Speech recognition creeping into call centres

Customer contact centres are about to get a whole lot less personal with the rise of speech recognition, but a study suggests the growing trend isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Dimension Data's Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report 2007 suggests that because speaking is a "natural" way of communicating for people, companies will use automated speech technologies for simple call centre queries over existing automated response systems that use number-based menus.

The study, which looked at 403 contact centres across 39 countries, showed that 13.5 per cent already have speech recognition systems, with another 24.7 per cent planning to use it - to the benefit of customers, business and telephone agents, said the report's author.

"The advantages to the business itself are huge. If implemented well, speech self-service can achieve high levels of adoption from customers and, when applied to the right process, can improve efficiencies and lead to savings," said Cara Diemont, marketing director at Dimension Data.

Other benefits include less time spent on hold to speak to an agent and services being offered round the clock. Agents like it too, as they can spend less time on basic calls. "Self-service technology can also deliver benefits for agents, as it automates high volume, routine transactions such as balance enquiries or changes of address, freeing staff to deal with more complex, valuable calls," Diemont said. "This drives staff motivation and satisfaction, addressing two of the contact centre industry's most pressing issues - staff absenteeism and attrition."