iSelect eyes more speech analytics after $350K spend

Real-time speech and emotion recognition in development

Despite spending upwards of $350,000 on a speech analytics system, Melbourne based insurance broker iSelect is looking to expand its existing call centre software to support better real-time processing, including possible emotion recognition.

Joanna Thomas, general manager of sales and operations at iSelect, said speech analytics is ideal in sales environments as it can be used to improve the understanding of the organisation’s customer service levels.

“It can provide an enormous insight into the call centre and with speech analytics you can understand what customers are saying,” Thomas said.

“To get 100 licences at iSelect we needed nine servers at a total cost of $60,000 and if you include the professional services the total cost of the project is $350,000 and we don’t get real-time speech analytics.”

Thomas compared that with a solution from vendor Interactive Intelligence which costs $3250 per server with a perpetual licence fee of $295 per agent and said the speed of deployment with Interactive Intelligence “seems to be quite fast”.

Version 4.0 of Interactive Intelligence’s customer interaction centre (CIC) product will be available next month and after more than two years of development promises to deliver real-time speech analytics based on spoken keywords on either the customer or call centre agent side. Contact centre managers can then be alerted to any “problem indicators”.

iSelect promotes itself as being Australia’s largest insurance comparison website with core services around health insurance, life insurance and car insurance. The company is now branching out into travel insurance, home loans and broadband.

“Three years ago we had 26 agents now we have more than 200,” Thomas said.

Being a “customer acquisition” channel for its clients, iSelect wanted to develop an out-bound call centre practice to market to the “hundreds of thousands” of people that approach the company every year but don’t end up buying anything.

“We have a phrase called ‘iSelect time’ which means the ideas we wanted to happen yesterday,” Thomas said.

“Interactive Intelligence called me one day and I asked them ‘so you can do out-bound’ and from there I was shown a demonstration.”

On December 31, 2009 iSelect signed the contract for Interactive Intelligence’s call centre solution without knowing a great deal about its own business requirements for out-bound calling.

“I still can’t believe we went live in March only 10 weeks later,” Thomas said. “I’m not a technical or a project manager I have a sales background and for ease of use Interactive Intelligence was great.”

Thomas said iSelect used to train people to use its call centre PABX, but the Interactive Intelligence product, which is software-only, added more features like skills-based routing where people are matched based on their demographics. For example, young females are more likely to purchase something if they a speaking with a man.

iSelect already had a telephony system in place, but replaced it with the Interactive Intelligence system and has gone from 30 to more than 100 out-bound call centre agents.

The company is now deciding whether to migrate its main corporate telephony system to Interactive Intelligence alongside its call centre.

Regarding the expensive speech analytics system, Thomas could not name the vendor, but said the system is still in the process of being deployed.

Interactive Intelligence chief marketing officer Joe Staples said the next big advancement in speech analytics is the ability to recognise and respond to customer emotions.

“If a customer calls and says ‘that’s great’ in a happy way that is very different from a customer calling and saying ‘that’s great!’ in and annoyed manner,” Staples said.

Staples said the company has hired speech scientists to help it develop speech recognition systems.

The upgrade to Interactive Intelligence CIC 4.0 is available free to all customers paying a maintenance subscription.

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

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Tags unified communicationsinteractive intelligencespeech recognitioncall centresinsuranceiSelect

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