Talking About Speech – That’s a Good Question!

I was with a customer last week, who surprised me by asking a very simple question with almost naïve innocence; ”Do people still use that speech recognition stuff?”

I wasn’t surprised so much by the question but more by the fact that the customer I was talking to was one I would have said was an expert in contact center IVR Solutions and speech technologies.

Then I remembered he had tried to implement speech IVR solutions years ago with little success. He had been extremely disappointed by what was delivered and even more disheartened by the way his customers had reacted to it.

And yet great speech applications are largely recognized as the “way to go”, by many of the market observers and analysts.

So why haven’t speech technologies (speech recognition, text to speech, & speaker verification) become mainstream? After all there are strong arguments in favor of their use, with benefits including:

  • Increased automation by simplifying the user interface and making it easier to use
  • A resulting reduction in costs (a 25% automation of calls in a 250 agent call center will deliver savings of more than $1m)
  • Access to the vast universe of Web-enabled content, enabling dramatically improved e-business strategies
  • Improved customer service because voice-based systems eliminate many of the constraints posed by the touch-tone interface
  • A clear competitive edge, as a well designed corporate voice portal allows a company to project its personality through the style or quality of a recorded voice, and the script styles used.
  • Security in that the newest capabilities of speech-enabled applications, which use voiceprints for secured access to information.

They all sound pretty impressive don’t they?

Well the reality is that there is a huge difference between understanding the benefits of speech solutions and actually delivering them properly!

There is often a complete lack of understanding of the end users’ requirements when deciding where speech can play an appropriate role or not. Too many times I think that well intentioned plans by “Speech Champions” to use speech for everything don’t work and result in poor delivery and unsatisfactory customer feedback.

This is the single largest reason why speech has not become as ubiquitous in the contact center as it should be.

The other challenge with speech is the COST! There are only a few practitioners who know how to do speech properly and they have at times, over complicated the development process with the result that only the higher end applications with the greatest returns are viable.

This is exacerbated by the market dominance of Nuance which has led many people to believe in Nuance’s own propaganda that the only people who can write “proper speech applications” are the suppliers of the algorithms – Nuance themselves.

So how do you acquire cost effective and powerful speech and IVR solutions that will deliver real benefit to your customers?

The answer is to seek tried and tested speech practitioners, not just people that can talk about the value and benefits of speech , but ones who have delivered them to customers and have great case studies that demonstrate the return on investment and can demonstrate end user satisfaction.

These companies are not that easy to find but are differentiated because their focus is on delivering value in the long term and not just in the initial period of delivering the project.

These people understand what can and can’t be automated, they understand where speech can add value and where it is an unnecessary and costly complication. They are driven to deliver long term value rather than simply just short term benefits to sell speech technology licenses.

So back to the customer last week who asked me “do people still use that Speech stuff?”……I told him that of course they do…however they are sadly only the select few that manage to engage with the right partner.

I believe that in the current business environment, when everyone needs to deliver MORE for a lower cost, that speech IVR solutions have an awful lot to offer...BUT...ONLY when appropriately used and deployed.

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To find out how PSS can help you with your speech applications and IVR solutions to achieve your business objectives get in touch with us now. Call or email us to set up a free informal initial discussion to see if there is a fit for us both, get in touch today.

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Posted by eckoh at 5:38 PM on Jan 29, 2012

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