Voice Is Changing, Not Disappearing

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Communications pundits continue to proclaim the death of voice. I disagree. People still like to speak to and listen to other people, even if they also use other channels when it's more convenient. The voice world is changing, but is not going away as a service channel, despite the rise of social media and a significant increase in chat and SMS activity. Companies still need and want new, innovative solutions and capabilities to improve voice-related activities.

Improving the Customer Journey

Companies have been trying to capture a holistic view of their customers' behaviors, needs, wants, and preferences for years. In fact, this was a primary goal of the customer relationship management movement in the 1990s. Customer experience management, which followed the CRM era, was dedicated to improving customer perception, which, of course, assumed that a company had the means to measure it. Most did not.

With recent innovations and improvements in analytics, mobile computing, the Web, and even areas as mundane as storage and computing, companies now have better and faster visibility into customer activities in many channels. While most companies cannot yet capture and evaluate all customer activities and behaviors in every channel, and fewer can bring this data together in a single repository that allows them to analyze it and accurately predict the future, the market is moving in the right direction. Privacy issues aside, there is a tremendous amount of information available about consumers that can be leveraged by companies willing to make the investment.

Consumers are going to continue to call and interact with people in stores and branches, even as they adopt alternative channels. People will continue to use touch-tone and speech-enabled IVRs to quickly obtain information and transact business. In the future, they are going to be able to give voice commands to all types of devices, and all of this information needs to be collected and analyzed as part of each customer's journey. Innovative companies will add new servicing channels while continuing to support the established ones.

For the first time, companies have much of the information they need to evaluate the customer journey. This data is coming from voice-related channels (sales, agents, IVRs, stores, branches, etc.), as well as the Web, chat, SMS, mobile, and social media. Once companies figure out what to collect and how to consolidate and analyze this data on a timely basis, they will be able to improve the customer experience. And in the process, they will see that voice remains a powerful, useful, and effective channel, even if it is no longer the only game in town.

Speech Analytics

Speech analytics, also known as audio mining, entered the commercial marketplace in 2004, and its adoption has grown rapidly as companies figure out the best ways to use it to enhance the customer experience and reduce operating costs. This new software converts unstructured conversations into structured output; it structures conversations using a variety of techniques and turns the results into metadata. Companies can then analyze and use the output files in many ways, including identifying the root cause of calls (why people are calling) and company and department trends, determining callers' emotional states, figuring out which agents are adhering to their script, and improving quality assurance. Speech analytics can be applied to both recorded and live calls.

Speech analytics improves the service dynamic by enabling companies to mine phone conversations so that they can use this data for the benefit of their company and customers. As companies learn to apply speech analytics as an enterprise 

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