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Using voice recognition

There has been some consideration for using voice recognition with contact centers to deflect queuing calls. Recently there have been some nice implementations from both Nuance and Speechworks.

How do you see this market segment developing and especially how would advise someone interested in this technology to ensure they leverage existing investments in either outbound scripts (Siebel Smartscripts) or knowledge bases (Primus and eGain)?
I believe that the successful use of speech recognition in contact centers hinges on two critical factors:

1. Humanization
2. Application


Let's take these two factors and explore them further.

1. Humanization People do not like talking with a computer. Most interactions involving speech recognition use either Text-To-Speech or cold, robotic sounding prompts to interact with the customer. Neither of these work toward building a relationship with the customer. I know it sounds odd to think about a computer building a relationship with a customer but that is at the heart of real communication.

If the computer sounds like a person and responds as a person would, then your ability to engage a customer and keep them engaged for an automated session increases significantly. As an example compare the following:

"Please state your full name" (stated in a monotone)
"Would you please say your first and last name" (stated with full dynamics)

Clearly the 2nd interaction would be preferred. Achieving this is the first success factor.

2. Application

Certain types of applications lend themselves well toward an automated interaction with a customer. A good example would be calling in a prescription refill to a pharmacy or checking to see when an order shipped and when it is expected to be delivered.

These types of applications don't require the skills of a highly trained agent but can be very time consuming in terms of personnel cost. Imagine the value of reducing your headcount of less skilled agents while not wasting the time of your highly trained and well compensated agents.

Summary

It is these types of applications where the largest values can be gained. Don't try to replace your entire agent population. That is not going to happen. Be realistic. Focus on applications where the form of the transaction is fairly consistent.
This was last published in October 2002

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