The Science of Conversation: Competitive Advantages Through the Call Center

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Customer interactions in the call center are far more than just verbal exchanges—they are a delicate negotiation between two parties to achieve a common goal. They hinge on the ability of the call center agent (who becomes the face of an organization for those few moments) to apply proven methods to solve problems quickly, efficiently, providing ongoing value to the customer doing business with your company. 

These methods are derived from scores of data and fueled by speech analytics. Does a bit more empathy equate to higher customer satisfaction? Does a certain phrase change the outcome of a negative conversation to a positive? With technology today, we can uncover the science of conversation and properly map out the best course for winning over customers in every engagement and the benefits of this science have the capacity to spread through an organization, even well beyond the call center.

The Triggers Behind Good Calls and Bad Calls

Companies are always striving to understand their customers—figuring out what drives their decisions, behavior, opinions, and emotions is crucial to providing a positive customer experience. It starts with listening to your customers’ interaction—not just 3% of calls like the average contact center. But with phone, chat, emails, survey, and social media, there’s a lot of data coming in from a lot of channels to interpret and analyze in order to truly understand how your customers feel about your brand.

Let’s put this into perspective: the average call center with around 500 agents produces 2,000 hours of recorded calls per day. That’s six million hours per year—totaling around 45 billion words. To really understand the voice of the customer and in turn, comprehend the triggers behind good and bad calls, each of these 45 billion words need to be heard. That’s where speech analytics comes in.

Speech analytics processes every word (also known as semantics) of a customer conversation, turning conversations into structured, actionable data that can better inform call center operations and customer experience. By combining the context of actual words—the most accurate assessment of a conversation—with acoustic characteristics (level of agitation, volume, rate of speech) brands can determine the true sentiment of an interaction and gain insights a customer’s attitudes towards products, services, campaigns, the agent and more.

For example, call center teams would be able to pinpoint what triggered a good or bad call with sentiment analysis and then categorize the call based on behaviors, reason, outcomes and more. Categories allow you to find, count, and trend calls that contain these characteristics to identify common threads and triggers.

Driving Performance on the Front Lines

In the science of conversations, call center agents play a big role—they’re on the front lines of the customer experience battleground. They are during that conversation the brand ambassadors of any organization, and that engagement could heavily influence this relationship. Therefore, equipping them with the tools and feedback needed to be successful is paramount to their (and the company’s) success. At the end of the day, numerous studies have found that customer satisfaction and an efficient call center really stem from agent satisfaction.

Speech analytics has the power to help all agents become high performing employees. According to Forrester research, only 31 percent of organizations closely monitor the quality of interactions with customers. However, 92 percent of call center leaders see high value in sharing data and feedback (number of calls in queue, service level, customer satisfaction, schedule adherence, and first contact resolution) in real-time with agents to help them improve and ultimately have a better impact on customer experience.

But the scale of data to share is enormous, which is why the right tech goes a long way in giving managers access to how agents are doing. With speech analytics, more data can be easily ingested and therefore, the insights of agent performance and coaching information can be more accurate, useful, and timely. And with automated scoring, call centers can determine the insights they want to track on every call—such as script adherence, industry compliance wording, voice inflection and long spans of silence—to grade every interaction. These scores are directly available to call center agents to track their own performance based on objective standards—helping them play their part in the science of conversation with newfound insight.

Mining Insights from Existing Data for Organizational Results

While call centers have a huge volume of recorded calls filled with actionable data points, only a very small percentage of these calls are listened to due to capacity issues without a speech analytics solution. Think of it in the frame of everyday life: each day, humans speak—and hear—an average of 16,000 words. What portion do we actually listen to and digest?

Let’s say that last week, a given company had 2.4 million interactions transcribed into data in a single day. This turned into just over 1.2 billion words, and the average interaction had about 600 words in it. Imagine how valuable it would be to listen to and glean insights for every single one of these conversations.

Some companies have experienced just how valuable shining the light on every single word truly is—and how the impact is felt far beyond just the call center of a company. For example, a few years ago, there was a company that released a new video game console right in time for the holidays. The product happened to be on many children’s (and adults) wish list that year, and many across the country woke up on Christmas morning to their new gaming system. However, there was a defect on many of the consoles causing the system to catch fire. The first line of action for these angry parents—aside from put the fire out, of course—was to call the company’s customer service line.

It was up to the call center agents to respond during this situation to calm customers, but they also needed to communicate with the company’s product team, alerting them to issue. With speech analytics allowing the call center to process all the relevant calls and establish the context—parents weren’t complaining about fire graphics or violence, they were complaining about actual fire—the brand was able to alert the manufacturing team so that they could handle the situation before it turned into a crisis.

As portrayed in that example, data from the call center has the power to not only affect customer service—it can help multiple departments within an organization solve issues quicker and do their jobs better. Speech analytics can take this data, derive insight and shine a light on customer feedback immediately—especially when it matters most.

Whether a company is looking to boost its marketing efforts, increase its sales, or improve its product, one thing is certain—it begins with understanding the science of conversation in the call center and applying insight from every engagement to get a better understanding of the customer. With a clearer picture of a company’s audience, brands can tailor its effort in every department to ultimately drive growth and a better reputation with its clientele.

Speech analytics is quickly becoming a competitive differentiator among companies. As competition within industries continues to rise and the pressure to offer a more personalized service increases, having the right technology on your side can be a company’s secret weapon.

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