The 2016 State of the Speech Technology Industry: Speech Analytics

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Searching for the Holy Grail

While speech analytics is delivering such benefits to a growing number of enterprises, customers are pushing vendors to add more to their solutions. A complete snapshot of the client's experience, a term dubbed the customer journey, is the customer service holy grail.

Currently, consumers interact with a series of autonomous company representatives and applications. The customer starts with a salesperson at a retail store working with an order entry application, then deals with a person from the billing department who works with another system, and ends up in the contact center where a third person uses a different solution. The consumer sees one company and expects an integrated experience, but the employees see only their slice of the interaction and have limited (and oftentimes no) visibility into the other systems.

Addressing this area requires that data from various channels be consolidated into a multichannel or omnichannel experience for employees as well as customers. Here, tried-and-true voice channels are tied to other customer service avenues, such as chat and social media.

Such integration is getting better but is still incomplete at the moment. Most speech analytics systems have integrated email and chat with voice, but more work needs to be done with other channels, like social media, according to Matthew Storm, head of marketing for the Americas at NICE Systems. A tweet might indicate that a customer is irate, but fixing the problem quickly is typically done via other channels (say a call to the contact center) rather than via Twitter. Vendors are working to make such transactions seamless among all channels.

What Is Happening Right Now?

Real-time analytics has been another area of emphasis. "The call center manager wants to coach the agent while the event takes place, not after it has occurred," says Brian Spraetz, marketing team lead at Interactive Intelligence.

For instance, individuals who have placed multiple calls to a contact center or who use certain phrases may have a high likelihood of churning. In real time, hostile tones and words, such as confused and cancel, can be flagged. After assessing the words' meaning, the system guides a contact center agent to the next-best action: consult a knowledge base, escalate a call to a supervisor, offer a discount, or transfer the call to the retention center. Ideally, such moves keep the consumers as customers rather than handing them over to a competitor.

A couple of items are needed for such systems. First, a system needs more processing power to quickly sift through the various options and then deliver the proper response to the agent. The algorithms and scripts identifying the right course of action also need polishing.

Cloud computing is helping vendors deliver extra processing power to customers. With cloud-based systems, the customer does not have to make a significant up-front investment in hardware but can use processing power as needed. Consequently, the cloud is being used with more speech analytics solutions.

Speech is a rich, interactive medium, one that potentially offers businesses significant insight into customer thoughts and actions. The technology has made substantial progress with infrastructure issues, such as connecting to other channels and becoming more powerful. As a result, businesses are starting to mine speech for these insights and pushing the technology further. 

Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who specializes in technology issues. He has been covering speech recognition issues for more than a decade and is based in Sudbury, Mass. You can send him a note at paulkorzen@aol.com or follow him on Twitter at @PaulKorzeniowsk.

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