After-Hours Calls: the Next Speech Rec Killer App Opportunity?

| Contact Center/CRM Views and Analysis

After-Hours Calls: the Next Speech Rec Killer App Opportunity?

Speech recognition-enabled automated voice solutions work best with heavily scripted interactions that leave little room for interpretation e.g. finding the right service, obtaining credit card balances, and ordering a movie.

For that reason more of these kinds of basic transactions are going automated with speech rec because they are relatively easy to do while permitting operating cost savings.

There are now so many firms and organizations that have deployed speech rec on their customer interaction front ends that these applications have taught us how to speak to the computers i.e. slowly, clearly, with little inflection.

And we all thought speech rec was about 'teaching' the machines to 'speak' to us...were we ever wrong...

For all the speech-rec current and in-the-pipeline candidate transactions there is one category that appears to be ready-made for this technology--but so far ignored--and that are the after-hours calls, such as for doctors, lawyers, plumbers, fuel oil dealers and furnace repairs now handled by answering services.

These contacts are ideal for speech rec because they are heavily scripted. These transactions have to be. The answering service agents (still called operators) can do little more than take or forward messages, or warm transfer calls to on-call staff, and page/dispatch professionally-trained personnel based on very strict procedures.

The agents themselves do not have medical or legal expertise, unless for 'dial-a-nurse' or other and more expense applications. And there may be unfunny consequences all around should these individuals attempt to give information that could be construed by callers as advice.

Which means these nice people can't fix your boo-boo, bail you out of the joint, or counteract the latest attempt of your 2 year old to turn your toilet into a one-size-fits-all alternate garbage disposal.

The real benefit of having live agents at all on such calls is the living, breathing, and reassuring presence of human beings. Yet at what price when they really cannot do much more, in many instances, than voicemail; a price that is included in the typically eye-opening bills that you get from these professionals and contractors.

I had a conversation some time ago with a friend who works for a contact center solutions vendor. He had twisted his ankle; he called up his doctor's office and then got the answering service. While the person at the other end was nice he couldn't even get an appointment set up. What help was that?

So that got me to thinking: could a standardized speech solution be developed for these professions and businesses? One that would deliver the same as or superior service while keeping costs--and bills--down?

And given how many of these professions and businesses with offices that are out there this could be the next speech rec killer app...

Here are some of the features this speech rec app could have:

--Customizable package scripting for each type of application (doctor, lawyer, contractor)

--Menu options including a link to an automated appointment scheduler application that would inform the caller the next available opening, and give that person the option of taking it, and if not the next one, and down the line

--Self-dispatch option with identifiers for existing customers, and intaking addresses for new customers, with the further choice of credit card prepayment or authorization

--Confirmation e-mails, texts, or automated voice messages

Now the one reason why I see this not being done to date is that speech rec apps are too expensive as currently delivered whether premises-based or hosted by outsourcers or developers for those businesses and offices who rely on answering services.

Yet if a savvy speech rec developer targets the communications providers (TDM, IP, wireless) that can offer these apps as a value-add to centralized voicemail, the market may be big enough to make the price affordable...with the added kicker of customer retention and increased lifetime customer value to the comm firms.

After all, if a client has contracted for a speech rec system, has customized it, and their customers are used to it, why change it?

This speech rec app could be killer in another way; it could do in those answering services that haven't made the transition to offering contact center services like customer care, which many of them did when voicemail pummeled their core message taking business.

How about it? Is this app in the realm of being doable? Is someone beta-ing one?

I'm all ears...

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