Speech-Enhanced Customer Service Gets a New Look

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Much has been written about using speech technologies within specific verticals, particularly contact centers and customer service. Through a combination of technology advancements and proliferation of IVR use to front-end those contact centers, purveyors of these applications have been forced to broaden their focus beyond persona development and directed dialogue to find ways of adding value to customers’ businesses. These days, it is not enough simply to deflect calls from the contact center or enable a customer to make simple transactions.

No longer are we just doing data dips to see what the caller history is with the contact center either. Instead, companies are combining all manner of analytics—data, speech, and historical, among others—with real-time actions of the customer, in order to change what is presented to the caller in the IVR or by the agent. These solutions are accessible to customers in multiple channels in addition to the phone. But, perhaps the most exciting developments have materialized through the creation of multichannel solutions that combine proactive outbound alerts and notifications with inbound capabilities. Here are some recent supercharged solutions that incorporate speech technologies:

Nuance Complete Care solutions aim at select vertical segments: retail/banking, health insurance/pharmacy, utilities, and travel/transport. The solutions are personalized, multichannel, speech-enabled, informative, and interactive. The idea is to engage customers with more interactive, automated conversations that anticipate what each customer will need.

For example, an outbound payment reminder might turn into an inbound bill payment application, or an inbound bill payment call might turn into an upselling opportunity to set up auto bill pay and a scheduled outbound reminder call. However, Nuance has done some things to further improve the customer experience, such as make sure there is a consistent user interface, voice, and persona for inbound and outbound, rather than separate applications. In addition, when an outbound turns into an inbound to the IVR, the application drops the customer into the part of the IVR menu that is directly related to what he is doing, not at the main menu, in order to reduce frustration and save time and money.

West Corp.
Having processed more than 721 million alerts and notifications in 2010, West Corp. has radically changed outbound. But, unlike in the early days of outbound, practically all of these had a proactive and interactive component to them, and many used speech technologies for input and output. Targeted at many verticals, West in particular has thousands of solutions in healthcare, travel, finance, utilities, communications, and retail, with an emphasis on personalization and relevance to the customer. West uses a preference management engine to further personalize when and on what device a customer would like to be notified as part of the solution.

Convergys Dynamic Decisioning Solution (DDS) uses business rules and policy management, combined with customer history, billing information, demographics, and other metrics, to change customer offers in real time. The company has created a line of solutions that incorporates inbound and outbound and utilizes speech technologies across multiple channels, including voice, SMS, social media, email, mobile, IVR, agent-assist, and the Web. Pseudo-packaged solutions that Convergys has launched include Intelligent Notification, Intelligent Self Service, Intelligent Credits, Intelligent Loyalty, and e-Service.

As Nuance put it, each interaction is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your customer, and these new types of notifications have done just that. Rather than the robocalls of the past, new notifications are relevant to the consumer, as well as proactive, engaging, and timely. They transform the experience from a dreaded call into something a customer would not mind receiving, and speech technologies play an integral part. Whether it is the use of speech analytics to better understand what is happening in the contact center or with the caller, or using  text-to-speech for output, or voice-to-text to enhance a multimodal application, speech technologies have gone mainstream in increasingly sophisticated customer service applications.

Have any innovative speech news? Nancy Jamison can be reached at nsj@jamisons.com, at www.jamison-consulting.com, or follow her on Twitter @NancyJami.

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