Speech recognition has come a long way, and the latest iteration is poised to improve the performance and value of customer interactions across all markets–specifically practice management across the banking and financial services sector.
RTSA (real time speech analytics) introduces a mechanism for the conversations that take place between your customer and your agent. The result: It ensures the highest level of quality and compliance, and provides a new set of benefits far beyond what was possible before.
There are two layers to consider, starting first with how RTSA improves service quality specifically in customer support and contact centers for financial services providers. Following that, I’ll examine the broader practice management benefits for financial services providers, especially in light of the pending U.S. Department of Labor fiduciary rules, set to take effect this coming April.
Quantifying quality: How RTSA impacts contact center quality management
Historically, IVR (interactive voice response) has been the primary use of speech recognition for departments whose sole focus is to interact with customers. The nerve centers for IVR use are familiar: contact centers, customer service lines and the like. Painful menus can be made much more customer-friendly by simply allowing the customer to say things like “account balance” or “help with loan.”
Fast forward to 2017; let’s consider what RTSA actually does. Technologies and algorithms that understand spoken words and phrases have improved dramatically over the past five years—to the point where we can credibly, and with relatively high accuracy, determine both the content and tone of a conversation.
Also, the performance of these tools has improved. That enables analysis in real-time and allows us to deliver on the “RT” of “RTSA.” That is: We can now provide feedback to people during the conversation itself. In the contact center, we can identify where agents fall short and excel. And that information is crucial for agent and supervisor alike.
We still can’t reach the level of what a human being can do to understand and coach an agent’s call via live monitoring, the way supervisors do. But the technology can now identify key phrase—such as a proper greeting or this week’s product promotion—to ensure agents stick to a script.
But there is more. We can also tell if the agent speaks improperly, using foul language or talks about a competitive or inappropriate product. We can determine speech emotion and cadence: Is the customer getting upset; is the agent interrupting the customer; is the agent speaking too quickly? Since supervisors can’t possibly monitor every call, this level of automated analysis can provide incredibly high value.
How does this translate into practical benefits?
First, as a real-time tool, RTSA can help monitor, analyze and tweak agent performance on the fly. It delivers in-script coaching to agents, improves interactions proactively rather than after-the-fact. Secondly, supervisors can be alerted to calls which merit attention, so they can identify performance issues and provide coaching where it realizes the highest bang for the buck.
In terms of conversational tone, RTSA can track the dynamics of each interaction:
- Do agents or customers interrupt each other?
- What do the volume and voice inflection imply?
- Are the parties speaking clearly enough to be understood?
- Is the pace of dialog too fast or too slow?
All of this impacts the stress level of the session, and RTSA identifies how at ease both agents and customers are.
Compared to manually finding and analyzing problem areas, RTSA provides a much more efficient pathway to improving overall communications with clients, both inside and outside the contact center.
Finally, RTSA will help banks, financial institutions and advisors comply with the upcoming DOL fiduciary rules. In broad terms, financial institutions are under close scrutiny from both consumers and government regulators. More specifically, these new rules extend compliance with fiduciary standards to brokers managing IRAs.
This goes well beyond the community of RIAs (Registered Investment Advisors) who already must be in compliance. It helps guarantee that the broader financial services sector provides full disclosure, including conflicts of interest, in order to more responsibly serve the best interests of investors. Given how extensively these institutions rely on contact centers for managing clients, it is easy to see how RTSA can impact DOL-related quality management among both agents and supervisors.
Practice makes perfect: How RTSA Impacts overall practice management
Beyond the contact center, agents and brokers also deal directly with clients, especially those with higher net worth. Most clients, however, are less wealthy and less financially literate—so for them, contact centers are a more cost effective way to manage their IRAs. RTSA is particularly helpful here when clients become anxious about their investments, and agents need to manage this in accordance with their fiduciary responsibilities.
Agents and brokers have the same obligations, but when dealing with more sophisticated investors, the issues are somewhat different. Instead of trying calm nervous clients during choppy markets, they need to communicate with clarity and transparency. These investors will look for accurate information to feel confident their IRAs enjoy professional and fair management
In this regard, overall professionalism of the practice will improve, as everyone with direct client contact will be held to the same standards of conduct and compliance. Investors expect more transparency and efficient service, whether dealing with agents, brokers or RIAs.
RTSA in sum: New and improvement
While RTSA is new, its ability to address these expectations is proven, and financial institutions should look holistically at the benefits. There are valid concerns the technology will add costs to the business, and IT integration scenarios must be carefully evaluated.
However, RTSA can put the practice on a level playing field with how customers want to be supported, and what DOL is mandating for fiduciary compliance.
Change is never easy. But considering recent, high-profile breaches of customer trust, financial institutions need every edge they can get: not just to earn that trust back, but also to keep it going forward.
John Cray is vice president of product management for Chicago-based Enghouse Interactive, a global provider of customer interaction management technologies, including contact center, attendant console, predictive outbound dialer, knowledge management and interactive voice response.