The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

By Mark Swanson

This is Part 3 of 3 in a series about How VocalQ Has Already Changed Your Business, The Personality of Speech Recognition, and The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

It is no secret that the amount of data in our world has been growing exponentially. The term “Big Data” has been coined referring to the ability to analyze very large data sets.  According to McKinsey, Big Data “will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus.” Big Data provides the ability to take all this data we have been generating and make better decisions based on it.  A recent study by IBM identified that one in three business leaders make decisions without the information they need and half don’t have access to the information they need to do their jobs. That has significant competitive implications. Once the data is extracted and analyzed, a whole world of possibilities opens up.

SIRI is just a crack in the door.

Imagine scanning tens of thousands of voice conversations both in and outside of your company, recognizing what is said in those conversations, and then being able to map and measure both the quantity and quality of the conversations that took place.  We are doing it on the Web, why not on the phone? According to Forrester, over 73% of businesses are spending a combined almost $1billion on Web analytics technologies. Imagine being able to capture and rate each customer interaction, and be able to select any conversation and play it back, offering either encouragement or praise for that employee.  We agree with Norman Winarsky’s comments, not specifically for voice recognition, but rather for the voice recognition combined with voice analytics.

In addition to leveraging data, performing speech recognition and analytics in the Cloud has solved other obstacles that have been holding the technology back: audio quality, complex integration and security issues.

Quality

The quality of voice signal at the network core is as high as it is going to be while traveling inside the telecommunications network.  Capturing uncompressed audio signals at the core of the network means you eliminate transcoding issues, clipping and other effects that can disrupt voice recognition.  In addition, many of today’s Cloud Voice Networks are operating with the wide-band audio (G.722) standard which allows the voice to be captured with pristine quality.

Integration

Another issue that the Cloud solves is the ability to capture and integrate multiple collection points into one central repository.  Multi-site organizations have greater costs and higher integration risks than single locations.  The costs and risks have held back the deployment of these technologies.  Centralizing the collection and analysis of voice conversations allows for a much simpler deployment and vastly less integration.  In addition, the ability to connect to large processors to crunch the data and deliver analytics provides for a faster experience.

Security

Deploying voice recording and analytics technology on premises opens up another can of worms.  Establishing and assuring consistent security across all points of control becomes a very difficult task for a typical IT department.   Recording in the Cloud greatly simplifies the security and risk management of operations.   In the Cloud, a policy can be enforced and checked on by the customer.  Many Cloud vendors have established security and privacy policies that are verified by third parties.  In addition, most have backup systems that are used regularly.   Also, the ability to monitor and lock out “insiders” is of great benefit to companies.

The widespread adoption of Cloud technologies is providing a significant boost to call recording.  Are you prepared for the shift?  How do you plan on implementing these changes into your business?  Share your thoughts below.

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The Personality of Speech Recognition

By Mark Swanson

This is Part 2 of 3 in a series about How VocalQ Has Already Changed Your Business, The Personality of Speech Recognition, and The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

Speech recognition and processing technologies are on the verge of an explosion in adoption for both consumers and businesses; 2011 saw dozens of new voice enabled applications launched for Android, iOS and Windows.  One of the most visible was launched in October 2011 when Apple announced the iPhone 4GS and its natural language voice control system called SIRI.  This most popular new feature on the iPhone uses results of over 40 years of research funded by DARPA and organizations and universities across the United States. SIRI co-founder Norman Winarsky was not shy about sharing his thoughts on how SIRI will not only change computing, but the entire world.  “The PAL (personal assistant software) will get things done, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

We’re talking another technology revolution; A new computing paradigm shift.

While that statement may be hyperbole, something has changed to generate interest in using voice recognition.    That something is integration of voice recognition with the analytics capabilities of Cloud technologies.

Analytics and the Web go hand-in-hand.  The ability to analyze interactions with customers is one of the primary reasons for the rapid adoption of ecommerce.  The enormous popularity of Amazon’s recommendation engine is a testament to this.  Web analytics allow businesses to measure, collect, analyze and report on Internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage. Web analytics not only help companies measure Web traffic, but help businesses listen to customers through market research, measure advertising campaigns, determine popularity trends and analyze what works and what doesn’t – both in the aggregate and individually.  On-site analytics measure customer interactions on your Web site.  This includes drivers and conversations in a commercial context – what’s being searched for, what is being purchased, what customers are saying.

The reason SIRI works so well is that it uses Cloud-based technologies to process the context of the spoken language to continuously learn, not only what is said, but also what is meant.   This allows SIRI to have a personality.  And just like a human who fails to understand what you mean, it can fail graciously.  It will interject humor into the conversation, as well as ask clarifying questions.   For example, when one of my co-workers, in a moment of frustration, asked SIRI “Why am I such an idiot?” it responded with, “I have been asking myself that lately.”  When SIRI can’t find an answer to an ambiguous question it can search the Cloud and respond with humor or another question.  SIRI is leveraging a concept called “Big Data.”

