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Guest Post by Brian Pia, CEO, Think Tank Partners. With all of the speech technology options available today, companies can be overwhelmed by the difficult decisions to be made. Increasingly, end users are looking for help from consultative advisors focused on the strategic aspects of Customer Experience that include the speech-enabled user interface. As we get ready to kick-off our participation at SpeechTEK, LumenVox has invited Think Tank Partners, an independent consultant, to share their valuable insights on how the implementation of speech recognition technology can financially and qualitatively benefit companies.



Speech recognition technology has improved leaps and bounds over the past decade. Today, we use speech technology in all aspects of our lives. Given the high rate of adoption across all markets and the introduction of new devices such a speech-enabled virtual assistants, companies who were once skeptical of using the technology have found themselves re-examining its possibilities. While this is an exciting time in the speech industry, companies considering speech recognition, whether directed dialog or natural language, continue to be challenged in justifying the investment. Executive leadership is often asked to prove the value of the investment through the impact of reduced costs, improved operations or enhanced customer experience. Most often, that value is defined by the rate of payback of the expenditure; the return on investment (ROI).

In theory developing an ROI analysis is quite easy; simply put it’s the cost of the solution divided by the expected monthly benefit of the solution in dollars.

But what does that mean for a speech implementation?

Why is it so hard to identify an accurate payback period when converting to a speech-enabled solution?

The answers lie in the inputs that determine the expected benefits. For most executives, the focus is quite narrow. The mindset generally leans towards deriving the benefit from the replacement of a DTMF IVR to a speech-enabled solution. Projections around increases in the number of identified or authenticated callers and transactional containment tend to drive the analysis. This approach is somewhat valid, but it is highly limiting and, when used in isolation, often yields disappointing results. In the end, the ROI analysis tends to fall short in capturing the full impact, leaving executives and investment committees wondering if a speech solution is a wise investment given what they determine to be the long-range benefit.

To overcome these limitations and build a compelling ROI, traditional thinking must be thrown out the window. Instead of being focused on replacement, it is vital to expand the understanding how a speech-enabled self-service solution will elevate the overall customer experience. With speech, doors open and the dynamic of the customer interaction changes forever. Whomever is responsible for conducting the ROI analysis must understand the complete customer experience, how all contact center technologies and processes will be impacted, and have insight into the overall company vision from a branding and marketing perspective. In particular, executives conducting an ROI analysis must consider the following to truly capture the numerous benefits that speech recognition provides.

Expanded Scope of the Solution

DTMF systems are inherently limited. These systems are bound by a menu hierarchy that, by design, has limitations imposed to effectively guide the caller to their ultimate destination. Since these design limitations significantly impact the reach of the self-service solution, the financial benefits derived will also be constrained. When moving to a speech-enabled solution, those design limitations disappear, providing greater flexibility in expanding the solution’s footprint.

By expanding the scope of the solution footprint, the base of customers you are able to service will expand. Imagine moving from an environment where each of your lines of business has its own entry point or a dedicated IVR to a solution that provides a single point of entry with a consolidated customer experience for all your callers. The benefits of such an approach are easily identified in terms of higher containment, reduced costs of solution maintenance and expanded capabilities. Those benefits play a powerful role in building a strong business case for a speech-enabled customer experience solution.

Expanded Functionality

Speech-enabled solutions change the face of the customer experience. In addition to expanding the overall service footprint, speech recognition enables companies to serve their customers in ways that were never possible in DTMF systems. As organizations consider speech technology investments, it is important to step back and take inventory of their self-service application portfolio. This assessment must consider current functionality as well as new functionality that can be transacted due to the improved capabilities of the speech. By thinking of those customer inputs that were once too complex for a customer to enter using DTMF entry but can be accomplished readily with speech recognition allowing your organization to provide greater service options to customers and thereby experience higher rates of costs savings than the former DTMF system allowed. Additionally, a new speech solution can provide significant opportunities to partially automate transactions, such as claims initiation, shaving off several minutes off of the call once the customer is transferred to the Customer Service Representative.

Improved Intelligence of the Interaction

Since speech-enabled solutions provide a highly conversational interaction with customers, organizations are empowered to expand the level of intelligence their self-service solutions offer. When building the ROI analysis executives should consider how the new speech solution will change the dynamics of the conversation with the customer. Questions to consider are:

  • Can I engage customers in manner that allows me to dynamically generate personalized treatment that results in higher rates of self-service or cross/up sell opportunities?
  • When customers don’t want to play in the IVR, can I gather enough information to avoid costly misroutes?
  • Can I take what I know about the customer and provide proactive information that might resolve their need before they move into the transactional path or transfer to an agent?

As your organization starts to build a business case to justify an investment in speech technology, looking at the areas discussed above will help to enhance the value of the solution. By broadening the reach of the new solution beyond the replacement mentality you will quickly start to see that speech technology is not only vital to the overall customer experience, but provides a solid return on investment, even for those organizations who think their annual call volume is too low to justify a move to speech recognition.

Think Tank Partners, is a leader in developing customer experience transformation strategies and designs, focused on establishing world-class, speech-enabled, conversational interactions across all consumer touchpoints. Think Tank Partners combines deep expertise in human factors and human-computer interaction with experience in business intelligence and analytics, providing strategic consulting that integrates corporate branding, consumer segmentation and business and market strategy to align business and technology roadmaps with end users’ broader strategic vision. www.thinktank-partners.com

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