Maximising the benefits of voice in customer service

Voice interaction remains an effective channel in customer relations, allowing customers to easily explain a situation and receive any emotional support if needed. Voice is in high demand from customers and so it is important to consider the strain this can place on call agents. We have outlined some simple ways to maximise the benefits of your voice channel and ensure both advisors and customers have the best possible experience.

 

Handling the customer volume

In order to deliver a continuous, high-quality service to customers, there must be an adequate number of advisors available to handle the volume of incoming calls. Call centres can ensure this by analysing the traffic data of the call management solution. This will identify peaks and troughs of activity and help you to size your teams accordingly. This is the first step to avoid over-staffing, which can quickly become expensive. At the same time, under-staffing results in increased waiting times and increased dissatisfaction among your customers.

 

Training and the right tools

On the voice channel, everything happens in real- time. Advisors must be able to provide clear and precise answers to a wide variety of demands and situations. This means that agents must be properly trained in the behavioural codes of “live” communication, but also their call management tools should provide them with the information necessary to understand the customer’s request and respond appropriately. In this way, agents can give a personalised response quickly. If the customer’s information is scattered across multiple databases which agents cannot directly access, it becomes impossible to deliver a high-quality service. This is the challenge of integrating the incoming communications management system with the company's CRM or the back office of an e-commerce site.

 

New advances to optimise the voice channel

While empathy is important in customer relations, dealing with angry customers can be mentally taxing for the advisor. Therefore, proper support from managers and supervisors is crucial for agents. This support is no longer limited to session debriefs or replaying customer interaction recordings, which can only make observations on the interaction after it has happened. Thanks to the progress of speech-to-text techniques and automatic voice analysis, it is possible to accompany and guide an agent in real-time. This can be useful when agents are dealing with a particularly difficult customer.


The automatic transcription and analysis of voice exchanges makes it possible to more reliably measure the content and quality of exchanges, as well as the emotions within a call centre or a team - not only from past interactions but also in real-time. For example, software engines can now analyse the tone of the voice, the vocabulary used and other components of a voice exchange to detect and quantify the tension levels of the client or agent. The software will then associate particular emojis to ongoing calls, alerting supervisors to the emotional state of the conversation and whether any assistance in required.

 

From the human voice to the artificial human voice

It will not have escaped anyone’s attention that today’s digital giants are racing to create the best possible voice assistants and make them integral to our daily lives. The appeal of voice assistants is evident: voice is the most natural interface, not only to interact with machines and objects but also to interact with humans. Until recently the robotic nature of the voices of these assistants has been a major limitation for this application. However, a demonstration made by Google a few weeks ago suggests this may no longer be an obstacle:

 

The introduction of an emotional dimension in artificial voices (hesitations, language tics, onomatopoeia ...) and advances in the understanding of natural language, deep learning and text-to-speech have revolutionised robot conversational skills.

With the possibility of cloning human voices, it raises some potentially troubling questions, with no clear answers.

For example, a contact centre will have to ask the following questions: is it my customer who is speaking to me or is it his assistant? If this is his assistant, how can I be sure that it is the customer who asked him to contact our customer service? For their part, the customer will wonder: is it really an advisor who I am taking to or a conversational robot with a human-like voice? What can I say to a robot that I would not say to a human? Shall I say the same thing if I know it's a human and not a machine? Will I feel the same empathy if I know I'm dealing with a robot? In time, the world of customer relations will have to seek a new balance between the human voice and artificial voice to appeal to customers.

While the technology is not quite there yet, these questions are still concerning. This is because voice is something so innately human, so authentic and unique to us. It is for this reason that brands who know how to offer exceptional service over the phone will continue to score points with and win the loyalty of customers.