Archive for the ‘Enterprise Customer Service solutions’ Category.

Speech-enabled Automation for Better Customer Service at Lower Costs

Speech automation in the contact center not only helps by cutting costs by managing all interactions most efficiently; it also helps by providing 24×7 access to fast and efficient customer service. Speech can further reduce the need for inbound customer interaction by proactively contacting the customer with very relevant information in a timely manner – such as the notification of the customer’s prescription to be refilled or a notification of the customer’s credit card payment that is due today.

Speech automation also offers tremendous savings and Return on Investment (ROI) when compared to outsourced offshore agents. According to Datamonitor (as quoted in, a contact center in an offshore location, like India, saves Western businesses approximately 25% to 35% per transaction. However, a call serviced through speech automation costs approximately 15% to 25% of the cost of a call handled by an agent in India. Some companies like Lloyd TSB, the UK’s fifth largest bank have discovered that the widespread use and success of its automated speech-enabled phone self-service system has eliminated the need for additional offshore agent capacity.

Speech automation opportunities exist at every stage of the call flow. Automation can be applied with self-service modules after initial recognition of the caller, greeting, intent capture, Identification (ID) & Verification or could be limited to just front-end the calls, recognize the caller, capture intent and route the call to the best available agent. In a highly automated yet personalized scenario, the consumer interactions are completely automated – including inbound and outbound interactions.

Speech-enabled automated customer service and its benefits

Speech-enabled automated customer service and its benefits

Broadly speaking, speech automation impacts operations by reducing agent talk time, by increasing speed of issue resolution and by increasing availability of customer service to 24×7. Additionally, speech automation can also be used to reduce the number of incoming calls with highly relevant and timely, proactively delivered notifications. Up-selling and cross-selling with speech automation has also proven to be extremely effective – but only when it is applied judicially and non-repetitively. Using customer surveys for agents as well as the speech automation application itself can help measure customer satisfaction more frequently and systematically and this survey data can be utilized to further increase customer satisfaction.

In addition to the high incremental impact opportunity with speech automation, several factors such as the wide acceptance of open standards like Voice-XML, the increased number of pre-packaged solution choices and the availability of new deployment options like hosted and managed solutions reduce the time-to-value and make speech automation significantly more attractive compared to the other initiatives.

Customer service managers have many initiatives to choose from to deliver the best customer service at the least possible costs.  Among all these initiatives, speech automation stands out for its high incremental impact and its proven results. A study of speech implementations by Dan Miller of Speech Technology magazine shows that over 80% of speech implementations met or exceeded projections of ROI with an average payback period of about 11 months.

SaaS to merge Five Customer Service Contact Center layers into One?

Gartner defines five layers of Customer Service Contact Center:

  1. CRM business applications for customer interaction
  2. Infrastructure – CTI, IVR, ACD, Chat, Instant Messaging, Alerts
  3. Workforce Optimization (Workforce Management, Call Recording, Quality Monitoring, etc.)
  4. Enterprise Feedback Management
  5. Offline and Real-time Analytical Tools

According to Gartner, Siebel, Microsoft and are leaders in CRM business applications layer whereas Genesys, Cisco and Avaya are leaders in the Contact Center Infrastructure layer.

As one can only imagine, the leaders in each of these space are constantly addressing needs in adjacent markets and as a result, these layers aren’t quite as black and white as they are made out to be. For instance, Genesys offers significant offerings in all but the CRM business applications layer.

The combination of all such required capabilities required is also quite a burden on contact center operations and it was therefore but natural that there could be market potential for a service provider that can combine all these capabilities and offer them without the painful undertaking of a multi-million dollar, multi-year rollout.

New entrants such as LiveOps hope to ease this pain and enable medium-sized businesses to quickly acquire all these capabilities. Additionally, with quick and easy deployment, these service providers also can provide quick access to such capabilities to meet “peaking” demands. The LiveOps claim is “Contact Center in the Cloud.”

Michael Maoz, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, says in the CRM Customer Service Contact Centers Magic Quadrant report that as more applications are built in a cloud-based model, “by 2011, SaaS will evolve from an interesting alternative delivery model into a critical selection factor at all levels of the customer service contact center.” (Also mentioned in:

Only time will tell how successful such SaaS providers will be in merging all these complex capabilities into one, easily deployed solution. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if any of the existing leaders in the current market segments joins the new, emerging market for a complete SaaS solution. Such a move will only accelerate the market even more.

What a good Proactive Contact (alert/notification) solution needs to have?

The critical success factors for a successful Proactive Contact (alerts and notifications) system are:

  1. a flexible rules engine that can determine programmatically when to notify AND the capability to do ad-hoc notifications
  2. multimedia (based on opt-in preferences indicated by user)
  3. Acknowledgement provisions (system acknowledgement or user acknowledgement)
  4. Escalation capabilities – if text message not acknowledged within 2 hours, deliver a voice notification
  5. Flexible treatments – if delivering a voice call and you get a busy signal, try again in 30 minutes for 3 times
  6. Very comprehensive reporting showing end-to-end call/email/SMS flow as well as summary information (3,749 text messages sent; 3,740 delivered; 9 undelivered; 3,232 users acknowledged; and so on…)
  7. Ability to handle inbound calls/emails/SMS in case users respond and want to talk back for clarification
  8. Interactive notifications – not just one way, but providing ability to interact via DTMF or Speech
  9. Easy integration with CRM/ERP/Active Directory systems so that master contact data can be managed centrally and used by the Proactive Contact system when needed