Speech Technology and Voice Data Enable True Competitive Advantage

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Speech technology in its various forms has been one of the most useful and widespread applications of artificial intelligence. With speech and voice data generated in larger quantities than ever, businesses have adopted speech recognition and speech analytics to provide valuable insights into the customer journey, streamline operational processes, automate compliance, and ultimately improve the bottom line.

COVID-19 has only accelerated how businesses view technology, with many rushing to digitize and adopt technology to manage dispersed workforces. With speech technology itself improving and maturing each year, businesses that have not yet adopted the technology are starting to question that decision, according to recent research from Sabio and Red Box.

Businesses are looking to leverage big data to derive insights that can help them gain competitive advantage. Voice data is one of the richest datasets into which organizations can tap, so it’s of little surprise to see that 41 percent of companies across various industries believe that speech analytics will become a top strategic asset within the next 12 months.

Certain sectors, especially the public sector, which includes police forces and emergency services, are already seeing and deploying speech technology as a top strategic asset, with 20 percent of respondents who share this sentiment coming from the public sector. However, there is a significant drop off in other industries, with the financial sector at just 7 percent and healthcare at 6 percent, indicating that, while companies see the value in leveraging voice data, few are currently doing so.

While interest in speech technology is evident, there are still significant barriers to adoption that are preventing businesses, large or small, private or public, from fully embracing the technology.

In smaller organizations, key decision makers are half as likely to be interested in investing in speech technology (13 percent) compared to middle managers (26 percent). This places a significant responsibility on those in the middle or lower-ranked positions who face an uphill battle in trying to convince their superiors to invest in technology.

The research also found that organization size impacts the perception of voice data as a strategic asset, with almost half (44 percent) of people in organizations of 5,000 to 10,000 employees mord than 10 times more likely to already be using voice data compared to those in organizations with just 25 employees or fewer (4 percent). Larger organizations are also more likely to realize the value of voice within the next two years compared to SMBs, though the gap here is smaller (62 percent vs. 47 percent) suggesting that enterprises are leading the way in leveraging voice data to gain a competitive advantage.

The Importance of Voice Data

While speech technology has matured, any AI and analytics tool is only as powerful as the data that fuels it. Voice data sets are increasingly being seen as one of the most important strategic assets businesses have. Unlike other forms of data, voice data can denote tone and sentiment and provide clearer insight into customer journeys.

Automatic speech recognition (ASR) engines now produce accurate, text-based representations of all customer conversations, enabling analysis of these calls at scale. This drives faster identification of root causes and training and coaching needs and can drive efficiencies through the automation of quality management and compliance processes, empowering and enabling workers to focus on more complex tasks through online and self-serve capabilities.

There's agreement from businesses, especially those in the financial sector. A significant 91 percent of those in finance state that voice data already is, or will be, a strategic asset in the future. This is closely followed by 81 percent in IT and technology and 48 percent in business services.

However, businesses looking to embrace voice data as a strategic asset face the same barriers, particularly when it comes to age. While 72 percent of those under the age of 44 believe voice data is or can be important or relevant to their businesses, a sentiment shared by just 28 percent of those over the age of 65;  unfortunately for the former, there is often a positive correlation between age and seniority.

What's Next for Voice?

While barriers are preventing the ubiquity of speech technology and capitalizing on voice data, these can be overcome with the right vendors to support a voice strategy.

Early adopter uptake will be viewed by competitors as the signal to widely embrace voice data and speech technology. For technology providers, the opportunities are clear, with the next 12 months marking a significant potential milestone for the evolution and adoption of voice and speech analytics.

Winners and losers aside, one thing remains clear: there is a feeling of inevitability. Voice and speech are to play a significant role across many businesses in many industries, and the timing, speed, and impact of this is likely faster and more significant than many would have expected.

Richard Stevenson is CEO of Red Box.

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