Tackling the Top Ten Contact Center Challenges with Speech Analytics

By Brian Severson

Bridging the gap between information stored in contact center interactions, the actionable intelligence that reduces personnel costs, and the time needed to take action can only be cost-effectively accomplished through the automation of speech analytics. Without it, contact centers can only perform these tasks manually or not at all. Deploying an effective speech analytics solution helps to resolve the top ten most critical challenges facing formal and enterprise contact centers.

Mining for Gold in a Quarry of Data: Call recording and screen or text capture technologies have created a virtual gold mine of data from interactions and transactions. All too often, this precious commodity remains buried, requiring a laborious and often manual effort to extract useful nuggets of intelligence. While call recording and quality assurance technology can help direct data into compartmentalized buckets, there is still a big gap between simply having information and possessing actionable knowledge.

Most contact centers employ dedicated personnel to listen to recorded calls and manually note information that helps mitigate one or more of the ten critical contact center challenges. Most contact centers only conduct a partial sampling, leaving a valuable store of data untouched.

Speech analytics offers the flexibility to define exactly what users are looking for within recorded calls and data. Words, phrases, and the logical combinations of words, phrases (and even the time between words and phrases) all indicate what customers are thinking, what they want and need, and how they perceive their experience. Only analytics can automate the process of mining data for that valuable information.

Automation is not the only advantage of speech analytics. Speed is an additional benefit with a significant improvement in productivity. Speech analytics software can generally process thousands of hours of recorded calls in a matter of minutes.

Not only can contact centers and enterprises save costs associated with overhead and productivity, they are empowered to analyze every call and every piece of data to deliver actionable intelligence that will help them effectively manage critical challenges. More advanced speech analytics products also offer the following:

  • Dashboards and reports that reduce the time needed to analyze and take action
  • Intelligent distribution of actionable knowledge that automatically routes agent evaluations and analysis to internal organizations (an agent’s behavioral scores submitted to HR, skills reports forwarded to training managers, script adherence issues routed to compliance managers, etc.)

Tackling the Critical Top Ten with Speech Analytics

  1. Quality Monitoring and Assurance: Words and phrases deemed critical for quality assurance can be defined and automatically searched by speech analytics software faster and more accurately than by human effort alone. This empowers contact centers to drive up quality by analyzing all of their recorded calls and using considerably fewer personnel in less time and at a lower cost.
  2. Agent Training: Training is a costly and time-consuming effort, especially in an environment driven by complex customer transactions and a high turnover. Agents must correctly respond to questions or take advantage of up-sell and cross-sell opportunities and initiate required actions or responses. Speech analytics software can economically produce clear insight related to an agent’s performance during every transaction. Such insight accurately identifies the types of training required for improvement.
  3. Compliance and Liability Management: Local, state, or federal regulations, combined with business requirements, mandate that call centers satisfy compliance at many levels. Compliance can be a make-or-break concern in some business models. Traditional ways of monitoring calls to assure compliance or detect noncompliance are time-consuming and costly. Only speech analytics provides the speed and automation needed for compliance management.
  4. Transaction Validation: A critical stage of each customer interaction is validation of the agreed-upon transaction. Often, such transactions must be verified independently of the agent in order to comply with certain requirements. Validation requires listening to recorded calls to ensure that the data recorded matches the conversation and that the agent did not deviate from any requirements in closing the transaction. Speech analytics is utilized to rapidly verify the occurrence or nonoccurrence of validation requirements.
  5. Customer Satisfaction: Customer satisfaction is achieved through factors such as first call resolution, short call duration, and agents that are professional and well-informed. Continuous monitoring and discovery of what happens during interactions provides insight into the customer experience. Speech analytics automation and near real-time reporting provides both a mechanism for gathering feedback from customers and a basis for training that will affect positive change.

