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Mining for Meaning

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The vendor landscape remains full of competition, with companiescontinually announcing new partnerships and updated product releases.According to Daniel Hong, an analyst at Datamonitor, speech analyticsvendors can be broken down into three distinct categories:recording/quality management (NICE Systems, Verint, Autonomy, Utopy,and Voice Print International); stand-alone analytics (CallMiner,Nexidia, Utopy, and Aurix); and contact center infrastructure (SER).

Speech analytics will take several years to hit its stride for otherreasons, Hong maintains. "It will be another two years for the speechanalytics technologies to mature, and for newer and less complexversions to come out," he said in an email. "Standardization will makespeech technologies become more affordable and attractive to small andmid-size businesses and lead to more adoption in this market segment."

Cash Is Still King
While technological capabilities and methodology still act as the mainmotivational factor for companies when deciding which vendor to select,price has not left the picture. However, once organizations see howeffective speech analytics can be, they won’t care about the price tag,many vendors and analysts suggest.

"I don’t think cost has anything to do with [implementation rates],"Nuance’s Borton says. "If people saw the value, and they saw how theycan change the way the business works, I think they would be willing tospend 10 times more money than is being charged by vendors."

According to Stockford, however, the numbers today speak a bitdifferently. He estimates that revenue for speech analytics managedservices in 2006 was only $190,000 split among only three vendors thatoffered the service at the time.  Further hampering adoption was areluctance by potential user companies to dramatically alterinfrastructures and buy additional servers needed to store all the dataand process it effectively. In addition, time and money must go towardcompiling a group to analyze the data in house or hiring someone fromthe vendor side who will do the legwork.

Jeff Gallino, chief technology officer at CallMiner, notes, however,that three pricing models exist to help an organization stay withinbudget: per-use, per-seat, or per-organization. Which one is chosenshould depend on a business’ size and what it hopes to gain from theanalytics’ findings. If a company records and mines 100 percent of itsaudio, Gallino says it’s best to buy on a per-seat or per-organizationbasis; if the data is being used for simpler, less time-consumingprocesses not done in real time, a per-use approach is a better fit.

While some companies offer speech analytics as an add-on to otherservices (such as WFO), stand-alone vendors like CallMiner say theirsingularity of purpose lets them bring bigger value to customers. "Weconsider ourselves highly functional, which means our prices are not ascheap as the people who use [speech analytics] as an add-on," Gallinosays. "That’s not our business model. The return on value thatcustomers are seeing—building their business cases in between six weeksto nine months—is what we’re selling."

Like other facets of the contact center market, however, many speechanalytics vendors are moving toward managed solutions as well. Usingexperts from within a vendor organization, companies can rent both thetechnology and brainpower that go into mining data.

Yochai Konig, chief technology officer at Utopy, says his companyoffers managed solutions, but that other issues can complicate thedecision to go with a hosted service provider. "We are offering [hostedsolutions], but the reality is that some verticals are very sensitiveto get the calls out of their network given the type of information inthe calls," he explains. "Some are more open to it, and obviously wehave safeguards. We have this [hosted] option for the customer, but wedon’t force it [on them]."

But while the hosted market is "not catching on like wildfire,"according to Stockford, some companies are cautiously experimentingwith speech analytics by investing smaller amounts of money initiallyand waiting for feedback before jumping in head-on. As more speechanalytics companies, however, show proven scalability, the market couldcatch on.

"What [some companies] are looking to do is try it out by spending$50,000 or $75,000," says Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting."What companies don’t want to do is make a quarter-million-dollarinvestment in something that is unknown."

Building Value
Stand-alone vendors like CallMiner firmly believe that the best way tooffer speech analytics is by keeping the focus on their service’s uservalue, but others within the market think a different approach isneeded for buy-in.

"What I’ve been hearing is that speech analytics will get rolled intoWFO," SER’s Benchoff states. "Vendors in speech analytics are lookingto bundle the apps as both differentiators and a value-addedapplication. It’s going to be difficult for stand-alone vendors tooffer a point solution in the marketplace."
Companies may also recognize that, though the contact center is stillthe most popular place for customer interaction, the Web is also anundeniable member of the customer service division. With youngergenerations gravitating toward self-service instead of human-to-humaninteractions, a company’s online customer service traffic has becomeincreasingly crucial to business operations.

"I think it will be necessary for speech and Web to partner," Stockfordsays. "Voice is still the primary means of customer service and willcontinue to be for several years, but in the long run there’s going tohave to be a drive to also start monitoring Web activity, lookingthrough to see where people are clicking to get their answers."

SER Solutions, which started in the telemarketing arena, notes thatspeech analytics should play a role in sales and marketingopportunities as well. The technology needs to be able to identify theparts of calls that agents can use to make cross-sell or upsellpitches. Speech analytics’ ability to produce results in real timecomes in handy when used as a sales tool.

"If agents can be told something to do when they have someone on thecall, that will either increase the volume of what they sell or thetotal sale on the call, or be given advice that can make a no-sale calla sale call; [that] is the type of app that makes real-time [speechanalytics] significant," SER’s Mark explains.

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