Communications Blog • 4 MIN READ

Leveraging Voice Recognition in the Contact Center

Mike Burke

Written by Mike Burke

Voice recognition is a technology that has made a big impact to our lives over the past few decades. What was once fanciful star-gazing - like the voice activated machines in the popular Hanna-Barbera sit-com the Jetsons - today, voice recognition is found in devices all around us. From your smartphone to your car radio - it is an ever evolving technology.

While voice recognition is still some way from being 100% perfect, it has improved rapidly over recent years. Think about how easy it is to perform tasks that were completely impossible only ten years ago. Voice recognition is powerful, helpful technology that almost everyone has used in some form or another.

As mentioned earlier, the most obvious example is built right into your smartphone. It's dangerous to take your eyes off the road when driving just to dial a number or send a text message. (People still do it, tragically enough.) Now all you have to do is press one button or say a key phrase to activate your voice assistant. You can set a reminder, make a call, or even send a text message without having to divert attention from your driving. Speech recognition makes this kind of interaction possible.

All voice recognition solutions aren't created equal, however, organizations need to be careful to not adversely impact the customer experience by introducing a layer of complexity voice recognition can bring - if allowed.

One of the key considerations is whether or not the context is wide open. In other words, it's much more challenging to build a system to handle inquiries about anything, as opposed to focusing on dialog for a specific situation. Let's look at contact centers - where voice recognition is being more widely used to reduce the average handling time (AHT) by better understanding what customers are like before presenting to an agent. If we look at the financial services industry, if a customer dials in to talk to a their bank, the expected words the caller will say should be limited to that subject.

The voice recognition system will simply do a much better job if it knows what to expect. With the tremendous increases in processing, network speed, and memory capacity, it's possible to have an immense amount of computing power applied to phoneme analysis. If the system is limited to a small set of expected phrases, you've increased the likelihood that the system will be successful in figuring out what someone is saying. It could be something as simple as differentiating between ‘yes', ‘no', and ‘representative'. It's much more likely that the system will get something like that right the first time.

Get me out of here! Another critical component to any voice recognition system is the ability for users to exit easily (or to at least begin using the phone buttons) without forcing them to go through complex menu trees. One of the most important best practices is to make the technology flexible enough to get out of the way when the user wants. Simply put, you should give customers options to suit their needs.

In the next few years, voice recognition technology is going to become even more ubiquitous. Speech recognition isn't just about interacting with a contact center. Microsoft Cortana, Amazon's Alexa, and (of course) Apple's Siri are clear examples of how voice assistants are already entrenched in our lives. It's going to continue to expand everywhere—even places we haven't even dreamed about. I can envision a situation where you tell your coffee pot when to turn on and how strong you want your brew to be - just like George Jetson did all those years ago. It will all be based on specific dialog that the designers put together so simple audio triggers can be just as efficient as pressing a button. 

Our grandparents grew up tuning in to the radio with a physical dial, we can now control radios by voice, it will be interesting to see how different technology becomes for our grandchildren.

Where can you see voice recognition making a big change? Or is it already impacting your life/business? Leave your comments below to start the conversation.

Topics: Communications Customer experience

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