For example, survey scripts can be designed to prompt agents to ask specific questions that solicit feedback from customers about their level of satisfaction. This is referred to as “verbal bookmarking” in a recording. Bookmarks make it easy to search for keywords/phrases intentionally triggered by agents. This is especially helpful in circumstances where compliance is critical. These recordings can be categorized by speech analytics and set aside for further review by quality assurance teams.

  1. Cost Reduction: Cost reduction, especially in the current economy, is a major challenge for any contact center. Cost reduction efforts often conflict with other goals that require investment in IT and personnel. Speech analytics enables contact centers to achieve cost reductions without sacrificing initiatives, such as customer satisfaction. It provides faster, more accurate analysis of recorded calls and significantly reduces the expense of personnel required for compliance, discovery, and quality management.
  2. Agent Retention: Job satisfaction is a major driver in retaining agents. In addition to the work environment and compensation, an agent’s job satisfaction is also driven by their performance satisfaction. How agents feel about their own performance, how they positively affect the business, and how often they are recognized by management contributes to their state of mind at work. Rapid analysis of all recorded calls for all agents and the extraction of usable information are major enablers for contact center managers to facilitate agent satisfaction.
  3. Transition to Profit Center: Transitioning to a profit center has long been a struggle for in-house contact centers that offer customer service or technical support. Initiatives usually begin with minimizing costs and then justifying the already minimized budget in light of the quality that results. While shareholders and investors pressure executives to focus on revenue generation and the bottom line, the question becomes, “How do we get there from here?” With speech analytics such as the launching pad, contact center managers are free to explore, plan, and implement activities that will turn their cost center into a profit center.
  4. Business Intelligence and Discovery: Contact centers are a direct conduit to an enterprise’s market and customers. Every interaction can offer a great deal of business intelligence and insight. Understanding customers’ degree of satisfaction, their business drivers and needs, and interactions with competitors can benefit the decision-making process for corporate marketing, sales, and strategic management. However, a tool such as speech analytics is required to cost-effectively transform enormous amounts of data into categorized intelligence in order to benefit the enterprise. With speech analytics, enterprises can implement a variety of initiatives to capture specific intelligence in a timely manner.
  5. Enterprise-Wide Delivery of Benefits: Traditionally, in-house contact centers have not been able to demonstrate how their work benefits the rest of their organization. This may seem ironic considering the fact that contact centers are continuously interacting directly with customers on a daily basis. Customer interactions contain information that can be valuable to a company’s sales, marketing, and business strategies. Speech analytics delivers valuable intelligence to all parts of an enterprise without additional cost.

How-to Guidelines: Although speech analytics has numerous advantages, special care has to be taken in vendor selection, effective deployment, and use of the solution so it can deliver all benefits discussed in this article. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Identify specific areas among your top ten call center challenges that can deliver the most benefit. In-house call centers might include enterprise-wide requirements, such as business intelligence, that contribute to other departments, which will better justify the initiative.
  • Define and measure the current status versus expected improvements after implementing speech analytics.
  • Select a vendor that can implement the following steps:
  • Study the center’s needs and environment to document the ROI requirements
  • Implement a free trial of the solution to analyze actual data and demonstrate real results
  • Develop a customized, hands-on program to train personnel in various departments to ensure adoption and full utilization
  • Explore procurement options such as purchase, managed services, or software-as-a-service to accommodate existing infrastructure, IT resources, and budget

Complexity, business disruption, and expense are often the first concerns that come to mind when considering the adoption of a new technology. Speech analytics, however, simply adds a layer above call recording and data capture, thus minimizing operational risk. Realizing benefits takes weeks, not months. Payback addresses common challenges facing contact centers. If the valuable information hidden within recorded calls remains untapped, contact centers will overlook a gold mine of opportunity to improve all aspects of their contact center business, not the least of which is their bottom line.

Brian Severson is a senior sales engineer at OnviSource, Inc. He may be reached at info@onvisource.com or 877-903-0322.

[From Connection Magazine June 2011]

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