SpeechTEK 2010

This week, I attended SpeechTEK in New York, a gathering of experts in Outbound Messaging, Security/Voice Biometrics, Speech Deployment and Voice Interaction Design.

Naturally, as a voice for hire, I was interested in approaching prospective clients and plying my wares as a voice talent — while many of the companies exhibiting already have their Text To Speech (or TTS) engines and IVR platforms built, its surprising to me that many of them have used a “stop-gap” voice — literally a staffer doing a one-off — just to get their systems up and running. It was hugely beneficial for me to make the rounds and introduce myself, and I found many of them to be excited to have met a voice talent face-to-face — and I even had to put on the “Asterisk Voice” for a CEO over a cell phone, when his employees manning the booth found out that I’m the voice of Asterisk (they had been running Asterisk for awhile) and thought they’d freak their boss out with a live call from me.

What I was pleasantly surprised to find at SpeechTEK was the emphasis on Customer Relation Metrics and the overall goal to improve the Customer Experience through simplified, well-designed and expertly executed IVRs and voice recognition platforms — aspects I’ve been evangelizing about since this blog first started, almost a year ago. If it’s confusing, choppy, misleading, or irritating to use in any way, your automation may be doing more harm than good.

The idea that Natural Language Processing (NLP) can improve our interactions with computers with fine-tuned dialogue systems is key in averting customer frustration (there’s a huge difference between dictation engines and conversational recognition engines) and its an aspect which is integral to efficient call routing and sorting.

Emily Yellin -- CRM Guru!

Emily Yellin, author of Your Call Is (Not That) Important To Us delivered the Opening Keynote — she has an amazingly entertaining style and imparts her concerns about customers being left behind in a maelstrom of technologies which overwhelm them (and thus make them disengage). Her anecdotes resonate, and her passion about streamlining and simplifying customer interactions over the telephone reminded all attending to take this technology — which is ever-advancing — and never lose sight that it is only as good as its usability. And only as valuable as the impression it leaves on the customer.

I love to think that my small role in the whole automated customer interaction experience helps to enhance call flow; create less work for live agents who eventually might interact with the customer one-on-one, and my goal is to make the customer’s experience navigating through an IVR as smooth as it it can possibly be — calm, friendly, helpful tones which leave the impression of being guided through the maze by a friend instead of a robot.

SpeechTEK was definitely an informative and comprehensive gathering of companies with a vast array of Tutorial topics (from Alphanumeric Pattern Capture of Automobile License Tags, to profiling how AstraZeneca became a vanguard in Call Center efficiency), the industries which benefit from the study of how speech and technology meet are limitless.

Join me next week as I delve into “What’s In a Name..?” — what you call your company — and how that name “scans” with the spoken word can mean the difference between success and failure.

As always, thanks for reading!

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