Back in October we presented an upcoming new product (Interaction Analyzer) with a feature called ‘Real Time Speech Analytics’, at our annual gathering of partners, consultants and analysts. We did a live demo and had a focus session that generated quite a few questions, and created a lot of discussion in the weeks after the conference. During the tail end of the last quarter we briefed several customers individually and also presented a session on speech analytics at a regional end user forum held for our New York/New Jersey customers. While the partners and consultants saw the broad value it brought to a contact center, it was a bit surprising that while the end customers saw the same benefits, there was a noticeable focus on applying it to the management of remote agents.
First, let me give a very brief summary of what real time speech analytics means. Think of a supervisor, listening in on a call that is taking place between a customer and an agent, and taking actions based on what is being said, as soon as it’s spoken. Only in this case the supervisor isn’t human, but a core function of the communications system. The system might listen for words and phrases we never want to hear come from a customer, or things we never want an agent to say, or maybe listen and make sure we absolutely hear something that we always want an agent to say. Here’s a simple example:
Customer “I’ve been a customer for years but would like to cancel my service effective February 1st”
System heard customer say “cancel my service”, alert sent to current shift supervisor
Agent “I’m sorry to hear that Mr. Smith can I ask what the problem is?”
Customer “Too many dropped calls so I’m switching to Acme Cellular Network ”
System heard customer say “Acme”, known competitor, call recording flagged for follow up for competitive research.
Agent “Well I apologize, I can offer you some special pricing if you’re interested in staying with us”
System heard agent say “I can offer you”, agent is scored higher for following correct procedures. Score is visible during the call to supervisors monitoring the queue for any potential issues.
You probably get the idea by now. The example could go on for quite a while and touch on things like hearing curse words, and what steps are taken based on who actually spoke the words, the customer or the agent. Or listening for items that regulations may dictate must be part of every call such as “You are authorizing us to charge your credit card for $19.95 a month”. In addition to exact matches as shown above, matches can be made between similar words and phrases. The phrases, “transfer me to your boss”, “I want to speak to a supervisor”, and “who is your manager” all essentially mean the same thing, I have a customer that is upset and wants to speak to someone other than the agent they’re engaged with at the moment.
Now back to the title of the post. Remote agents and the value of real time speech analytics.
During the briefings over the past several months we really didn’t focus, or in some cases even mention remote agents, instead we presented the benefits of the functionality as it applied to traditional contact centers. As mentioned earlier, when presented to end customers the interest in the technology seemed to lean heavily toward its usage in the deployment of remote agents. In 2011 remote agents are a hot topic; you can’t get though 10 emails without one of them being an invite to some webinar about remote/home based agents. A lot of the discussion tends to turn away from the technology needed to deploy remote agents and instead focus on the management challenges created by having agents work outside of the core contact center.
Some managers fear they have a blind spot when it comes to how remote agents are speaking to customers. Real or perceived, there seems to be a concern about making sure remote agents are saying the right things and calls are being handled in the correct way. Even in call centers that record every transaction, and then go back to spot review the calls and agents, catching something one day or one week after the fact isn’t always the best solution. That’s where the interest in the real time analytics has been generating discussion. Managers just undertaking a project to employ remote agents as part of their contact center see a real value in being able to insert a virtual supervisor into every call. Upselling, regulatory compliance, and just general decent phone etiquette are brought to the attention of managers while they happen, regardless of where the agent is handling calls.
Look for more details about the technology, and other uses contact centers are coming up with for real time speech analytics, in our blogs over the next several months.