November 20, 2012

Voice is Data: Rescuer of the Telecom Industry, if they Figure it Out


Over the past decade, the traditional telecommunications industry -- incumbent carriers focused on delivering voice -- have been bemoaning a continued decline in wireline services and voice minutes. The price on voice minutes has been steadily decreasing, be it a local call, long distance call or a conference bridge.   Phone companies need to wake up to the fact that voice is data and there's money to be made in next-generation value-added services -- if they can get to that realization in time.

Large call centers figured out that voice is data a long time ago. Everyone is familiar with the "Calls may be monitored for quality assurance--" phrase.   Recorded calls -- and who knew Nixon would be ahead of his time -- provide a historical record of interactions. Call recording is standard operating procedure for regulatory compliance in the financial and healthcare industries.

 Once recorded onto a hard disk, a conversation can be translated from speech to text and indexed for searching and potential playback. Speech analytics -- the ability to analyze spoken interactions -- can be applied to a body of recorded calls to provide insights for improving sales and customer satisfaction. Closing a call -- sales or customer support --- faster and more efficient translates to saved time and for businesses, time is money.

A body of calls can also be mined for market research and competitive analysis trends on a much deeper level.   For example, some enterprises goes through contact center calls to look for instances where a customer calls up to cancel a service based upon a competitive offer.   Tied into caller ID and customer data, call center information can provide real-time trends based upon regional and demographic profiling.

Communications service providers, running the full gamut of incumbents, independents, and those cable guys, are in a unique position to provide recording and speech processing services as a Yet-Another-Cloud-Service offering to add incremental revenue as a first step. Forward-thinking service providers will end up acquiring speech analytics firms to cut out the middle man and influence feature development.

Another voice-as-data solutions that offers benefit to businesses is voice biometrics, the ability to authenticate a user with speech. Voice biometrics is being used by New Zealand government call centers and is being rolled out by the National Australian Bank (NAB).  Down Under, NAB says voice tech beats fingerprints hands down, with three times as many comparable data points and is expected to save the bank's customers a combine 15 million minutes a year.

The trump card incumbent carriers should have is in the ability to provide the best quality voice -- ergo, the best quality data into these processes. Incumbents should be able to provide metrics demonstrating that delivering a seamless "one throat to choke" solution provides performance advances in delivering voice-as-data solutions.

Adding to that trump card is the carrier's ability to add HD voice to improve data flowing into these processes. Reports from New Zealand indicate that using voice biometrics with mobile calls -- about 38 percent of inbound traffic -- are a challenge due to poorer quality and background noise.   HD voice provides a quality improvement solution and allows incumbent carriers to leverage advantages in delivering quality of service (QoS) in an end to end fashion.




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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