Speech Tech Systems Need Expanded Capabilities, Training for Improved Customer Service
Seventy-four percent admit they are more loyal to a company if they can talk to a person—versus a machine—when they need assistance, according to a new report from Calabrio. “Customers want to be heard, and they want to create an emotional connection with brands,” the report says. “By putting a human on the other end of the line, companies can meet customer wants, needs, and emotions. The ability to pick up the phone and talk to a human isn’t just efficient, it builds rapport.”
While the report makes a strong case for the need for human agents, it also admits that speech technology and other forms of communication also fit in with a comprehensive customer communication and loyalty building strategy. Deborah Dahl, principal with Conversational Technologies, says that customers don’t necessarily want to talk to a human agent. The main thing is that they want to get a solution for any issues they may have, and human agents can usually handle more than just routine questions, like “Where is my package? Or what is my account balance,” but not many of the more complex ones. But then again, many human agents are also confused by more complex requests.
Another important thing for companies to remember, according to the report, is that human customer service agents are a company’s biggest advocates: “It’s important to give [customer service agents] the tools and flexibility so they are empowered and fulfilled in their roles. By involving agents and giving the right feedback, they will be more motivated and capable of building relationships.”
But customers aren’t looking to build relationships, but are instead looking to solve problems, Dahl re-emphasizes.
Though more than half (58%) of those surveyed said that picking up the phone and talking to a rep is the best way to get service, others see digital media, including email (23%), the company website (10%) and social media (7%) as the preferred communication method, depending on what they are trying to accomplish, the report says.
Customers increasingly aren’t dealing with humans when they contact a company. According to the report, 48% of those surveyed said they had experienced non-human interactions in the last six months.
While companies must use speech and other communications technologies in order to stay competitive, the report notes, any innovation needs to keep the customer connection in mind, rather than adding technology for technology’s sake.
Dahl says that for speech recognition systems to have more value for companies, they need to not only employ natural language understanding, but also need expanded capabilities beyond the top 10 or so most common questions to more complex ones. Additionally, companies need to continually train systems to improve word recognition accuracy rates.
There are new speech and other technologies coming on the scene all of the time, but as companies implement the new technologies, they still need to keep the customer connection at the heart of every strategy, the report says.
“While customers are aware of this new technology, it must prove its worth every step of the way,” Calabrio notes. “If technology becomes a source of frustration, customer churn follows.”
Speech tech providers should realize that people expect any voice communications on a smartphone to be very short and will shy away from voice recognition "help" that is often more frustrating than helpful because the actual speech recognition is poor, says Abinash Tripathy, founder and CSO at Helpshift.
Younger consumers—those 18 to 24 years old—are helping to drive adoption of voice technology, yet a study by PwC shows their use of it remains low. What does this mean for companies in the speech sector, and where can inroads be made?
With regard to AI-enabled devices like Siri and Alexa that listen to surrounding conversations, vendors will likely have to gain permission from European consumers to record and store voices, and ensure that downstream applications are GDPR-compliant as well.