The 2015 State of the Speech Technology Industry: Contact Center Outsourcing

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billion in revenue in 2015. "Alorica has increased in its prominence among the contact center outsourcing vendors in North America over the past two years," Ryan says, "and its decision to buy the agent services division of West...will mean even more positive exposure."

"Good numbers and a great reputation place West in the top tier [of contact center outsourcers]," says Ian Jacobs, an analyst at Forrester Research. He also cites West for "great recruiting and great connections to the product side of the house."

Native Applications

In fact, many analysts have called West's voice self-service solutions among the most comprehensive in the industry. The company offers both cloud-based and on-premises IVRs, speech recognition systems that have been enhanced in the past two years with natural language capabilities, and workforce optimization and management solutions powered by robust analytics. The company also offers comprehensive consulting in the areas of IVR selection and implementation, voice user interface design, and grammar development, as well as other professional services.

But of all the firms competing in the space, Convergys has by far the largest portfolio of native speech applications. Its offerings include the Customer Interaction Hub, an omnichannel customer service platform; the Intelligent Voice Portal; and the Intelligent Self-Service solution, which takes advantage of speech and Web technologies to help companies provide a personalized experience for customers based on their individual preferences. Convergys Business Analytics is a cloud-based service for the Intelligent Voice Portal and provides insight into customer data, how the IVR is performing, and how effectively business goals are being met.

Convergys is also one of the first companies to incorporate Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) technologies into its self-service offerings. WebRTC will enable customers to reach IVRs and contact centers through their Web browsers or mobile apps.

Convergys this year also launched an expanded IVR development suite called FastPath, which it says allows more than 90 percent of user interface development to be automated. FastPath includes modules that centralize VUI design, development, testing, and documentation.

Of all the technologies that contact center outsourcers have at their disposal—either developed in-house or provided to them by industry partners—analytics is fast becoming an essential piece of the puzzle.

That was the impetus for Convergys in May to partner with Voci Technologies. Convergys Business Analytics will employ the Voci V-Cloud speech recognition solution for extracting business intelligence from audio to help companies draw insights and emotional intelligence from their customer surveys.

"Each survey comment made by a customer provides critical insight into the customer experience," said Mike Cholak, vice president of Convergys Analytics, in a statement. "Combining Convergys' analytic expertise with Voci's V-Cloud speech recognition capability allows us to reliably and accurately get a pulse on what our clients' customers are thinking and feeling...to make informed business decisions."

Ragsdale singles out Convergys for its core tracking, analytics, and reporting capabilities. "I am impressed with the quality of data they produce," he says. "I think this is very helpful for support operations, as they are getting some great insight."

This type of analytics is just one of the many new technologies that companies are expecting from their contact center outsourcing partners. Others include cloud solutions, reporting capabilities, and workforce management and optimization solutions.

While these latest technology developments have a lot of promise, experts warn that the relationships with outsourcers still need to be nurtured. Effectively managing an outsourced contact center relationship takes time and effort. Companies shouldn't expect their outsourcers to do all the work themselves, Ragsdale suggests. They "need to establish a true partnership with the service provider and have plenty of resources dedicated to managing the account," he says.

One of the mistakes companies make the first time around is focusing too much on transaction costs, according to Ragsdale. They quickly learn that "low-cost contracts typically have low-quality service," he adds.

Instead, "[conversations should be] focused on value creation and increasing loyalty, adoption, and customer success, not just cutting costs."

Outsourcing is tricky, he says. "You often get it wrong the first time around and learn a great deal to increase the success of future attempts."

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