Speech Analytics Comes of Age
A wide range of vendor options lets businesses get exactly what they need.
By Donna Fluss
The speech analytics market consists of five primary categories of vendors: stand-alone, workforce optimization (WFO) suites, contact center infrastructure, speech engine, and service providers. There is also a relatively large group of competitors who partner with either a speech engine company or a stand-alone vendor to deliver an application. The vendor categories have not changed in years, although more vendors enter the market all the time.
Speech analytics is a relatively expensive, high-value application. It’s useful on a stand-alone basis, as it is highly effective at providing insights into customer needs and wants. Its benefits increase as its findings are combined with the output of other contact center applications, such as WFO modules or contact center infrastructure solutions. The question is what happens with the findings once they are combined with other applications. This is where organizations have a great deal of options, and there are significant differences among the solutions.
In most markets, stand-alone vendors are often the early market entrants. Speech analytics is no different. Nexidia, CallMiner, and Utopy (prior to being acquired by Genesys in January 2013) were among the earliest vendors to enter the contact center speech analytics market. These vendors strive to work with recordings from as many other vendors as possible, to make it easy for users to implement their solutions. The challenge that the stand-alone vendors have encountered is that WFO vendors believe that they own most recordings simply because they have captured them. While DMG is not aware of any lawsuits resulting from this issue, it has been reported that some WFO vendors have hassled their customers and the stand-alone speech analytics vendors about access to their recordings. (DMG’s view is that recordings are the property of the company [end user] who purchased the recording solution to capture them.) Call ownership issues still come up, but the WFO vendors typically acquiesce if they receive a substantial amount of pressure from their enterprise customer.
In response, the three stand-alone speech analytics vendors have come up with a way to provide their own recording capabilities, which essentially bypasses the WFO vendors entirely. Now, when a WFO vendor harasses an end user organization over access to its own recordings, the stand-alone speech analytics vendors can provide an alternative. This is excellent innovation, and has served as an effective resolution of this issue.
Workforce Optimization Vendors
The WFO suite providers have annoyed their enterprise customers about sharing enterprise recordings with stand-alone speech analytics vendors, in large part because many of the suite vendors offer speech analytics as one of their modules. The WFO suite vendors want to provide speech analytics, and mistakenly believe that making it difficult for their enterprise customers to use a third-party application is a good way to earn business. The WFO suite vendors were the second major group of vendors to enter the speech analytics market. The two largest WFO vendors, NICE and Verint, also dominate the speech analytics market, accounting for 56.8 percent of all seats as of the end of July 2013. There are a number of smaller but active WFO competitors in the speech analytics market, including Uptivity (previously known as CallCopy), Calabrio, OnviSource, dvsAnalytics, KnoahSoft, and TelStrat. (HP Autonomy started as a WFO vendor but is currently more of an enterprise search vendor that enriches its capabilities with speech analytics.)
The WFO vendors have a number of advantages when it comes to selling speech analytics. They have easy access to the recordings, since they capture them. Equally important, they have a built-in customer base to whom to upsell a new application. A third advantage is that they can use speech analytics findings in other parts of their application. While a growing number of WFO vendors have taken advantage of the top two benefits, most of the vendors are just starting to figure out how to share speech analytics findings with other modules to improve the benefits for customers. This is part of the big data challenge facing contact centers, and one that WFO and enterprise managers are working to address.
Speech Analytics Engine Providers
A third group of contact center speech analytics vendors are the speech engine providers. This group includes Aurix, which was acquired by Avaya in October 2011, and Nuance, which owns or is responsible for licensing a vast majority of all of the large vocabulary continuous speech recognition engines available on the market today. Avaya has recently released its own speech analytics solution based on the Aurix engine. Avaya has also continued to license Aurix to dozens of third-party vendors, including many of the smaller WFO competitors, who are using it to build their own speech analytics solutions.
Contact Center Infrastructure Vendors
The fourth group of speech analytics competitors are contact center infrastructure vendors, who offer speech analytics as a component of their core suites. Some of these vendors also have their own WFO suites. The market has made it clear that there is a strong preference to purchase applications or systems from a suite provider rather than from a stand-alone vendor, as long as the functionality is equal. End users prefer to avoid having to integrate applications, but will do so when the benefits outweigh the costs. This is one of the most compelling advantages of purchasing speech analytics from a contact center infrastructure vendor, as long as the solution is functionally strong and able to meet the customer’s functional requirements. This group of vendors includes Aspect, Avaya (Aurix), Castel, CTI Group, Genesys, Interactive Intelligence, NewVoiceMedia, and Noble Systems.
The fifth group of speech analytics vendors is service providers. These are business process optimization outsourcers or other vendors who offer speech analytics as a managed service. This is a growing group of competitors, and they are expected to attract more business in coming years. The best-known competitor in this group is MatterSight, but this sector is going to become highly competitive as more of the established vendors sign up partners to offer their applications.
There are a variety of other categories of vendors that also offer speech analytics capabilities. DMG has seen speech analytics used as part of an IVR analytics offering and included in a sales application, for example. We expect to see a growing number of uses for speech analytics in the coming years, because it can enhance the output from many types of applications. BBN Technologies is an example of a vendor that falls into this category.
Speech Analytics = Big Data Analytics
Another way of viewing speech analytics is as a big data analytics tool. Contact center infrastructure solutions (ACDs and dialers) generate massive amounts of data, most of which is wasted because organizations do not have the right tools to analyze and leverage it. Many of these solutions, and all IP-based contact center solutions, have the ability to record conversations. Speech analytics applications can structure the recorded conversations and find customer insights and trends. If done right, enterprises can turn these conversations into a treasure trove of information.
Emerging real-time speech analytics applications are providing yet another rich source of data. For example, contact center managers can join a conversation in real time and alter its outcome. The data from this type of transaction can be captured and fed into the big data repository to figure out what happened to prevent a call from going bad. During the next few years, vendors and end users are going to invest substantially in this area as they strive to figure out ways to use customer insights to improve the customer journey.
The speech analytics market is highly competitive, with new vendors continuing to enter the sector. DMG estimates that this big dataoriented IT sector will continue to grow rapidly as end users discover ways to leverage speech analytics findings and use them to enrich the output of other contact center applications. Enterprises and vendors are going to come up with structured ways of applying speech analytics findings to improve the customer journey and their bottom line. As this happens, the price of these solutions will decrease, making them more affordable and accessible to a larger number of organizations.