Do You Have a Speech Strategy?

What is a Speech Strategy?

A Speech Strategy is a company-wide “blueprint” for achieving significant business results from the deployment of speech technologies throughout an organization. The successful Speech Strategy identifies how technologies like speech recognition, text-to-speech (TTS) and speaker verification will:

  • Increase customer-caller satisfaction
  • Drive significant return on investment, and
  • Deliver a consistent customer-caller experience that is branded and memorable.

A Speech Strategy informs decisions regarding speech service design and deployment including functionality, timing, infrastructure, the caller experience and promotion. The successful Speech Strategy assumes an enterprise-wide view, setting the stage for the first and subsequent speech services, in order to achieve maximum benefits of customer satisfaction, operational efficiency and branding.

Why Your Company Needs a Speech Strategy

Effective customer communications has been a longstanding goal for businesses worldwide. New, however, are the myriad of alternatives companies can use to communicate effectively with their customers and potential customers. There’s the Web, of course, and 800-numbers, multilingual agent pools, “snail-mail”, e-mail, Instant Messaging and more. In addition, there are speech technologies, or simply “speech”.

Why does your company need speech and why, then, a Speech Strategy? Forward-looking companies and government organizations understand that speech will be fundamental to their customer communications. Recalling winning approaches to the Web in the mid- to late 1990’s, it’s clear that those companies who established specific Web strategies achieved better branding, better consistency of user experience, better cost savings and better return on investment (ROI) than their counterparts who did not. The same tenant holds true for speech, particularly since the infrastructure for speech services can be more complex than that for Web services.

Quite simply, a Speech Strategy ensures that target results are achieved in the shortest timeframe. A Speech Strategy ensures that you select the right applications and technologies to meet your corporate needs, and that you establish a common brand throughout all customer contact points. Moreover, a Speech Strategy ensures that your company will maximize its investment in speech solutions today, while readying itself to take advantage of continual technological advances (such as new multimodal devices that combine speech recognition with a visual display) in the near future.

Key Elements of a Successful Speech Strategy

Every large-scale corporate marketing initiative or technology investment requires a solid business case and strategy statement. From a high-level perspective, you’ll want to understand your company’s major corporate objectives – including goals for better customer service and increased operational efficiencies – competitive dynamics, branding requirements, etc. However, what do industry best practices tell us about the framework for a successful Speech Strategy? Are there critical success factors that should be addressed on an enterprise- and application-specific level to ensure maximum results from speech?

A model developed by SpeechWorks called the 5-C Industry Achievement Model defines five “Critical Speech Factors” for successful speech implementations in any organization. They include:

  • Caller Monetization: the precise financial value, to the enterprise or carrier, of a caller interacting with the speech service (cost savings, revenue generation, etc.)
  • Caller Motivation: the degree of usefulness of the speech service to a caller
  • Caller Performance: the technical components of the speech service that influence a caller’s success
  • Caller Affiliation: the feeling of connection, appreciation, service and satisfaction a caller experiences after interacting with the speech service
  • Caller Behavior: the likelihood a caller will reuse a speech service, and perpetuate its growth.

Working together, these five Critical Speech Factors (CSFs) represent the difference between an adequate return, and a return that exceeds customer expectations. Why? Because the CSFs take into account the entire speech application and its expected results. Moreover, the CSFs focus on the most important constituency – the caller. To help organizations set goals and evaluate success using the 5-C model, SpeechWorks created a simple yet powerful measurement system called the “Speech IQ”. The Speech IQ is a graphical representation that benchmarks each of the Critical Speech Factors.

An organization’s Speech Strategy can take many shapes and forms – from a Powerpoint presentation to a written proposal. There’s no “one size fits all” for every organization. The challenge is to think enterprise-wide yet maintain an obsessive focus on the caller’s experience and success. The opportunity the Speech Strategy affords is to maximize results from speech services by establishing a foundation document . . . one that defines a design and deployment strategy for the first and subsequent services a company intends to roll-out to its caller-customers.

How to Get Started?

To support internal efforts, many companies choose to work with a partner that has a structured process for strategy development and technology implementation. The strategy development component ensures that your team takes the time to establish a sound blueprint for success with speech. The technology implementation component helps your team execute on that strategy – from application development through the market launch of your speech service – to achieve a smooth and cost-effective deployment, fast time to market and the highest levels of caller satisfaction.

With the right partner and process, your company will also benefit from:

  • Best practices in speech deployments
  • Speech experience across many industry segments
  • A close coordination between technical and business decision-makers
  • A clear and organized approach for evaluation and implementation, with the assurance that your company’s most important business needs are being met and that future speech services can leverage the ones deployed before them.

When evaluating speech partners, understand the processes they offer customers to help them get started and move forward with speech. For example, in the article “Planning to Purchase Speech Solutions,” (Speech Technology Magazine, July/August 2002), writer Mike Terry describes a number of planning methodologies designed to help business professionals develop sound speech strategies and to ensure the successful deployment and market introduction of speech in their organizations.

In addition to the business planning approaches Mr. Terry describes, there are also important, strategic decisions to be made on the technology side. For example, is a VoiceXML-based solution the right choice? On what hardware platform? Is an on-premise or outsourced deployment option better given your company’s time-to-market goals and available resources? How should the speech user interface support the corporate brand? How can you best manage and modify speech services after their initial deployment? As your company gets started in speech, you’ll want to make sure that technology decision-makers can get their questions answered, and that they have the knowledge they need to support your speech strategy with informed investment recommendations and deployment decisions.

Speech Strategy Today

Whether your company already has speech services deployed in the market, or has just begun to explore the potential of speech (or is somewhere in between . . . ), the time is right to establish a Speech Strategy. Speech will deliver key benefits of customer satisfaction, cost savings and corporate branding; we’ve seen those results in the market. In this era of optimization, it’s the Speech Strategy that will make the difference. By defining the optimal design, integration and deployment plan, and looking at the five Critical Speech Factors that determine a speech service’s caller acceptance and ROI, you will generate maximum returns today and well into the future.

Steve Chambers is the chief marketing officer for SpeechWorks International. He can be reached at steve.chambers@speechworks.com.

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