AI and Real Time Speech Analytics Can Reshape the Contact Center

2 Oct 2019

The business press is awash in articles proclaiming the revolutionary impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and speech analytics (SA) to reshape how humans interact with computer systems. However, those grand proclamations typically lack near-term applications that would support such a position. The good news is that we are starting to see real world implementations and the benefits of applying AI to customer interactions in the contact center space in real time, and those deployments are showing measurable hard dollar payoffs.

For many businesses, the contact center represents a critical communication link between the company and its customers. In other cases, like collections and solicitations, the contact center is the fundamental engine used to operate the business. Those contact centers represent a significant investment in platform, network services, planning and most importantly agents. Realizing a return on that investment involves significant planning to optimize those assets to maximize productivity and effectiveness.

The customer-facing nature of the contact center defines its importance in the organization. The fundamental act of reaching out to thousands of customers represents a significant cost in services and, most importantly, agent time. Smart contact center operators are coming to realize that investment in AI and SA-based decisioning and analytics tools can result in significant improvements in the overall return the organization can get from its contact center.

While businesses have invested heavily in AI-based tools for agent and call scheduling, the biggest impact can come in improving the communication between the customer and the agent. AI, in conjunction with natural language processing (NLP), speech analytics, sentiment analysis and contextual understanding, can provide key insights to optimize agent performance. Those technologies first made their appearance in the contact center with the introduction of post-call speech analytics.

Listening to recordings of agent calls to detect problems and target agent coaching is tremendously time consuming, and only a small percentage of calls will ever be reviewed. AI-enabled speech analytics tools can comb through thousands of hours of interactions to identify customer issues and confirm script adherence. That analysis can become even more impactful with sentiment analysis where the customer’s emotional state is monitored to provide far deeper insights.

Post-call analysis has inherent limitations as those interactions have already occurred. Applying AI and SA to calls in process can help keep problems from occurring in the first place. Monitoring calls in real time with conversational AI tools that combine sentiment analysis and contextual information allows specific phrases to be recognized, and the agent, or even their supervisor, to be flagged in real time. The agent can be prompted with a response to recover control of the conversation, or the call could be transferred to a supervisor.

Along with the monitoring and coaching functions, these real-time analysis tools can routinely score agent performance on 100% of calls. The analysis engine recognizes specific words and phrases to determine the caller’s sentiment, and assigns a numerical “positivity” score to each call.

That key phrase detection capability also allows the platform to produce an agent “compliance” score as well to ensure all rules and best practices are followed. With this solution, compliance is woven into the routine agent monitoring alleviating one major concern for contact center operators.

This type of proactive analysis applied to all calls into the contact center can provide far more insight into the customer experience than gross measures like time in queue or abandoned calls.

AI-based speech analytics tools represent a major step forward in computer technology, and the applications based on these capabilities will come to permeate business in the coming years. While AI-driven autonomous vehicles may take years to develop, contact center operators have access to very important AI-driven capabilities they can incorporate immediately with today’s technologies. Whether improving decision making or optimizing communications between human agents and customers, AI and SA are already having a measurable impact on business effectiveness.

These tools can impact agent occupancy, RPCs, or some other measure, all of which relate to contact center costs and returns. The key fact is that businesses can begin placing real dollar values on the investments they are making in these technologies, and have the ability to monitor results essentially in real time. All of this translates into improved customer outcomes, better agent effectiveness and overall contact center success.

Noble Systems is a manufacturer of decisioning and analytics tools for the contact center industry. Its Noble IQ Suite, including Contact AI, OnQ, Decision AI Modeling and Conversations Analytics for Real Time and Post Call Speech Analysis tools are delivering these types of capabilities for businesses today, and are driving the leading edge in the application of AI, speech analytics and sentiment analysis to improving contact center performance.

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