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Who should buy speech analytics technology?

Speech analytics technology is creating a dilemma in organizations as they struggle to place speech analytics in the context of the broader analytics and operational strategy.

Speech analytics technology has evolved in recent years, providing organizations with insight into sales, service...

and products pulled not just from call center reports but truly from the voice of the customer.

Yet it has also brought a dilemma for organizations deploying it. Who should really own speech analytics? Does it belong under the management of the contact center? Marketing? Analytics/business intelligence (BI)? It's a question organizations need to consider when they're purchasing speech analytics tools, according to Keith Dawson, senior analyst with Frost and Sullivan, based in San Antonio.

"There is no one way to determine which is best for you -- different options are good at different points," Dawson said. "A lot of it is going to depend on where your analytics culture is."

And it's not just speech analytics, either. As email, chat and other non-voice channels are increasing, organizations will need to take into account the emergence of new channels when purchasing analytics technology.

Essentially, there are four ways for an organization to purchase speech analytics, according to Dawson. Vendors that have developed speech analytics typically promote just the core speech analytics functions, parsing recordings for meanings, establishing patterns and alerting users to unseen connections. Businesses with entrenched speech technology in self service or other speech-recognition tools might take that approach.

In the contact center, agent performance optimization vendors are pushing the technology from the workforce optimization side. Speech analytics are a way to measure agent skills and train them.

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From the business perspective, companies with a well-entrenched BI strategy will be more inclined to attack speech analytics from that side, treating it as another analytics tool.

Finally, outsourced call centers are bringing speech analytics to the attention of their clients as an add-on service.

"There is a disconnect between what speech analytics could do in theory and what it is actually being used for," Dawson said. "Its promise, and the heart of the marketing message coming from the niche providers of standalone speech analytics, is that it is a powerful tool for extracting customer interaction insights from the data."

Ultimately, he said, speech analytics is not very different from other forms of analytics in that it provides insight into unseen patterns or hidden data connections.

"The most traditional use of analytics outside of the contact center has been analyzing the customer side of the interaction and using what you've learned about the customer experience to change the business workflows and adapt to changing business conditions," Dawson said. "In the contact center, they're used to analyzing the agent side of the equation -- adhering to certain standards. The justification for deploying has been couched in terms that it will improve agent performance, and that will be the benefit."

However, if couched as a marketing tool and a revenue producer, the discussion about purchasing speech analytics turns from cost cutting to profits. People who run contact centers have traditionally worked in operations silos and are often tasked with cost control. They need to learn the language of profits and revenue.

"They're going to have to collaborate with business people who don't care about the activities in the call center -- they care about the outcomes," Dawson said.

Today's questions about speech analytics are indicative of a larger trend, he added. Increasingly, technology purchasing for the contact center needs to extend beyond IT. In fact, that began 10 years ago with the emergence of Internet protocol in the call center. As speech analytics and other channels emerge in the contact center, purchasing processes need to reflect that changing environment.

"What has to happen over time -- and what will happen in forward-thinking centers that will become the leading edge -- is they have to knit their contact center management with the realm of traditional analytics as well as CRM, networking and telephony," Dawson said. "Then you'll stop seeing the distinction between speech analytics and a broader overall analytics category that combines information from the contact center with other relevant streams. That's going to change the nature of management structures that oversee the contact center over time."

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