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08 May 2013

By: Danny Singer

Blog #9: Turning noise into meaning – the hidden benefits of call scripting


What is a phone call? A silly question, you may argue, but let's give it a little thought just for one minute. For the two people involved in the call it is clearly a way of holding a conversation and exchanging information while not in the same physical location.

Pretty obvious stuff, however, what is a telephone call from a deeper perspective? Philosophically, a call is an exchange of ideas, stories and updates similar to a face to face conversation or written correspondence (whether by post, email, text, IM, web chat or any other mode of communication). But this is where the similarity ends.

Written conversations of any type leave a trail of text behind. In most cases the text is unstructured, but even then it can be easily scrutinised for keywords and key phrases that give it meaning, which make it searchable and relatively easy to analyse.

Telephone calls on the other hand, don't leave much behind apart from a voice recording. As data, this is literally no more than a collection of noises. A whole new range of technologies have been developed in order to try and make some sense of these noises. It is called Voice Analytics and it goes to great lengths to glean some meaning out of these sounds.

However, Voice Analytics is a very imprecise science. As you may imagine, when people are engaged in conversations they speak at different speeds, use local or foreign accents and cultures, are loudly or softly spoken, need to overcome background noise use bad or unreliable phone lines, tend to interrupt and speak over each other therefore trying to teach even the most sophisticated software to "understand" these sounds is a very tall order. The most they can hope for is catch the occasional word and deduce some meaning from that.

So why has so much research and development goneblog #9 into this almost hopeless task and why do call centres spend large sums of money acquiring this relatively imprecise technology? It is exactly because there is a clear and urgent need to analyse the content of calls statistically and not just anecdotally (which is all that listening to call recordings can ever hope to achieve).

This need stems from the natural disconnection between telephony and business systems.

Telephony systems collect statistics about calls as elementary units, things such the precise timings and durations of each call, telephone numbers, what agents handled the calls, and so on and so forth. From the perspective of the telephone system a call is an atomic, indivisible item.

Business systems on the other hand, collect statistics about transactions. These usually refer to orders, complaints, deliveries, etc. There is usually no link between these transactions and the calls that the telephony system would know about.

"So what?" you may ask. Well, from a call centre perspective, the content of calls, viewed statistically is crucially important. Knowing that your sales have dropped or that your call durations have lengthened or that your first call resolution (FCR) rates have dropped is meaningless unless you can do something about it.

And here is the crux of the matter. To do something about it you need to be able to split the telephonic atom of a call and delve into the deeper subatomic particle world of call content. You should be able to answer questions like: "Why are some calls longer than others even when handled by the same agents?", "Why do some calls result in subsequent further calls degrading FCR rates?", "Why have sales of product A dropped but product B soared?" and so on.

The only way to answer some of these questions reliably and precisely is to use a good call scripting tool. It is a myth (usually perpetuated by those who know very little about call centres) that call scripting is about forcing agents to read things out parrot-like from their screen. Call scripts are there to guide agents through complex business logic and allow them to capture the essence of each call by simply navigating through the script and capturing information as they go along.

Simply by virtue of using a script, the content of each call is automatically and imperceptibly transformed from a collection of noises into a structured data record that can be queried and analysed in bulk with precision and ease. The subatomic world of call content is thus revealed in all its detail in database form and put to good use to improve call centre performance. For further details about call scripting visit our website page by clicking here.