Why is Syntax Not Enough

Friendly call center agent undergoing quality assurance evaluation

How successful are your call center operators? Do they perform their tasks with skill, energy, and professionalism? Do they have pleasant phone manners, filling your customers with confidence, leading to high conversion levels? Do your agents sound enthusiastic and knowledgeable to your customers, or do they come across as bored or disinterested?

Too many call centers undervalue their employees. They treat them as unskilled operators and pay them accordingly. Sometimes they set ridiculous targets – quantity based, not quality based – and make little attempt to monitor what happens in the calls their agents make. It is not surprising that employees in these firms tend to underperform, simply trying to earn a living, rather than providing a quality service.

Better call centers understand that their call operators are the heart of their business. They train their agents well, monitor calls made, and provide regular feedback with the aim of improving agent performance. They take advantage of available technology to ensure that their agents consistently satisfy their customers.

Call centers can monitor staff performance using both speech and voice analytics. There is a difference between the two tools, and it is the combination of the two that ensures that their agents consistently perform at a high level. A key to this being successful, of course, is that you monitor all calls made through a call center, not just a small sample, as was traditional in old-style monitoring systems.

Speech analytics focuses on “what” is said in a phone call. Voice analytics focuses on the “how.” How do your agents speak to your customers? How do they engage? How did your customer experience the interaction?
Speech analytics is a good beginning point for monitoring the script adherence and/or compliance aspect of staff performance. It looks at what is said in a conversation, both by your agents and by your customers. It focuses on the syntax used in a call. How often have you talked to a call center, usually foreign based, where you could not understand the agent not because of their choice of words but because how they spoke?

You can use speech analytics to ensure that your agents follow the appropriate scripts and using the correct words. In particular, you can use speech analytics to ensure that your agents use the important keyword terms you have stressed to them in their calls. You can also use it in reverse; you can monitor calls to ensure that they avoid using certain inappropriate or incorrect terms with clients.

However, is monitoring the syntax your agents use in their calls enough? In reality, there is much more to a phone call than simply the words the participants use.

It is just as important to analyze how well your agents speak during their calls; not the words spoken – they may be script perfect – but the inflexion and emotion used in their delivery may never change regardless of their situation or even worse, their delivery may make you cringe. You can learn a great deal from hesitations or ‘talk overs’ as well. Does the agent sound confused, as if they are thinking up an appropriate answer to a question? Is the agent simply going through the motions, trying to lengthen each call, reducing the number of calls he or her has to handle in a day?

When somebody speaks, they unwittingly give away many clues about their emotional state at the time. If they are angry or in a bad mood, for instance, they are likely to speak much faster than normal, at a higher volume. If your agent is depressed or sad, he or she is likely to speak in a softer, lower pitch voice.

In the case of Rank Miner’s predictive analytics engine, there are 383 features extracted used to determine the speaker’s emotional behavior and tone, regardless of the actual words spoken.

Make no mistake. The “how” of speech can be more important than the “what” to a successful customer service experience. Even a simple greeting such as “Good afternoon. Welcome to XYZ Company. How can I help you?” sounds completely different to a customer who receives the phrase from a happy-sounding customer service operator as opposed to hearing the same greeting from a bored, disinterested employee wanting to get to the end of their shift as soon as possible.

Your clients will thank you immeasurably if you can intervene and provide additional training to the poorly performing agents in your call center so that they sound enthusiastic and interested in your customers’ concerns.