Thursday, February 18, 2016

Adventures in Speech Analytics- An Introduction

A lot of people in the contact center scene have heard about Speech Analytics (SA) but do not know the purpose of the technology. Researching the topic can be overwhelming so let’s start with the basics.

What is Speech Analytics?

Speech Analytics is the technique of taking calls that have been recorded to acquire data. It is to call centers what Google is to the Internet. You can search for keywords or phrases to identify specific topics or behaviors during a customer-agent interaction.

What can I use Speech Analytics for?

You can use SA for a lot of things. Say your company requires sales agents to read to the customer a disclaimer about E911 (Enhanced 911) at point of sale- you need to know the percentage of agent compliance in your sales queue. You could spend an eternity going through calls randomly and hope to find what you are looking for or you can use SA technology to search for the specific phrase you are looking for like “E911 will not function until power is restored” and examine the data for accuracy.

You can also use SA technology to improve an existing process. For example one of the biggest issues in any size call center is First Call Resolution (FCR). You want to make sure that your agents are handling your customers concerns the first time around. The more customers have to call in results in lower customer satisfaction which could result in your customers ultimately leaving you for a competitor. SA can help you identify the hot topics that trigger repeat calls and help you develop processes to resolve them.

How does a Speech Analytics tool work? How does it know to find what I am looking for?

A SA tool typically is broken down into the following functional segments:

  • Speech Engine- This portion does the initial analysis of audio and will convert it into a file that contains a series of phonemes or transcribed text.

  • Indexing- This portion improves accuracy of the speech engine. It will try to make sense of the data from the speech engine and index it for additional analysis, ad hoc searching and queries. The tools will import/ingest data from the call center’s recording system(s).

  • Query Engine- This is where authorized end users are able to define their queries and results they want in the SA tool.

  • Search- Used to perform ad hoc search terms on indexed audio files. Operates similar to a google search.

  • Reporting Dashboard- This is where you can go to organize system data in a customizable and easy to visually digest manner. In this area you are able to drill down and filter results to your needs.

There are 2 primary types of speech engines:

  • Phonetic Speech Engine- the English Language has 40 phonemes. A phonetic based SA tool will search your keywords and phrases broken down in phonemes in order to return your search results faster. Example: “an-l-it-iks” or “Foh-net-ik”. A benefit to a phonetic based SA tool is that it is not limited to a pre-defined dictionary.

  • Text to speech (also known as LVCSR) Engine - A text to speech tool will convert speech into text using a dictionary. It will then locate the occurrences of query words in the transcribed call. A benefit of this type of SA tool is that it creates a transcript of the customer-agent interaction.

What is a Query?

Queries are an absolute must to have in your SA tool in order to get the best results. A query is a prebuilt search that has been created within the SA tool to help an end user best refine their ad hoc searches. An organization will typically have some resources set aside who specialize in creating specific queries that are of significant value to the organization. For example a telecommunications company may want to have queries built around the core lines of business they offer in addition to having queries built for specific call drivers like payment arrangements or general inquiries. Typically queries should validate at 90% accuracy to be considered functional as it will reduce the amount of false positives and missed hits.

What is an ad hoc search?

An ad hoc search is a custom search performed within the SA tool. This is the exciting aspect of speech analytics as your options for what you can search for are relatively limitless. Ad hoc searches are the core of any SA program because they allow your organization to deep dive into the heart of your customer-agent interactions. Generally the best way to ad hoc search is when they are run concurrently with an existing relevant query within the system to vet out the best results. Keep in mind that you will need to validate the accuracy of your results to ensure that you are gathering the most relevant results for your ad hoc search. Further elaboration on the ad hoc search process will be discussed in the next article.

As you can see there is a lot of power that a good speech analytics program has to offer. There is an increasing need for contact centers to deliver better customer experiences along with reducing cost and improving agent performance. People are now starting to understand that a customer interaction is a revenue generating asset that contains a vast amount of insight data that needs to be tapped into, understood and acted on.



Operations Manager, Speech Analytics 

With more than 4 years of Quality Assurance experience in a call center environment, Diana's objective is to simultaneously promote and educate the world of Speech Analytics with a human touch; one which further emphasizes the importance of First Call Resolution, and overall customer experience.

Follow Diana on LinkedIn.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Customer Service vs Customer Experience


In the 'Age of The Customer', where businesses have to compete even harder to meet the bottom line, it’s not enough to attract new customers, but more importantly they return.  Service is an organization-wide effort.  The traditional model that viewed it as a function of the organization is changing.  This does not suggest the death of the customer support department. There will always be a need.  However, companies should change their vantage point and look at customer experience more closely.

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. This is a great definition, but it's an outlook based on the company's perspective.  It is bound by limitations and policy.  To paraphrase ICMI's Justin Robbins, service is provided at the "moment of truth".  If service is excellent, it can be a one-time event.  Furthermore, if service is lousy, it can be a one-time event but with negative results.

Customer experience is something entirely different.  It is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship and strictly from the customer’s outlook of things.  I've heard it described as the perception, feelings or emotions one has when interacting with an organization.  The experience occurs prior to, and after the "moment of truth". 

I was recently visiting a sporting goods store to purchase Carolina Panthers gear for a Super Bowl party.  I'd called in advance to identify the different items sold, but my experience actually started on their website.  Phone calls  would ring a couple of times and go to an electronically recorded voice message.  Because of my desperation, which benefited them, I continued to call.  I finally found an alternate number at the bottom of the web page.

While I was frustrated, my need for those items superseded my impatience.  After making contact, the representative proceeded to list all the items he had available.  I decided to make the 40 minute drive to his store (information I shared with him).  After arriving to the shopping center, I circled the lot a few time looking for the store. The GPS directions stopped at the front of the shopping center which consisted of at least 60 different stores.  I made another phone call to have them guide me in.

Finally at the store I began gathering my items while trying to ignore the increasing urge to use the restroom. The cashier, who was also the person I’d spoken to on the phone, totaled my order at $423.77.  I swiped my card and waited to finish the transaction.  My urge continued to increase and I could no longer hold it!  “Excuse me, do you have a restroom I can use?”  His response was “no”. “You can go across the street to one of those restaurants”.  Wow! Really?!  At this moment, my experience was completely ruined.

This incident shows the difference between customer service (CS) and customer experience (CX). Service was the smile that greeted me at the door, the assistance to find the different memorabilia. It continued with the convenient POS system.

The experience began well before the purchase. It consisted of a website lacking basic UX principles, a lukewarm phone conversation, and his unwillingness to allow me the courtesy of his restroom. Yes, I received the items I needed.  However, a return visit is unlikely.

With CX as the focal point, an organization will look at each touch point and business function to assess its impact on customer experience.  Had this business done so, perhaps this would be an article singing their praises.

Research suggests today’s consumers are driven by experiences.  They are loyal to brands who connect with them and evoke positive emotions.  Organizations must commit to improving CX . While this requires time and effort, the ROI surpasses the effort.  

So, shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among stars!



Yvette Jones Hawkins has over 30 years of experience in the Restaurant & Hospitality industry. She's worked at the executive level in the private and corporate sectors, and contributed to many blogs and articles on multiple subjects. Yvette is a California native but currently resides in North Carolina with her family and friends.








Sean Hawkins is a Contact Center manager with over 15 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.