Harnessing speech automation enables organisations to increase convenience for customers, improve service levels, and boost efficiency. However, previous speech automation solutions, such as IVR (Interactive Voice Response), had significant drawbacks. They were expensive and time-consuming to implement and run. This limited their use to the largest organisations. Performance and understanding were also unpredictable, frustrating customers who gave up and preferred waiting to speak to an agent instead.
The combination of CCaaS and advances in AI have changed this. Speech automation is now faster, cheaper, and more flexible. This opens up its benefits to organisations of all sizes. Consumers and service providers alike are more used to the idea of talking to technology, whether to digital assistants such as Alexa in the home or to Siri on our smartphones.
The drawbacks of traditional speech automation systems
Speech automation is not a new technology in the contact centre. Automatic Speech Recognition features captured human speech and then passed it to a speech engine for analysis and a relevant response. However, companies had to train these engines individually to meet their needs. Adding to this, they were expensive in terms of licensing costs and required bespoke hardware to run on. Ongoing maintenance added to costs. All of this meant they were only available to the largest organisations with sufficient resources to implement and maintain them.
The power of CCaaS, AI and new speech APIs
Three factors have dramatically changed the speech automation landscape, bringing solutions within the price range of smaller organisations for the first time:
1. The cost-effectiveness and flexibility of CCaaS
The power of the cloud means that companies no longer need to install their own hardware or pay upfront for implementations. They can simply access capabilities as required and pay on a per transaction basis. This makes it much easier to create and pilot projects, predict costs, show ROI, and justify budgets.
2. Advances in speech engines
Driven by AI, there has been an explosion in the number of speech engines now available via CCaaS. As these are all accessed by speech APIs, they are easy to integrate with existing applications. Essentially, companies can choose which engine is best for their particular application or language. They can even integrate multiple engines for different applications, again just paying per transaction.
3. NLP and generative AI to aid understanding
Natural Language Processing (NLP), the branch of AI that understands language, is now extremely advanced. It can handle more complex commands and better understand intent. Customers are therefore more likely to be happy with the experience that IVR and other speech automation applications provide. This helps drive greater acceptance and usage. Generative AI can also help with turning answers into more natural conversations, further increasing customer engagement.
Exploring new use cases for speech automation
Contact centres can now use speech automation much more widely. With CCaaS, companies can start small, investigate use cases, and then grow those that deliver value. Example applications include:
1. Streamline Identity and Verification (ID&V)
Customers can now use voice biometrics or other security methods to authenticate themselves while waiting to speak to an agent. This speeds up calls and improves the experience. When they reach an agent, they can immediately start a conversation, making the exchange much more natural.
2. Automate easy transactions
A large number of calls coming into the contact centre are routine interactions. However, many require customers to verify their identity before they can do something as simple as reset a password, order a new bank card, or pay a bill. Many more rely on the agent to extract this information verbally from callers, taking up time, and introducing security concerns and the potential for inaccuracy. Speech automation systems can now make the whole process seamless and secure, without needing to talk to an agent. They don’t have to be hardwired to deliver specific answers exclusively to specific questions, and can automate a wide range of functions. This reduces the load on contact centre agents.
3. Provide confidentiality
Customers may feel uncomfortable sharing certain details, such as their medical histories, with agents. Conversational systems provide a way for clients to interact very satisfactorily with a company or access information without having to speak to a human. This removes potentially embarrassing and tedious conversations while encouraging consumers to get in touch.
4. Deliver effective out-of-hours cover
We live in a 24-hour “need it now” world. However, staffing contact centres out of hours is expensive and demand can be hard to predict. Providing access to common services through conversational automation delivers responses without needing an agent. This brings down costs while keeping customer satisfaction levels high. It can also be used to triage incoming calls if a contact centre is operating with a skeleton out-of-hours staff. Self-service then handles the majority, with more complex calls passed to agents.
5. Moving beyond IVR to Speech Automation
Speech automation now supports multiple applications beyond IVR. For example, it can be used to analyse calls or chats and automatically provide agents with relevant answers, based on the same knowledge base used for website enquiries, ensuring consistency as well as single source maintenance. It can automatically translate between different languages. This enables agents and customers to have a conversation, even if they don’t share a common language. For example, Hitachi Energy uses real-time chat translation built on speech automation across its global contact centre. If an agent with the necessary language skills is unavailable (such as outside office hours), the conversation can take place via chat, with AI handling real-time translation.
Thanks to improvements in speech analysis and the flexibility of CCaaS, speech automation is now available to all contact centres. They can quickly deploy applications that better understand customers and provide them with faster answers. This improves the experience and boosts satisfaction, all while increasing efficiency.
Find out more about chat and speech automation options by watching our Roadmap Webinar series on demand.WATCH NOW
- We recommend this report: ContactBabel 2023 Australia and New Zealand Contact Centre Decision Makers’ Guide
- Videos, web page: Enghouse customers speak about their contact centres
- eBook: Navigating 2023’s Top 5 Customer Experience Challenges
Contact us to find out more about enabling your contact centre with Email at helloAPAC@enghouse.com