Consumers wary of speech recogntion technology: report

Online self-service emerging as the prefered channel for customer service requirements

Organisations looking to implement voice automation systems need to think very hard about the needs of their customers before doing so, a new report has found.

The Alignment Index for Speech Self-Service report, produced by Dimension Data in collaboration with Cisco and Tellme, found a disconnect between the attitudes of consumers, enterprises and vendors toward speech recognition and touch tone interactive voice response (IVR).

According to the report, some 41 per cent of consumers say they would prefer to use speech recognition as little as possible, while 15 per cent of enterprises have this position. Only 3 per cent of vendors have this negative response.

Reinforcing consumers’ dislike of speech recognition, 40 per cent of respondents said they avoid using speech systems “whenever possible”. Only 25% of consumers say they would be happy to use speech solutions again.

While vendors and enterprises largely viewed speech recognition’s ability to reduce waiting times as an improvement in customer service, consumers did not, the report found. In fact, he number of consumers who perceived no benefit to using automated services had grown from 20 per cent in 2008 to 31 per cent in 2009.

“It clearly shows a failure on the part of vendors and enterprises to explain the benefits to consumers and highlights an area for improvement,” the report said. “To achieve a shift in customer perception, vendors and enterprises need to actively invest in delivering and promoting the perceived benefits and educating consumers on the additional, less apparent benefits.”

The report also found that a reason for the high level of consumer dissatisfaction with speech recognition systems came down to poor or non-existent levels of integration which resulted in callers having to repeat themselves to an agent.

“Compared with last year’s responses, we see a similar indication that consumers are still more concerned about the functionality of the solution, rather than the usability of the technology,” the report said.

In a sign of the importance of online self help, the report found that 44 per cent of consumers use online self-service first for their customer service requirements. Some 52 per cent of consumers between the ages of 16-34 fall into this category.

“The increasingly multi-channel nature of customer service creates a real challenge for enterprises and vendors to design and deliver service experiences that are consistent across channels,” the repot said.

Dimension Data global managing director for Customer Interactive Solutions, Martin Dove, said organisations needed to provide customers with a consistent contact experience, allowing them to connect across speech-enabled, touch tone IVR and Web-based channels.

“Customers expect immediate resolution to simple enquiries and want a self-service channel to enable this,” Dove said.

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