Up Next: Part 3 – The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

How VocalQ Has Already Changed Your Business

By Mark Swanson

This is Part 1 of 3 in a series about How VocalQ Has Already Changed Your Business, The Personality of Speech Recognition, and The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

The axiom in the IT industry is that a seismic shift in the “computing platform” occurs every decade or so.  We saw it in the move from the mainframe to the mini-computer in the ‘70s, from the mini-computer to the PC in the ‘80s, the PC to Client Server in the ‘90s and to the Cloud in the 2000s.  We believe that the next shift in computing has already begun.   It has to do with how we interact with computers and how they understand that interaction.  We are now at the cusp of combining true voice recognition with the ability to analyze the “Big Data” generated by these conversations to provide immediate insights into what is happening behind the electronic veil.  If you are a business manager, you should pay attention to this emerging trend.

Missing this shift could mean going out of business.

Despite fifty years of technology advances, conversing with your computer has remained in the realm of science fiction.  If you are over 40, you probably remember listening to the tranquil voice of HAL in 2001 Space Odyssey or watching Spock bark orders to the unnamed Duotronic Computer on the Starship Enterprise.  In our mainstream culture, this future vision has yet to pan out – in fact as a culture we have gotten much more adept at using our thumbs than talking to a computer!

Despite our lack of awareness, our conversations are already being recorded, analyzed and tracked.  A monolithic network of computing power owned by the Government, called Echelon, is listening to and recording phone conversations.  Echelon provides a secret cadre of snoopers the ability to monitor and analyze millions of conversations.  And, these are not just military or terrorist calls.  In 2005, we learned that the NSA was wiretapping civilian conversations with Echelon.   To this day, our government continues the policy of secretly tapping into our conversations and recognizing what you say.

You are also being understood.

Improvements in technology are turning speech recognition into speech understanding.  The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on a project for recognizing speech and understanding its meaning since 2005.  A project called GALE uses neural networks and statistical modeling technologies to “absorb, translate, analyze, and interpret huge volumes of speech and text in multiple languages.”

Commercial applications have lagged behind the government, but are now emerging as viable options.  After a gestation of several decades, commercial speech recognition technologies popped onto the scene in the mid 1990’s.  Apple and Microsoft started embedding speech recognition into their operating systems and Dragon Systems unveiled its software that recognized normal human speech.  These applications were prone to errors and problems with the technology caused it to fade from the market, however, something has changed in the past couple years.

Up Next: The Personality of Speech Recognition

4 Key Benefits of the New VocalQ℠

Used effectively, the VocalQ framework is a strategic differentiator and delivers considerable benefits.  Speech recognition and analysis has come along way in the last decade and the technology is poised to accelerate in the next.  The day is not too far off when speech recognition and analytics will morph from improving customer interactions to being the customer interaction.  Our goal with VocalQis to help companies realize the benefits:

Reduced Costs  – Companies gain valuable insight into the inefficiencies of their operations.  Speech analytics help to decrease call times by training agents to be more effective in harvesting information from customers.  Currently, many businesses measure quantitative call data like; how many calls were received, how many calls were abandoned, how many rings it takes to answer an inbound call, etc. This data only answers “what” communication is happening within your business. VocalQ measures the context and content of your communications.

Better Customer Retention – Cash spent on retaining customers through improving customer service is far less than that needed to gain a new customer.  In addition to measuring quantitative and descriptive data, VocalQ goes a step further by recording and alerting on the quality of interactions. With VocalQ, What's Your VocalQ?calls are sampled with call recording and the dialog is benchmarked.  Things like customers having to repeat themselves and correct responses to questions can be measured.  Furthermore, the recorded conversations can be compared against customer surveys so supervisors can discover why an interaction went well or went awry.

Cross Selling – Speech Analytics identify opportunities to increase sales conversion rates, both for new customers and up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.

Reduced Risks – Using speech analytics enables a business to quickly identify potential regulatory failures or locate poorly performing agents.  Rather than relying on gut feeling, you “hear” the voice of the customer, analyze the interaction in real-time, and make better strategic decisions about your company.  The ability to take immediate action on “voice alerts” is another benefit of VocalQ.  Supervisors can identify critical words and phrases in conversations and receive real-time alerts to remedy the situation now rather than later.

What other benefits have you experienced with the New VocalQ?

‘Telephone’ was a Fun Childhood Game, but Do You Really Want to Play it in Your Business?

Do your reports match reality? Are your decisions based on reality or secondhand information?

‘Telephone’ is a game in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group.  It is often regarded as a metaphor for cumulative error, especially the inaccuracies as rumors or gossip spread, or, more generally, for the unreliability of human recollection.

There’s no doubt this game is amusing as a child, but how comical would the inaccuracy of human recollection become if you played it in your business?  How much laughter would you still hear if you discovered one of your previously ambitious account executives could no longer close new business?

Would you giggle if you were no longer profitable?

In this fictitious game of Telephone, casual chatter about the latest opportunities circulate around the sales community over the course of the week.  The seemingly innocent conversations cause an ambitious senior account executive to feel the effects of miscommunication around the office.  Adam is a consistently high performer, but when his boss, Gary, hears the misshapen truth of Adam’s latest lead, tension arises:

Adam: “I’ve met with the client several times but they’re a bit tough.  I have another meeting tomorrow and am hoping to close the deal.”

