What is Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)?

Automatic speech recognition technology is a form of artificial intelligence that enables a person to interact with a computer application with their voice, thereby eliminating the need to input data using a keypad. For example, automatic speech recognition eliminates the need for callers to “press one” when they contact customer service. It does this by converting a person's words into something a system can use, such as text or a computer command.

When transforming spoken language into text, advanced speech recognition solutions perform a series of complex steps in the blink of an eye. For example, audio inputs need to be refined by eliminating distortions such as background noise. ASR solutions also use language models to statistically determine the likely sequence of words for a given language. And finally, advanced speech recognition systems transcribe the audio inputs into text that other applications can use.

ASR capabilities continue to improve with advancements in artificial intelligence. The advanced algorithms and acoustic and language models used by advanced speech recognition solutions enable them to understand different languages, accents, and speech patterns, making it available to a wide body of users. And when these systems use machine learning, their accuracy improves with use.

How can advanced speech recognition be used in customer service?

The potential applications of ASR continue to increase. There are numerous ways advanced speech recognition can currently be used to improve customer service experiences and increase efficiency.

  • IVR self-service: Interactive voice response (IVR) systems can use automatic speech recognition to enhance the customer experience. When integrated with other applications, ASR technology enables callers to perform self-service tasks, such as checking account balances and finding out store hours. Effective self-service that is available around the clock addresses consumer demands for convenience and the ability to take care of their own simple tasks.
  • Voice authentication: IVRs that use ASR can also allow customers to authenticate their identity prior to speaking with an agent or conducting a self-service transaction. Biometric authentication increases security, helps reduce fraud, and can also reduce handle times by removing the verification step from agents’ responsibilities.
  • Improved call routing: Automatic speech recognition in IVRs can also be useful for identifying why the customer is calling and using this information to route the call to the correct agent. This enhances the customer experience by reducing frustrating and unnecessary internal transfers and helps ensure timely resolutions by matching customers with appropriately skilled agents.
  • Voice interaction transcripts: Advanced speech recognition can be used to produce transcripts of customer service phone interactions, which can then become part of a customer's profile in CRM applications. Having text records of these phone conversations makes them highly searchable and adds efficiency to the dispute resolution process.
  • Voice interaction analysis and insights: ASR also streamlines the analysis of voice interactions. Tools such as interaction analytics have replaced the need to listen to samples of voice recordings to determine variables such as call drivers. Instead, contact center leaders can rely on systems powered by advanced speech recognition to "listen to" and analyze 100% of phone conversations and provide insights such as customer sentiment, emerging issues, and call reasons.
  • Real-time translations: ASR tools that have been trained to understand multiple languages can translate audio inputs in real time. This allows customers and agents who don't speak the same language to communicate effectively with each other, which enhances the customer experience and reduces the need for multilingual agents.

With continuing innovations in artificial intelligence, the accuracy and use of advanced speech recognition will grow. Contact centers will be able to use ASR to enhance personalization efforts, participate in multimodal communications, and further overcome language barriers. These capabilities will enhance the customer experience and position businesses to better compete in the global economy.

Automatic speech recognition is an evolving technology, with improvements being made at a rapid pace. Consumer adoption is being fueled by the increasing use of virtual assistants, such as Amazon's Alexa. In fact, virtual assistants are becoming a more mainstream support channel. Savvy businesses recognize the value and potential and have made ASR part of their customer experience.

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It is the leading, most complete and unified CX Platform on the market, used by thousands of organizations of all sizes around the world to help them consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences. CXone is a cloud native, unified suite of applications designed to help you holistically run your call (or contact) center operations.

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