Voice Recognition Technology Hits the Desktop

Nov 27, 2007 7:48 PM  By

Voice recognition software has long been used to collect customer information for the customer service agent prior to the live connection of the call. But voice recognition software in use on the agent desktop is now showing promise in its ability to lower costs by reducing call handle times and provide a better service experience for the customer and agent.

With this software-based technology, an agent drives navigation of the contact center applications on the desktop through his or her voice prompts, instead of with keystrokes. This technology can be used to launch applications, fill in forms, disposition calls, and capture call notes—all activities that create “soft hold” time during the call. The use of voice recognition software can reduce the amount of “dead air” a customer hears as agents work their way through a myriad of applications/screens.

Leveraging the use of voice recognition software on the agent desktop requires an understanding of how the agent interacts with the desktop on a daily basis.

For example, in a typical telecommunications company contact center, the authentication sequence—the act of validating the customer identity—happens on almost every call. In most contact centers, the agent is required to record the method of authentication that was used for the call, such as a customer code, account number, the last four digits of a social security number, or the last monthly bill amount.

This procedure may require an agent to navigate to two or three different windows of the application, select the method of authentication, click “Submit” and close the window, before the agent can navigate to another part of the system to begin the trouble-shooting sequence of the call. This process could take 15 to 20 seconds to complete, and will likely include some modest “soft hold” time while the agent completes the sequence.

Using voice recognition software, during the interaction the agent says “customer code,” and is quickly routed through the application by way of a voice-enabled macro to the agent the appropriate screen in the call sequence. The software can cut the time to complete the authentication sequence in half, and when this savings is applied to all customer interactions across the contact center, the reduction in call handle and hold times can be significant.

Another way that voice recognition software on the agent desktop reduces call handle time relates to the typing of call notes. Call notes provide a critical history and reference point aiding any agent who takes the next call from the same customer.

All of the other call activities taking place during a customer interaction—for example, researching past call history, calculating new price plans, or researching service availability—may keep the first agent from properly recording the issue. Adding to the challenge, the information contained within these call notes may include unfamiliar contact center vernacular, confusing abbreviations (often difficult, particularly for new agents), and/or a host of misspellings. Taken together, these factors may negatively affect note quality and usefulness downstream, while increasing call time.

In certain settings, end-of-call notes are especially critical to the successful resolution of a customer service call. For example, a customer of a shipping company might provide explicit instructions to the agent, identifying the location for the delivery of a package.

By leveraging voice-enabled agent dictation into the call notes field, the agent can repeat back to the customer the precise instructions for confirmation purposes, while simultaneously dictating these same instructions into the call notes field of the application. Once entered into the system and distributed to the field, the field personnel responsible for package delivery receive the information directly as the customer confirmed it, unencumbered with confusing abbreviations, misspellings, or vernacular.

All contact centers strive to reduce call handle times, customer hold times, and operational costs, while improving customer satisfaction. While lowering costs and improving customer satisfaction may seem counter-intuitive, technology such as voice recognition on the desktop can cost-effectively improve the service experience for both agents and customers.

Vince Weseli is director of consulting and professional services for Convergys Corp., a relationship management services provider. For more information visit www.convergys.com.