The 2015 State of the Speech Technology Industry: Speech Analytics

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For some companies, the jury is still out when it comes to deploying speech analytics. The technology has been criticized for being too expensive and not living up to the hype. Mark Kowal, development group manager of speech solutions at Interactive Intelligence, says he often encounters such hesitance.

"Our customers are very interested in trying speech analytics, but when they get into it, they realize some of its limitations," he says. "It may not be where everybody wants it to be right now, but we're getting there. I think you're going to see improvements in market adoption when prices start coming down, as well as ease of use to make it easier to deploy."

However, many other organizations are not only on board, but have branched out from mainstream speech technology to even more cutting-edge solutions in the realm. Taking a broad view of the market, it's apparent that, no matter how you slice it, speech analytics has made some companies—not to mention vendors—very happy.

Market Snapshot

Industry analyst Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, has been tracking the speech analytics market since its emergence 11 years ago, when the technology lived in the domain of government agencies. "The technology was there, and then somebody realized that it had potential for the commercial world but [that] it had to be converted into an application," she says. "I knew then that this would be extremely compelling because it is—and remains—the only application that can structure phone conversations and find insights and trends."

Early enterprise adopters of the technology worked with less than a handful of vendors, including Nexidia (which Fluss credits with being the first speech analytics provider in the market), CallMiner, and Utopy (acquired by Genesys in 2013), and realized just 23 implementations. Fast-forward to the current state of the speech analytics market and the numbers tell a very different story.

In 2014, DMG research found the number of contact center speech analytics seats climbed by 26 percent, up from 2.3 million in July 2013 to 2.9 million at the end of May 2014. Further, DMG figures have the speech analytics market jumping 20 percent in 2014, 18 percent in 2015, and 16 percent in 2016 and 2017.

Voice Is Not Dead, Long Live Voice

As the enterprise continues to either adopt or expand multichannel solutions, much of the focus has shifted from the tried-and-true voice channel to more current solutions for customer service and engagement, such as text and social media. While it's true that people loathe calling contact centers and getting stuck in frustrating IVR mazes, many industry watchers believe that voice still remains the go-to choice of consumers.

"The phone is still the number one channel of choice, especially when an issue is complex or a customer is upset," says Daniel Ziv, vice president of voice of the customer analytics at Verint. "The other channels are emerging and growing, but it doesn't mean that the phone is declining. Ninety percent of people use the phone as their channel of choice."

To truly understand what customers want and need, they must be heard, and listening is an often overlooked tool that companies have at their disposal.

"If you really want to understand customers, then [speech analytics] is the first place to start," Ziv says. "The richness of voice communication is by far superior to any other channel. You obviously want to be mining all channels and understand the omnichannel experience, but there's nothing that compares to voice. A five-minute phone call can be 5,000 words—no other channel comes close to the volume of information that you get from this. Chat or email is not close to the richness. [With speech analytics], you can really understand the root cause of [customer] behavior."

Listening to the results of phone communication can unearth root causes, trends, and patterns that can provide a wealth of information for companies. For example, a computer manufacturer may have recently released a new laptop which appears to have bugs in the installed software. The problem may not be consistently reported by customers, but by analyzing calls about the product using speech, the manufacturer is alerted to the issue. Armed with this information, a fix can be set in motion. Customer service agents are apprised of progress and resolution, and are able to pass the information on to customers. The company won't be happy to know there's a faulty software feature, but in the life cycle of their journeys, customers are more apt to appreciate 

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The 2015 State of the Speech Technology Industry

In our first State of the Speech Technology Industry issue, we reveal the latest trends and developments in eight market categories.