typed at the end of a long day filled with multiple client meetings.
  • Improved workflow – Imagine an American attorney pursuing a deal in Amsterdam, with office support back in Boston. When the attorney wraps up her meeting at 5 p.m., she can dictate instructions for her support staff to send examples of similar deals to her Dutch hosts. Because it’s 11 a.m. in Boston—and because this attorney didn’t waste time trying to peck out an email—the prospects in Amsterdam get the follow-up file within minutes…and are duly impressed.

Perhaps one of the best advantages of voice technology is that its use is not limited to only a select few professions. Speech processing already is increasing efficiency in many fields of business. Here are a few real-life examples:

Insurance

Every day, the insurance industry sends out armies of claims adjusters, field adjusters and scopers (people who inspect homes for fire and flood damage). Most of these field operatives now use ordinary analog tape recorders to log their findings, and typically deal with the limited capacity and poor sound quality of these devices. Adjusters fill up many tapes each week, then drop them off to their support teams, which duplicate the effort by transcribing the notes into a computer.

Now, however, adjusters using a smartphone equipped with a digital dictation app can make the same verbal notes as before, but send them electronically to their back-office staff. If the company uses voice recognition technology, the word processors in the home office are no longer transcriptionists but correctionists. They receive a file that already is more than 95 percent accurate, make a few tweaks and corrections, and the document is complete.

Sales

A sales rep for dental products might schedule 10 appointments per day with dental practices. Let's say the rep is promoting a sonic toothbrush each practice can sell directly to customers for a nice margin. At each stop, the rep does a demo of the product, then packs up and heads for the next appointment. At the end of the day, the weary rep tries to remember which dental practices wanted a contract, which wanted to schedule a Lunch & Learn, and so on. Sitting at the keyboard to follow up, the rep adds another hour and a half to an already long day.

A rep using voice technology, on the other hand, can verbally recap the highlights of each sales visit as he is driving to the next one. This aids in the accurate capture of even the smallest detail. A dictation might go something like this: “Smiles 4 Kids needs a sales agreement, and they want to schedule a Lunch & Learn on October 20. Two of the lunches need to be vegetarian.” The rep then sends the voice file to his support staff, which promptly emails a contract and confirms the upcoming Lunch & Learn. The dental practice is amazed to get the follow-up just minutes after the rep’s visit—and on October 20, the two vegetarians aren’t handed a smoked turkey sandwich.

Law

In a field where it is critical to respond quickly, many law firms still take days to follow-up after important meetings. Take the example of a client who wants to learn more about a firm’s latest merger case, but the attorney must take that client to dinner in just five minutes. There is not enough time to type and send an email, so the lawyer makes a mental note to have the information sent the next day.

In this same scenario, the lawyer could dictate and send the following message via voice technology while walking out the door: "Bill, please send the executive summary of the Penn/Teller merger to my client at this email address." During dinner, the client gets that information on her BlackBerry and is quite impressed.

Building relationships, fostering teamwork

In addition to boosting productivity, voice technology is also a natural for building business relationships. In fact, voice processing nurtures relationships far better than typing ever will. Suppose you were to visit a client and discover that his son is graduating from Yale in six weeks. You could capture that information by quickly sending a voice file to your support staff. Long after the face-to-face meeting, the client is pleasantly surprised to get your graduation card. It is an efficient way to build strong business connections. 

By adding voice technology capabilities, the virtual office has finally come of age. It frees companies from computers and keyboards, allowing work to be done anywhere, at any time. With speech processing, both the business person and the support team are seamlessly united to achieve remarkable efficiencies.;


Florian Schwiecker is director of Philips Speech Processing North America, a developer and supplier of speech processing workflow solutions and professional digital dictation.

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