November 2006 - Global Outlook: U.S. Hispanic

Can Speech Technology Close the Sale?

By Mike Ferzacca

While the cost-saving benefits of interactive voice response (IVR) and speech technology have been known for years in the customer service area, that same success has not carried over to the revenue generation side of the business in the U.S. Hispanic market. The limited success of revenue generating IVR programs in this market was related to the unique demands of this growing audience that, until recently, traditional IVR vendors struggled to effectively address.

IVR and speech technology have now caught up to the needs of the U.S. Hispanic market. Few technological advances can match the impact of speech technology on costs and revenue in the direct response industry. Now companies targeting the U.S. Hispanic market also enjoy the lower per-call cost and higher revenue per order delivered by speech technology.

Customer acceptance is key to the success of any speech technology solution. More importantly, is the issue of IVR acceptance within the U.S. Hispanic community. Could a successful IVR solution be designed for a Spanish-speaking audience?

The answer is yes.

The cultural and dialect differences of the diverse U.S. Hispanic market prompted design of a speech application that used Spanish with a neutral accent, so it could be understood by every caller. These so called “virtual agents” understand human utterances and store commonly used phrases and dialects. When a Spanish-speaking caller uses a colloquialism or regional variation of a word, the virtual agent “remembers” and understands it based on knowledge learned from prior callers. This continual learning process helps turn customer calls into transactions quickly while at the same time, provides a highly satisfactory customer experience.

It is generally accepted that call time may be longer with a Spanish-speaking audience vs. an English- speaking audience. That is where the cost-savings benefit of a speech technology solution can have the most dramatic impact.

In addition to cost savings, an automated inbound system increases revenue generation by ensuring all calls are answered. One challenge in using a live agent call center is ensuring an adequate number of Spanish-speaking agents to support the call spikes inherent in direct response advertising. Because these speech recognition systems accept thousands of calls simultaneously, hold times and call abandonment issues are eliminated.

It takes more than just technology to make intuitive speech recognition systems work to their maximum potential and this is especially true for the U.S. Hispanic market. It takes the right partner with a proven track record of success and experience working with Spanish-language applications, so make sure you fully investigate potential partners and get your program started!

Michael Ferzacca is CEO of Advanced Interactive Sciences, LLC, a leading provider of intuitive speech technology. He can be reached at (813) 855-5800, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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