Analytics is the Game to Play in Contact Centers

Analytics is the name of the game in contact centers, and there is no going back. Companies can no longer afford to guess or assume they know what their prospects and customers want. Nor can they focus on policies and procedures that are designed to improve productivity and reduce operating costs at the expense of the customer experience.

To understand customers and improve their journeys, companies must be able to identify what customers are saying about them. Although text-based contacts are gaining in popularity, and there are some verticals where this has become the dominant mode of communication, in most cases calls are still customers' primary choice for interacting with companies.

Companies should use speech analytics to capture and structure the insights and the wealth of information that customers are freely offering them in the context of voice interactions. Speech analytics represents a means of making the vast amount of unstructured data in customer conversations actionable. And when speech analytics results are combined with text, desktop, and customer journey analytics, the benefits grow exponentially.

Speech analytics delivers benefits to contact center operations worldwide. Vendors are adding new languages to support global demand for these solutions. The need for easy-to-use solutions is driving the growth of cloud-based implementations. Contact centers in verticals regulated by stringent rules and legislation (collections, financial services, healthcare, etc.), are using speech analytics to improve compliance. Sales contact centers understand the benefits that speech analytics brings to the selling process by identifying buying trends, and when using real-time solutions, guiding agents to make the best up-sell or cross-sell offer.

Speech analytics is now making its way out of the contact center and into other parts of the company. Like contact center interactions, branch conversations with prospects or customers are filled with valuable data that can be captured, structured, and analyzed to gain insights into face-to-face customer experiences. Internally, recruiters are using speech analytics during the interviewing and hiring process to assess potential candidates and determine if they have the speech traits and communications skills that characterize successful employees, or if the acoustics of a home-office environment are conducive to success for a virtual agent. Additional uses of speech analytics are increasing as more companies learn to use and apply these solutions.

Speech analytics vendors are investing in the underlying technologies and capabilities of their solutions. Deep neural networks, natural language processing, machine learning, full speech-to-text transcriptions, and the use of similar (or the same) algorithms to analyze text-based interactions are some of the enhancement trends in the market. Vendors are delivering improvements in the speech engines, new user interfaces, interactive and customizable dashboards. enhanced reporting capabilities, and integrations with third-party big data or business intelligence applications. Many of these enhancements are being driven directly by end user demand.

Vendors are also incorporating historical and real-time speech analytics capabilities into other types of analytics solutions. Comprehensive analytics capabilities can include applications as diverse as voice biometrics, customer journey, predictive and prescriptive analytics modules. This important trend is helping to make speech analytics more actionable, and in doing so, is improving their ability to deliver quantifiable benefits for users.

Impediments to Market Adoption

Like most technologies, not all speech analytics solutions are created equal. Capabilities range from basic applications that perform keyword or phrase searches to sophisticated offerings that come with prebuilt, industry-specific lexicons (libraries), dashboards, and reports. A new challenge for speech analytics users and prospects is to absorb the impact of recent mergers and acquisitions. Market consolidation has reduced the number of available offerings. And the push into the cloud means that some on-premises solutions are receiving less attention from vendors, who are placing a greater emphasis on their cloud-based applications.

Real-time speech analytics solutions, which are less mature than the post-call variety, are not yet well understood, and vendors continue to struggle to articulate their benefits. Prospects might also have unrealistic expectations of these real-time applications. For example, while real-time solutions can positively impact compliance efforts, they cannot solve non-compliance situations. Misunderstanding what speech analytics can or cannot do is not exclusive to real-time solutions. Prospects and customers frequently misinterpret analytics-enabled quality assurance (AQA) as a fully automated QA program that eliminates the need for QA analysts or human intervention. While AQA provides tremendous benefits  due to its ability to review 100 percent of calls and check for script adherence, regulatory compliance, and emotion, it will never fully replace QA analysts or supervisors to assess product knowledge or provide coaching.

A common challenge for successful speech analytics deployments, whether historical or real-time, is determining the number and type of resources assigned to manage the solution. Although contact center supervisors are the primary beneficiaries of much of the output from speech analytics, these applications are not designed to be administered or maintained by them. These solutions require ongoing care and modification, such as tuning, searching, and filtering, to deliver targeted and effective findings. Speech analytics is a business intelligence tool whose findings should be incorporated into a formal change management process overseen by skilled business analysts who are empowered to drive change throughout the company.

Analytics gives companies the insights that their contact centers and other operating departments need to deliver personalized customer experiences. Speech analytics is the most mature of the new generation of customer-oriented analytics solutions and has proven itself in companies that invest the time and resources to tailor its capabilities and make it work to address their unique needs. When speech analytics is combined with text, desktop, and customer journey analytics, and supported by real-time guidance, these solutions can position companies to accomplish the goal that they and their customers want most–delivering an outstanding customer journey, and doing so cost effectively.

Donna Fluss is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a providerr of contact center and analytics research and consulting. Jana Benetti, a senior consultant at DMG, contributed to this article.