Bill: “He’s met with the client several times and they’re tough.  He has another meeting and might close the deal.”

Christine: “He’s met with the client several times and they’re really difficult to deal with.  He might close the deal.”

Diane: “He’s met with that impossible client multiple times but he said he hasn’t closed the deal yet.”

Eileen: “He said he’s met with that impossible client but he still hasn’t closed the deal.”

Frank: “He said that client is impossible and he can’t close the deal.”

Gary: “Adam, are you calling our clients impossible?  If you can’t close the deal I can give it to someone else.”

Which company are you?  Which company do you want to be?

To Adam’s surprise, the perseverance and positive attitude he shared with a coworker earlier in the week had inaccurately passed through a line of people – just as in the Telephone game.  The snowball of miscommunication created a distorted perception of Adam because the inaccuracies of human recollection are unfortunately inevitable.  Adam was advertised as the exact opposite of determined; and in this case, there’s no evidence to support what Adam really said.

While this is a fictional example for our purposes, situations like this are real.  They happen everyday both internally and externally, through all channels of communication: in-person, through email, and on our business lines.  With all those channels of communication, how easily can you access the necessary evidence to fairly dispute customer complaints?

Just as your CEO wants the knowledge to accurately address your largest client’s concerns, you need this knowledge to moderately settle even the smallest discrepancies.  Quantitative data is great for good companies, but qualitative, context data turns the good company into a great company.  Take Company A and Company B, for example:

Company A knows how many phone calls they receive in the office and who is calling.

Company B knows how many phone calls they receive in the office, who is calling and on what device, who they want to speak with and what they’re saying, who they spoke with and what they said before, when a dispute is escalating, what the dispute is about, and where the dispute originated from.

Which company do you want to be?

Think Before You Speak: Even the Wires Have Ears

What is the most common statement of praise you get from your clients?  What is the most common complaint your customers have?

Who do you remember more: the angry customer or the happy customer?  More often than not, we remember the angry customer because there is more of a story to tell and usually an immediate call-to-action.  Your CEO probably hears stories of irritated, annoyed and frustrated clients regularly, but how many times do they hear about all the great things you’re doing everyday to deliver first-rate customer service?

Isn’t this information important too?

People share negative stories more than positive experiences – especially socially.  It’s rare for someone to be out with a friend and say, “I got this really nice call center agent on the phone today and she was so helpful.”  You’re much more likely to hear someone say, “The customer service rep I got on the phone today was completely clueless.  I’m switching services.  XYZ Company is awful!”

About 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people about their experience (White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC), and according to Facebook, the average user has 130 friends.  That means that if 130 dissatisfied Facebook users told 20 people each about their experience, 2,600 people now think your company delivers poor customer service.

Do you know what they’re saying about you?

Whether you’re disputing false statements or endorsing true experiences about your company brand or promoting your product to a potential customer, you need firsthand knowledge of past conversations to settle the dust in the air.   Likewise, when reviewing your team’s strengths and weaknesses, you need positive feedback in your reports.  Conversations and disagreements also happen within your company; you want the knowledge to handle disputes fairly.  Great customer service comes from happy employees, and happy employees receive both constructive and positive feedback.  No one wants skewed data.  You should be able to gather statistics on important keywords, save and share useful evaluations, and train employees with real live recorded examples – all on one platform.

Eliminate the Paper Cuts in Your Preparation

How often does your largest client call…and whom are they calling?

Even if your CEO has never asked you this question, knowing how often and whom within your company your top client calls IS information they want.  The real question is: If you were asked for this information, could you gather it…quickly? 

You of course have filing cabinets filled with old telephone bills that yoEliminate the Paper Cuts in Your Preparationu can sort through to get the information you need, but what if your CEO asks you for this data in a meeting with your peers?  What if they need the information by tomorrow for a meeting with that client?

For many people the next step will be preparing to endure some severe paper cuts as they dig through old phone bills to pull the requested data.  On top of that, if you’ve been tasked with gathering the most recent data including today’s call logs – you have an additional problem: Your most recent bill only shows calls from two weeks ago, and the new bill won’t arrive for another 3 days.  What are you going to do?

Here are your options.

Answer 1 – You can face the music and admit defeat,

Answer 2 – Or… you can implement hosted recording and analytics into your business that give you the power to pull real-time, up-to-date, statistics on the fly.  You can sort by most frequent callers, most active call handlers, or both – and for those complex clients with multiple locations – calls by location.

Gathering information in preparation for large client meetings is a no-brainer.  Gathering the information that best helps you streamline large client meetings to focus on your customer’s needs is challenging.  Knowing how often your clients are calling, who they’re calling, and what they’re saying is the information you need to address their concerns before the fire alarm sounds.  By going with Answer 2, your CEO has the knowledge to accurately and efficiently address the customer relationship, taking them from satisfied to loyal.

By going with Answer 2 …You have successfully avoided possible death by a thousand paper cuts, and your boss is happily on their way to that important meeting – with accurate information.