Call centers have become a ubiquitous feature of American consumerism. Working one’s way through a phone tree to get to a live “customer service representative” can in and of itself be an enormously aggravating process. Once you’re on with an actual voice, your request for support (on a product) or clarification (on a bill) or placing some sort of order may go well or may become a fiasco.
Call centers (known in consumer service circles as ‘contact centers’) are an integral part of customer service, which in turn is what guarantees repeat customers. For that reason, corporations that put them to extensive use are being provided with tools to help improve their functionality.
One of those tools is software that analyzes the vocal interaction of customer service calls. Performing a function known as ‘interaction analytics,’ this software can listen for keywords that indicate stress such as ‘cancellation’ or ‘late delivery’ or just plain ‘you’re terrible’.
Beyond that, it can analyze the emotional content of a conversation and assign algorithmic values to what is monitored. The software will attach values to such components as vocal pitch, intensity, rapidity of speech, intonation and, of course, volume. From these values the software provides a ranking for the conversation and, over the course of thousands of such reviews, develops a profile of that call center’s overall performance.
From this data, the company whose call center is under scrutiny can determine an overall satisfaction level with their service. Beyond that, they can isolate which particular products or situations or geographic areas are generating calls that leave customers dissatisfied with unacceptable frequency.
Banks and companies with large volumes of consumer contact – catalogue companies and the like – are beginning to utilize this type of software. One large software vendor in the field, Nice Systems, has taken the concept well beyond tracking dissatisfaction.
The have developed a “performance compliance suite” that is an “innovative, robust, flexible, mission-critical solution for enterprises exposed to risk as a part of their financial activities.” According to their promotional material, this particular variation of interaction analytics “addresses the key challenges in regulatory compliance and corporate governance, such as preventing inside trading breaches, ensuring Best Execution, and detecting irregularities during blackout periods.”
Also according to the Nice Systems website, 75 of the Fortune Top 100 companies use their software and all of the world’s top ten banks. This sort of artificial ease dropping goes will beyond analyzing vocal intonation and has become a computerized method of maintaining behavioral standards. What this sort of capability portends for the future is anyone’s guess – suffice it to say that ‘interaction analytics’ is software that can be an enormously effective tool for management and has the potential to be an enormously intrusive burden for the employee.
The one call center characteristic that interaction analytics is never going to cure is the difficulty many Americans have with service centers that have been outsourced to foreign nations. Dealing with consumer reps who have only recently been introduced to English is going to remain an often frustrating process – and duly recorded as such by emotion detection software.