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Telecom uses speech recognition to drive customer satisfaction

Telecom New Zealand has tripled callers' customer satisfaction by using a speech recognition application to deflect and properly route calls.

With several lines of business, myriad toll-free numbers, and 24 million incoming calls per year and growing, Telecom...

New Zealand needed to make it easier for customers to reach the right agent with the right expertise directly -- or risk losing valuable customers as the company continued to expand.

Like many organizations aiming to improve service without driving up costs, Telecom New Zealand's main objective was to create a consistent customer experience and do so as efficiently as possible.

"Our business continues to get more complex as we deliver a wider range of solutions," said Hamish Stewart, manager of channel strategy at Telecom New Zealand. "As a consequence, our customers have much more need to be in touch and that has led to more contacts and more specialization of skills within our customer care areas to support those requests."

Meeting that demand would require self-service blended with the option to escalate to a rep. So the telcom provider implemented speech recognition last September. By leveraging its existing knowledgebase of FAQs, and then deploying the Tuvox Perfect Router speech application in conjunction with Genesys Telecom's skills-based routing application, Telecom New Zealand now can identify the context of the call and then route the caller to one of the 35 self-service modules based on his inquiry or issue. If the caller needs additional help, the system then routes that person to the agent that matches his needs.

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The tech support module is a good example of how the system works. Say a customer calls because of a problem with her broadband service. Using the speech applications the system will ask several diagnostic questions, and then leverage the knowledgebase to provide an answer. If the caller still needs to speak with a customer service rep, the system transfers the call details to the agent's screen and then forwards the call.

Telecom New Zealand is rolling out the solution in stages. It started a few months ago with seven million customers. After the telco completed that initial rollout it conducted a customer survey that showed a threefold increase in customer satisfaction over the touchtone system. The company also experienced a 20% increase in self-service adoption. Stewart said the company plans to build upon the initiative in place by rolling out additional self-service modules this year.

Stewart advises organizations planning to implement speech technology to spend time first understanding what they're building and then aligning with partners who believe in the vision. Also get the entire organization involved. "This isn't a technology you can throw over a fence," he said. "Business transformation is a must if you want to leverage the upside."

Reprinted with permission from 1to1 Media. (c) 2006 Carlson Marketing Worldwide.

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