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Use Customer Conversations to Improve Enterprise Performance

Use Customer Conversations to Improve Enterprise Performance

Use Customer Conversations to Improve Enterprise Performance

By Donna Fluss
DM Review

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Speech analytics, also known as audio mining, structures conversations and finds hidden insights, implicit customer needs and the root cause of issues embedded in conversations. It can check on how well enterprise staff complies with scripts and regulations. Speech analytics applications capture customer conversations and transform them into metadata that can be searched. The structured conversations are then analyzed using a variety of techniques, including keyword, phrase, concept and contextual search. Some speech analytics applications are able to identify concepts and trends that enterprise managers don’t even know exist. This enables call center managers and executives to address the issues that generate call volume and to identify competitive challenges and new revenue opportunities. It also gives marketing and sales managers highly valuable, actionable and timely insights into customer preferences and trends that they can use to increase customer retention, build their brand and increase revenue.

Benefits of Speech Analytics

Speech analytics applications are compelling because they deliver benefits to an enterprise’s bottom line; they reduce costs and increase revenue while improving the customer experience.

Speech analytics applications contribute to marketing departments by identifying competitive challenges and opportunities on a timely basis, when it’s still early enough for the enterprise to create a campaign to respond appropriately. Speech analytics can be used to identify at-risk customers and successful retention methods. It can detect a marketing campaign or product collateral that is causing negative reactions or confusing customers. It can be used to identify new product ideas and enhancements and to gain an appreciation of general customer opinions about a company, its products and the competitive environment. It is also a great tool for understanding customer and market trends.

Speech analytics is very important from a public relations perspective. While it may be rare, companies do occasionally misstep and generate negative publicity. Speech analytics functions as an early warning system and can notify management of an issue before it impacts a large segment of the customer base or becomes an issue in the press. For sales organizations, speech analytics can be used to identify ways to increase sales conversion rates. Speech analytics can be used to segment customers and to identify the most appropriate channel for selling to them. A speech analytics application can capture customer-provided information and use it to better satisfy customers by interacting with them in their channel of choice, while also increasing sales conversion rates. Additionally, customers are pleased when an enterprise listens to them, which helps build customer loyalty.

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

For fraud departments, speech analytics can quickly pick up on new schemes and prevent major losses. It can also be used to identify individuals who are engaged in 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 identifying customers at risk of defaulting on a loan or payment early on, an enterprise can intervene promptly and reduce their losses.

Speech analytics initiatives generally yield a rapid ROI in three to 12 months. Success depends upon setting realistic expectations, concentrating on one initiative at a time and allocating appropriate resources to the project. The value of the findings will increase as users customize the solutions for their operating environment and improve the accuracy of their searches and queries.

Figure 1 shows a few of the categories where enterprises can achieve both hard and soft benefits from speech analytics. Hard benefits are relatively easy to quantify and are generally accepted by chief financial officers in ROI analyses. Soft benefits are often substantial, but are difficult to justify. There are many more benefits, but these are currently the more common areas where speech analytics is being applied. There have been some situations where one initiative, such as using speech analytics to increase the sales closure rate by identifying where scripts broke down, has resulted in returns of millions of dollars. Another area where speech analytics has delivered outstanding results is in identifying ways to reduce customer attrition. In these initiatives and other highly successful ones, there was a great deal of corporate support. To date, initiatives that have concentrated on cost savings have yielded smaller benefits than those where the effort was revenue-oriented.

Figure 1: Speech Analytics Hard and Soft Dollar ROI Categories

Analytics Case Studies

The best way to determine if a speech analytics solution is viable and would work in your operating environment is to identify if it’s been used effectively in similar situations. In the past 18 months, I’ve seen substantially more successes than failures, driven by improved offerings, the emergence of implementation best practices and increased vendor experience. As of the end of 2006, there were 603 speech analytics implementations, up from 25 at the end of 2004.

The two case studies that follow share common themes and approaches. Both initiatives began by concentrating on a specific issue and, after succeeding, were rolled out to address other enterprise challenges.

Problem: A travel and entertainment company wanted to improve the performance of their call center by improving quality, reducing errors and increasing revenue. They wanted a tool to provide effective agent feedback on a timely basis, so that they could reduce program discrepancy rates, enhance the quality of new programs and improve customer satisfaction.

Benefits: This company decided to try speech analytics. The application gave them the information they needed to decrease booking errors by 7 percent in three months and increase the average quality monitoring score by 17 percent. This resulted in both productivity gains and increased customer satisfaction. By listening to their customers, they identified five new up-sell offers. They also identified and launched two new product lines. This resulted in incremental annual revenue of $290,000. After achieving their initial goals, they decided to use speech analytics to improve feedback to their partners and to reduce the volume of nonprofitable calls.

Problem: A large insurance company needed to dramatically improve the overall performance of their contact center, including productivity, quality and agent morale. They decided to try speech analytics to see if it could identify the underlying causes of their poor performance.

Benefits: Applying the insights and information they learned with speech analytics, the insurance company was able to turn around the performance of their call center. They realized an 83 percent improvement in average speed of answer, a 68 percent improvement in their service level (percentage of calls answered in 30 seconds), a 25 percent reduction in abandonment, a 20 percent reduction in average handling time and a 15 percent reduction in seasonal call volumes. As a result of these productivity gains, they eliminated the need to hire 22 additional agents. As importantly, these changes greatly improved staff morale. Now that they’ve realized such substantial benefits within the call center, the vendor is working with the company to apply the findings to other operating areas.

Speech analytics is an innovative and high-value application that has started to penetrate enterprises. It is initially being applied in call centers, as it is an effective tool for reducing operating expenses, facilitating call avoidance and increasing revenue, while improving the customer experience – the ongoing goals of most service environments. Even more substantial benefits from speech analytics will be realized by marketing, sales and operations to improve the bottom line and provide a strategic advantage.

Donna Fluss, principal of DMG Consulting LLC, is the author of The Real-Time Contact Center, published in August 2005. Contact Ms. Fluss at

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