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January 25, 2007

Standard Life: Sheila delivers customer service improvements

Standard Life has deployed a natural language voice recognition system, affectionately known as 'Sheila,' for its life and pensions business, which was developed by VeCommerce. The insurer has already been able to improve its call handling abilities with the system, demonstrating the benefits that voice technology can bring to the contact center.

By CBR Staff Writer

Standard Life has improved its customer service using VeCommerce’s voice technology.

Natural voice recognition can provide a friendlier user interface, which is a more scalable solution to meet short-term promotional activities, or unexpected increases in demand. Speech technology can improve flexibility, increase a company’s range of services, as well as directing the user to the right customer service representative at the first attempt.

Voice recognition is now mature enough to be able to replace cumbersome interactive voice response menu systems, which were much disliked by many customers. Of increasing importance is user authentication, and while not yet in use at Standard Life, utilizing speaker verification can provide additional protection against fraud. This technology relies on the unique characteristics of a person’s voice to authenticate the individual, and works in a similar way to fingerprints, comparing the spoken words with a reference voiceprint.

In particular, voice technology can provide a number of significant benefits when deployed in the contact center. Maintaining a contact center is a costly proposition, and agents are an expensive resource, being difficult to train and retain. There is little flexibility to meet peaks in demand, which can be unpredictable, and this often results in long ‘on hold’ times at busy periods.

The reduced need for human intervention with voice recognition technology means that 24/7 customer access can be provided, and there is an opportunity to handle increased call volume without the requirement to augment the number of staff. It is not only a matter of increased efficiency; an equally valuable facet of voice enablement is the increase in customer satisfaction and competitive advantage it can provide.

By using voice technology, Standard Life has been able to increase the capacity for handling calls by 25% and obtain a 66% reduction in misrouted calls by better first-time routing to the right advisor, which has also resulted in higher levels of first-call resolution.

There has been a widely-held perception that natural voice recognition is difficult and costly to deploy, as well as not mature enough. This is no longer the case; the technology is now sufficiently robust and user-friendly to be considered by enterprises for commercial applications.

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Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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