Stuart Dorman, chief innovation officer, Sabio: Tips for speech analytics buyers

20th May 2016
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In the latest in our series where IT leaders provide their take on the purchasing process, Stuart Dorman, chief innovation officer at Sabio, shares his tips for those looking to buy a speech analytics solution.

MyC. What do practitioners need to consider, before they start looking for speech analytics tools, to help determine their requirements?

SD. While the main focus of speech analytics is currently focused around compliance, quality monitoring and measurement, it has much greater potential in terms of its contribution to corporate business intelligence and Voice of the Customer programmes. In addition to some of the more standard traditional speech analytics benefits such as operational efficiency, improved collections, fraud prevention and reduced customer churn, there’s an increased awareness that more lasting results will come through the technology’s ability to simplify interactions and reduce customer effort.

Speech analytics technology has a particularly strong role to play in terms of helping organisations to obtain much greater and more meaningful insight into how their major ‘Digital Front Door’ investments are performing for customers. The ability to identify and categorise the different types of online demand – both good and bad – being created by the website, or being able to focus in on specific areas of customer frustration can provide a clear measure as to the success of digital activities.

Speech analytics can also play a key role in helping organisations to identify broken or failing processes by automatically surfacing context and themes within calls. It can help particularly by highlighting emerging issues and flagging up potential problems ahead of time.

However, while effective speech analytics can clearly serve as an important change agent, it’s not the kind of solution that can deliver this level of performance immediately. It takes real in-depth understanding of all the technologies, processes and people skills involved for organisations to become expert at focusing their speech analytics software, understanding its findings, and then making sure they are acted on across the business.

So practitioners need to consider that effective speech analytics projects will require an ongoing commitment with the right levels of executive buy-in - as they’ll inevitably need help in driving the likely process change recommendations that will be identified by their speech analytics project.

They will also want to think about building a balanced speech analytics team – one that combines a mix of talents – experienced quality people, team leaders who help to promote speech analytics back into the business, as well as communicators who understand language nuances, and the right technical experts. It’s also worthwhile bringing in expertise from outside the team, including marketing and compliance specialists.

MyC. What kind of questions should they ask themselves?

SD. With speech recognition and analysis continuing to improve, there’s an exciting opportunity for organisations to build processes that actively contribute to improving the customer experience – while at the same time unlocking significant savings.

However, it’s important that your speech analytics efforts always remain firmly aligned to your corporate strategy. That’s why it’s important for practitioners to understand early on in the process exactly what it is they’re trying to achieve with a speech analytics project – and how it will contribute directly to their broader business goals.

There’s little point surfacing insights unless you can put the speech analytics learnings to work.

Once aligned, speech analytics can really help in terms of getting your customer contact operations on the front foot, tuning activities to directly support corporate strategic goals. The challenge of course comes in terms of making your speech analytics findings actionable. There’s little point surfacing insights unless you can actually build and deploy a working process that enables and encourages organisations to put their speech analytics learnings to work.

MyC. How can buyers convince the CFO that investment in this kind of technology is a wise decision? How can you get buy-in?

SD. Perhaps a key way to convince CFOs of the validity of a speech analytics initiative is to demonstrate the role that the technology can play in offering a complete, end-to-end analysis of the customer journey. By adding Voice of the Customer insight to existing Google, Adobe and social media analytics, speech analytics can really show what’s working from both a customer and a business perspective – and that’s compelling from a CFO perspective, particularly with Gallup research showing how customers that experience a ‘well-managed journey’ typically purchase three times as often, stay engaged longer and recommend four times as often.

The good news for CFOs is that there are lots of ways to build a business case for speech analytics, whether it’s through demand reduction, reducing the risk of fraud, improving customer attrition rates or reducing operating costs. Vendors will be quick to cite these benefits, however you need to speak to those organisations that have already done the deployments and can demonstrate the numbers with confidence. Your speech analytics vendor should be keen to share live case studies with you – after all speech analytics is no longer an emerging technology.

Any competent CFO will quickly work out how effective speech analytics can get them to those harder to reach financial places.

While there are already clearly defined speech analytics business cases in place, it’s also worth pointing out how its intelligent application can help make CFOs look good. They’re probably already busy reducing operating costs, but if you can show how speech analytics can help them zero in on the next level of performance improvement – better optimised customer engagement, or enhanced sales performance – then you’ll quickly gain their attention. Any competent CFO will have already gone after the low hanging fruit, but if they’re smart they’ll quickly work out how effective speech analytics can get them to those harder to reach financial places.

MyC. Are there any particular challenges in the speech analytics solutions market that buyers need to be aware of?

SD. Buyers need to remember that speech analytics isn’t a plug-and-play deployment, and requires strong governance - ongoing management to drive ongoing success. Successful speech analytics is an iterative process, and as such should be embedded right at the heart of your continuous improvement processes.

Speech analytics resourcing is critical – you need to right people to power the project, and there’s often a misconception that existing planning resources can simply be redeployed to an analytics role. Driving speech analytics projects is much more complex, requiring a mix of technology, business and people skills – not just fine tuning the system to pick up on the right trends, but also understanding how to do this with right outcomes in mind. Projects can easily fail if you don’t wrap the right skills around them.

Once you get your speech analytics project under way, it’s really easy to get sucked into the vortex of doing everything at once.

Also, once you get your speech analytics project under way, it’s really easy to get sucked into the vortex of doing everything at once. That’s why governance is so important, allowing you to go deep and narrow and remain focused on targeting and resolving just two or three key issues at a time. These should be the ones that will contribute directly to your corporate and scorecard goals – before moving on to the next ones in the pipeline. Having the right executive buy-in will also give you the confidence you will inevitably need to resist those other parts of the business that are keen to divert your speech analytics focus.

MyC. Once practitioners are at the solution selection stage, what advice can you share to help buyers find the most appropriate vendor for their needs?

SD. Deployed and managed correctly, speech analytics can prove a practical, accessible and powerful way to help organisations stay on top of customer perceptions and what’s being said during interactions. However, it’s easy to make mistakes when selecting solutions that can have a significant impact on operational success. For example, it’s surprising how many organisations opt for a speech analytics approach that doesn’t really work well with their existing call recording platform. Making the right compatibility decision at an early stage can save you avoidable trouble later on.

You should also be looking for a speech analytics solution that’s based on tried and tested software. However, the technology isn’t standing still, so make sure that your chosen solution is backed by a large vendor R&D budget to make sure your speech analytics deployment remains best practice.

Also you need to make sure that you’re not just buying into a complicated software product without the proper levels of support. You’ll also need access to a range of additional services – from initial consultancy to help define your initial contact centre analytics requirements, through to ongoing workshops and stakeholder sessions to keep your solution performing optimally. It’s this kind of end-to-end services wrap that can mean the difference between success and failure for a complex speech analytics deployment.

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