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Speech Analytics Takes Off

Speech Analytics Takes Off

Speech analytics has taken off in the past year. The number of implementations has grown from 178 at the end of 2005 to 603 in December 2006. This market is expected to grow at a rate of at least 100% in both 2007 and 2008, fueled by quantifiable benefits and vendor hype. The great news is that the benefits are real when users invest the time and resources to make these applications work.

What is Speech Analytics?

Speech analytics, also known as audio mining, structures conversations and finds hidden insights, implicit needs and wants and the root cause of issues embedded in conversations. It can also monitor staff performance. Speech analytics applications capture customer conversations and transform them into metadata. Once structured, the conversations are analyzed using a variety of techniques, including key word, phrase, concept and contextual search. Some speech analytics applications can identify concepts and trends that end users didn’t even know existed. This enables contact center managers and corporate executives to address the issues that generate call volume and to identify competitive challenges and new revenue opportunities.

Benefits of Speech Analytics

For contact center managers, speech analytics provides valuable customer insights and identifies the root cause for calls, on a timely basis. This enables managers to reduce call volume, improve quality and reduce customer attrition. Speech analytics is also a great tool for making sure agents meet regulatory requirements and adhere to scripts.

Sales organizations can use speech analytics to identify ways to increase sales conversion rates – both for new customers and up-sell/cross-sell. Speech analytics can also be used to segment customers by sales channel. Customers often tell contact center agents the most appropriate way to communicate with them and what types of products and services they prefer. A speech analytics application can capture this information and use it to increase sales conversion rates by interacting in the customer’s channel of choice. Customers are pleased when an enterprise cares enough to listen to their preferences; this helps build customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Speech analytics applications contribute to marketing organizations by identifying competitive challenges and opportunities on a timely basis, so that the enterprise can create a campaign to respond appropriately. It can be used to identify “at risk” customers and successful retention methods. Speech analytics can be used to gather customer insights about a company, its products and the competitive environment. It is also a great tool for understanding customer preferences and market trends, in order to generate new product ideas and enhancements. From a public relations perspective, when a company does something that generates negative publicity, speech analytics functions as an early warning system that can notify management before the issue impacts a large segment of the customer base or becomes a liability in the press.

For fraud departments, speech analytics can quickly pick up on new schemes and prevent major losses. It can also be used to identify individuals that are engaged in a fraudulent activity. For collections groups, speech analytics emotion detection can be used to measure stress levels to determine if customers are telling the truth when they make a promise to pay. By rapidly identifying customers at risk of defaulting, an enterprise can intervene earlier and reduce its losses.

Speech analytics evaluates customer satisfaction with policies and procedures, providing timely alerts on operational issues. By rapidly identifying call trends and their root causes, it allows early identification of performance issues throughout the enterprise and is the only tool that can directly correlate complaint calls with the group that triggers them.

Customers are Beneficiaries of Speech Analytics

Among the most important beneficiaries of speech analytics are enterprise customers. Today, much of what customers share with enterprises is ignored because agents do not have a system or process for formally gathering and communicating this information. Wrap-up systems are limited and generally invite agent feedback on certain pre-selected items. CRM applications capture transactions, but generally do not reflect customer opinions. Speech analytics doesn’t miss anything. This input is most valuable if the enterprise builds a formal process for putting it to work.

Speech Analytics Report

DMG Consulting is releasing its second annual Speech Analytics Report at the end of March 2007. This in-depth industry Report addresses all aspects of this developing market. The Report reviews all existing and emerging vendors and provides detailed comparisons of their products and capabilities. It discusses the benefits and ROI of speech analytics and presents 8 case studies that show how to realize the greatest returns. It provides a framework for building a speech analytics business case, implementation best practices and pricing. The Report presents all the information needed to select the right partner and succeed with a speech analytics implementation.

If you’re interested in speech analytics give Deborah Navarra a call at 516-628-1098 or send her an email” to request a Report abstract, or to set up a call to discuss how this Report can help your company.

Ask the Experts

I am just starting my first call center job and I’m in the training process now. So far, there are a lot of things to take in. What are some common mistakes that first-time agents make, or common areas of weakness?
Congratulations on your new position and welcome to the contact center world. Your question implies that you already understand that the contact center is a very unique operating environment – fast-paced, dynamic, and multi-faceted. It is also an environment in which you, the agent, play a critical role in the success of your company.

As you noted, there is a vast amount of information that new agents are required to learn to perform their jobs. Common areas of agent weakness are largely due to their inexperience in handling live (and sometimes frustrated and nasty) customers, and a lack of in-depth knowledge of systems, products, policies and procedures. Most of these areas of opportunity can only be improved over time, as agents become more experienced in speaking to customers and applying job knowledge. That being said, here are some agent best practices to help you achieve your goals.

  1. Arrive on time and adhere to your schedule. The contact center is a very structured environment – and for good reason. Forecasting and scheduling is a critical component of service delivery. A common mistake that first-time contact center agents make is under-appreciating the substantial impact on service delivery and contact center goals when they are absent, late or fail to adhere closely to their assigned schedule.
  2. Maintain open communication with your trainer, team leader, coach or supervisor. Keep a list of areas where you want to improve your performance. Discuss these areas with your supervisor during your monthly one-on-one session. Alternatively, ask a trainer, team leader or coach for assistance. Maintain a positive attitude and be open to feedback and suggestions. Keep in mind that these people are there to help you.
  3. If you don’t know or are unsure about the answer to a customer’s question or how to handle a request – ask for help. This way, the customer will get the right answer, you’ll receive a good score on your quality evaluations, and you will build your base of knowledge.
  4. During low volume periods when calls are slow, use the quiet time between calls to review training and product materials. This will help build your job knowledge and learn how calls will be evaluated. Use the time to review training materials or to take eLearning courses. Be proactive about learning.
  5. When you are not on a call, listen to how respected agents handle customer interactions. This is a valuable way to learn subtle techniques on how to communicate unfamiliar or complicated information to customers and how to handle situations that escalate. As you learn more effective and efficient communication methods, your productivity metrics will improve.
  6. Share customer issues with your supervisor. Call center agents are the first people in an enterprise to learn about a problem or issue. If you see patterns or trends, let your supervisor know. For example, if you notice that 3 customers in Billing Cycle 9 reported that they didn’t receive their statement, notify your immediate supervisor so that a potentially damaging situation can be corrected quickly, before it has too great an impact.
  7. Make suggestions for improvements. Just because you are new does not mean that you do not have valuable and beneficial ideas. Making suggestions is a great way to demonstrate initiative and get involved in departmental activities. This is often how agents get assigned to special project teams.
  8. Find out what metrics and key performance indicators are used to evaluate your performance and how they are calculated. It’s critical for your success to understand how your performance is evaluated. Identify the performance categories where you need further development and proactively develop an action plan to improve areas of weakness.
  9. Be positive, open and flexible when change is introduced. The contact center is a dynamic environment where situations change constantly. It’s very important to accept change and be extremely adaptable.
  10. Recognize that while the agent role is an entry level position, you can use it as a first step in building a career. The majority of call and contact centers promote from within when selecting team leaders, quality specialists and supervisors. Additionally, many other departments in the enterprise value contact center experience highly, as it gives employees great insight into the company and its customers. Do not make the mistake of considering your contact center job a dead-end position. It can be the beginning of a successful career or an entry point into a corporation.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at