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Speech Analytics: What’s Real and What’s Not

Speech Analytics: What’s Real and What’s Not

During the last six months, a lot of companies have started to investigate the benefits of contact center speech analytics. Speech analytics has become a tick sheet item on most RFPs to quality assurance and workforce optimization vendors. Stand-alone speech analytics vendors are adding new sales staff to keep up with market demand. And even more telling, the number of implementations increased from 25 (at most) at the end of 1994 to approximately 200 to 250 at the end of 2005. Most of the vendors in the market have referenceable customers. (Ask me for them – I just collected them.)

This doesn’t mean that these applications have gotten off to a perfect start. As is the case for most (if not all) new software, there are and will continue to be problems – some of the early adopters have not been pleased with their results. Speech analytics struggled to get off the ground for a couple years and I expect there to be many more failed implementations for all the typical reasons – poor planning, lack of best practices, inadequate management support and follow-through, and under-trained users. But in the past nine months, I’ve started to see an increasing number of success stories.

Market Maturity and Product Accuracy

The speech analytics market is immature, even though some of the underlying technology has been under development for more than 20 years. While many vendors are into the second or even third release of their contact center analytics offerings, the market is in generation one of these products. Despite the market’s immaturity, the current batch of speech analytics solutions will add value to your organization. Although these solutions are far from perfect and are certain to improve immensely during the next five years, the information they are currently capable of providing – when implemented and managed properly – will have a substantial impact on the way you conduct business.

These applications provide information that is directionally accurate. They can spot trends, identify the underlying reasons for customer calls, improve the effectiveness of your quality assurance program, reduce fraud, determine if your agents are adhering to their scripts and much more. These applications can also be used for activities that extend beyond the boundaries of contact centers; they can identify new product ideas, determine which marketing campaigns are most successful and why, and increase sales.

While it would be nice to obtain results that are 100% accurate, they really don’t have to be, at this point. For now, it’s fine for enterprises to get the big picture from these applications, as they are identifying so much data that contact centers don’t yet know or cannot yet access. Over time, as the low-hanging fruit is addressed, it will become more important for these applications to be increasingly accurate. The great news is that there is a great deal of R&D going on and the underlying speech engines are improving.

Buy or Wait

Speech analytics is very exciting because it reduces operating expenses, improves quality, enhances the customer experience, increases revenue and reduces corporate liability. Of course, achieving all of these benefits will take a significant investment of time and resources. Best practices for speech analytics are just emerging and are available only through expensive professional services offerings from vendors. Sure, you can wait for these applications to improve. Over time, professional service costs will also decrease, as more competition emerges for this business and best practices are documented. These improvements will reduce the time required for implementations and eliminate the need for “one-off” initiatives.

Despite their shortcomings, speech analytics products are viable, have been proven in the field and have an ROI of 9 to 12 months. Even better, once you understand how to use them, their contribution to your organization will accelerate. DMG Consulting suggests that you invest and not wait, as long as you are willing to allocate the time and resources to make the system work for you. Of interest, a number of speech analytics vendors make it clear to their prospects that they will realize benefits only if they establish internal best practices that allow them to use the system output on a timely basis.

Speech Analytics Report

DMG Consulting has spent the last three months conducting an exhaustive study of the speech analytics market, developing detailed functional comparisons of the 11 vendors that have at least one customer. The study covers topics such as pricing, functionality, product reviews, ROI, use cases, implementation best practices, legal issues, market projections and much more, with a resulting Report of 200-plus pages. As of this writing, there are 15 known competitors in this market, two of whom are planning to introduce their products in the early part of 2006. Other vendors are not offering a stand-alone speech analytics solution, but use speech analytics as an integral component of a product intended for a different purpose.

If you’re interested in speech analytics give Deborah Navarra a call at 516-628-1098 or send her an email atDeborah.navarra@dmgconsult.com to request a Report abstract. DMG Consulting will be happy to talk to you about this evolving market.

Ask the Experts

How do outsourcers charge for their services? What do outsourcers include in the cost/agent/ hour? Is this the cost the outsourcer charges the client for their outsourcing services inclusive of agent, supervisor, telecom and all other costs?
There are no set rules for what outsourcers include in their cost/agent/hour. And even when an outsourcer has pricing guidelines, they are generally flexible and will change based on the length of the agreement and needs/requirements of the client or prospect. Some outsourcers will charge a very low cost/agent/hour and then have extra charges for a variety of add-on services. For example, some outsourcers bundle start-up costs into the cost/agent/hour, if this is a requirement for the contract (when the customer wants these costs distributed over the length of the agreement). In most other situations, start-up is a one-time expense of doing business with the outsourcer. Some outsourcers include telecom costs in their cost/agent/hour and others do not. (Keep in mind that telecom costs are now approximately 1 to 2 cents per minute.)

As there are no fixed guidelines, prospects should ask outsourcers to specify exactly what is included in all cost categories so that they can compare the cost of different vendors. Always ask for a list of all projected charges in writing and then ask, “Is there anything else I might possibly need that’s not on this list?”

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 www.dmgconsult.com.