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Seven reasons speech analytics will shake up customer service and marketing

10th Aug 2009
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Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting and leading CRM expert, shares her thoughts on enterprises’ emerging appetite for speech analytics.

Is speech analytics on the cusp of greatness? With recent statistics from Aberdeen Research suggesting that 43% of survey respondents have no idea what speech analytics is, you’d initially think not. But it is perhaps telling that many of those who are aware of its qualities have been sufficiently impressed to embrace the technology – and almost a third of best-in-class organisations have implemented speech analytics according to research.
Donna Fluss is similarly excited about the technology – something she describes as “the sexiest thing to enter the contact centre since the automatic call distributor.” And as one of the leading authorities on customer relationship management, with more than 20 years’ experience in CRM and contact centres, and as president of DMG Consulting, her opinions are treated as gospel. So, just why is speech analytics so compelling to those in the know?
1. Most information that passes through a contact centre is wasted – speech analytics rectifies this
“Speech analytics takes a captured call and structures it," explains Fluss. "Once you structure something then you are in a position to analyse it. Over 95% of what floats through a contact centre is unstructured. Because of the business model and the operating environment, in most environments the agents rush through the call, even when the customer gives them really valuable information. Even if the agent really cares, by the time they get to the hundredth call of the day, how are they going to remember what is happening? As a result, all of this information about the customer normally gets wasted.”
2. It can improve productivity in the contact centre
“The first and foremost goal of the contact centre manager is to improve productivity. The information from speech analytics can identify the reasons for repeat calls. You can identify when there are procedures of policies that are inappropriate. You can identify when agents are doing well or not. One of the primary uses of speech analytics is just to tell managers why people are calling. If you have got a multi-site contact centre, or an at-home based contact centre, or a regionally-based contact centre, or an outsourced one, how do you know why your customers call? You don’t necessarily. You can use speech analytics to identify customers who are attrition risks and be proactive in terms of then reaching back out to them.”
"One of the primary uses of speech analytics is just to tell managers why people are calling."

Donna Fluss

3. It can improve the customer experience – and the agent experience
“The last thing we want to do, however, is improve productivity at the cost of the customer experience,” says Fluss. Fortunately, speech analytics can also evaluate customer satisfaction with company procedures and policies and can rapidly highlight any performance issues. “The good thing about speech analytics is that it contributes to many of the goals for contact centres today: it improves productivity, but it also reduces agent attrition and provides an outstanding customer experience and improves self-service,” Fluss adds.
4. It can identify revenue opportunities
“Its real value is in identifying revenue opportunities. A customer may call and ask for a credit line increase so that they can put a down payment on a house. Although to give them $10,000 at a 21% rate is not a bad thing to do for the bank, in reality and on a long-term basis you should be giving them an investment instrument. Speech analytics can identify those opportunities. There is a case study of a travel and entertainment company that used speech analytics to identify why they couldn’t improve the quality of the shop. They fixed the cause, but while they were at it they realised the customers were actually telling them what travel programmes they wanted. So they monetised a couple of those and within a short amount of time made a fortune. Speech analytics can also be used to identify why it is that customers don’t close. And if you have 250 agents and each one closes just on additional sale per day because of this… you do the math.”
5. It can tell you what your customers want
“From a marketing perspective, speech analytics is about knowing what your customers want and learning from them. Marketing groups invest in focus groups to hear what customers say, but the most natural way to hear from them is when they are in their own living rooms or wherever they happen to be when they call, and that is why speech analytics is so powerful from a marketing standpoint.”
6. It’s getting more affordable
“Speech analytics is the sexiest thing to enter the contact centre since the ACD but the issue that the market has is that most of the original vendors offer it for expensive prices. Customers and prospects have been interested but it has been limited who could buy it. In the past year, however, there’s been a number of smaller vendors who have entered the market with solutions that are pared down, so they have less functionality but at least it gives you a way to get into speech analytics.”
7. Adoption continues, despite the recession
“It’s highly compelling, there are many case studies and it’s sexy, so people want it,” says Fluss. “The recession is slowing down the adoption rate of SA, but it is still selling even in these tough economic times. And there are very few RFPs for workforce optimisation solutions without having SA as one of the requirements now.”
A final word of warning
Despite these cast iron reasons to support speech analytics’ success, Fluss fires a warning to organisations that may wrongly assume it is a plug-and-play technology. “The challenge to making it successful is that it is not a field of dreams – put it in and they will come. You put it in and it requires a significant amount of work and resources to make these applications work. You have to fine tune the application, then you improve your definitions and then you enhance your definitions, and you work at it until you get it to work for your operating environment.
We can get the results from speech analytics, the challenge is being able to apply those results not just in the contact centre but throughout the enterprise. So the issue is more the application of the findings than the accuracy of the applications. More often than not, organisations are not positioned to use the results, and it goes back to the fact that sales, marketing and service don’t necessarily love each other.”
Nonetheless, Fluss remains confident of speech analytics’ success. “I was at a conference the other day and for the first time I saw somebody with a card that said 'speech analytics manager', and I thought that was really cool,” she concludes. “Everyone has to understand that if they’re going to use it they’re going to need to dedicate resources to it. The vendors also need to continue to make the applications more actionable and easy to use and manage. But the great news is that vendors are working at it, and users are beginning to realistic about expectations.”

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