What’s TTS Doing for Contact Centers? (Why we Love Text-to-Speech!)

In this post:

What is TTS?

Text-to-speech (TTS) is a kind of ‘speech synthesis’ that speaks text aloud. Let’s put that another way: written words go in and spoken words come out.

TTS is used for educational resources, disability access and any situation where audio is the best option. (SatNav is a good example. Keep your eyes on the road!)

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There’s also a growing place for TTS in call center technologies where it can help to provide a wider range of automated services. 

The impressive thing is that TTS doesn’t rely on pre-recorded audio. You don’t need to prepare words or phrases. 

Instead, they’re created dynamically by the system’s understanding of your target language. 

Why does TTS matter in a contact center?

We’re seeing a lot of deployments for text-to-speech systems within IVR. 

IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response. It’s an automated, interactive system that provides customer service, either to supplement or replace a human agent. 

The role for TTS is clear – it creates an IVR system that isn’t limited to the words and phrases it was programmed with. 

Creating or updating an IVR usually means working with a voice actor. Everything you might ever need to say, you have to figure out in advance and record.

That’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, and it makes it hard to grow your IVR. 

(20% of contact centers have never – EVER – updated their IVR. This is probably one reason why!)

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What are the benefits of using TTS?

You can deploy IVR in a *lot* of different languages

There are more than 400 million Spanish speakers worldwide….

Almost 500 million people who speak Hindi…

And over a billion people who speak Mandarin Chinese.

So what would it mean to your business to set up automated contact center services in each of those languages? 

Systems using TTS come equipped with a vast range of languages already programmed in. Suddenly the language barrier is no barrier at all… 

You can add to your IVR more easily

So you want to add a new section to your IVR flow. How long could it take?

Well, with the right tools it should be pretty quick. 

Apart from one step – working with voice talent. It’s amazing how much of a bottleneck that can be! (Not to mention expensive…)

If you can rely on TTS to provide a decent portion of the conversation, that’s one less thing to worry about. Then you can improve and update your IVR far more often. 

You can create outbound audio messaging

TTS also gives you the option to call customers without needing an agent. This is a very useful accessibility option for visually impaired customers. 

Your auto dialer places an outbound call. 

If the call connects, the TTS system can converse with the customer. The customers can ask any follow-up questions there and then. 

If it doesn’t connect, your system can leave a message – you’re basically sending out audio files instead of/as well as text and email. 

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You’ll find the right voice for your brand  

Businesses are increasingly aware that an IVR or any speech-based systems is part of their brand. 

TTS systems can generally offer a range of voices to choose from. Believe me, you can fall down a rabbit hole going through the options!

But the outcome is worthwhile: a voice assistant that fits with how you want to be seen. 

The IVR sets a tone for the company, just like a website or advertising. The voice portal, Web and advertising personae have to come back to the tone of the company and how it wants to project itself.’

Marie Jackson, SpeechTechMag 

TTS enables conversational IVR!

Here’s the biggest single benefit: TTS is an important component of conversational IVR systems. 

There’s no two ways about it – conversational IVR is where the customer service industry is heading. 

Within the next few years it’s going to become close to compulsory. That’s a move driven by both price and customer demand. In fact, let’s talk about conversational IVR in more detail.  

What you should know about conversational IVR

As we’ve discussed, text-to-speech is an important ‘speech synthesis’ tool.

But conversational IVR is how you put that tool to work!

Conversational IVR brings together a variety of tools, including text-to-speech, speech-to-text, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU).

(Learn more about these terms in ‘NLP and NLU – IVR technologies defined!’)

The question is, what’s great about conversational IVR?

There are two categories of ‘really great stuff’ about conversational IVR:

  • Stuff that’s great for customers!
  • Stuff that great for you!

What’s great for customers?

#1 No listening to irrelevant options

An old school DTMF IVR always gives customers more options they don’t need than options they do need. 

It’s baked into the design; DTMF systems have to give you information in a list format. So you have to listen to at least one tedious list!

(Got CX on your mind? Check out this post on ‘Customer retention automation’.)

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#2 They’ll almost always find a solution to their issue

The single biggest consumer complaint about IVRs is that the problem they want solved isn’t on the list.

This is another problem with the core design. There are only so many items you can put on a list, so a lot of common issues are left off. 

On the other hand, a conversational IVR is listening out for keywords – and it will almost always be able to help. 

#3 It’s easier to get to the right agent

However good an automated service is, customers still need the option to speak to the right human agent. 

Conversational IVR makes that easier by drastically improving call routing. 

In one case study for Delta Airlines, caller intent was successfully captured in three-quarters of interactions. That had a range of positive effects but here’s the big one – misrouted calls dropped 15%. 

(Read all about it in ‘How Delta saves $5million per year with conversational IVR.’)

And what’s great for you?

#1 You’ll bring down your AHT

It’s true that focusing on just your AHT is bad, short-term thinking. 

However…

If there is a lot of dead space in calls, it makes sense to cut it out. 

Conversational IVR contributes to this by handling a lot of the data collection and research in calls. In a typical 6 minute call, just 25% is actual engagement; the rest is awkward silence and typing. 

US Airlines brought AHT down by 10% by letting the IVR do the data gathering. 

(Need to see a change in your AHT? Read: ‘4 Ways to slash AHT with call center IVR.’)

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#2 Your customers get a less frustrating experience

I know it seems like this should be in the ‘good for customers’ category.

But hey, what’s good for customers is generally good for you too!

Basically, bad IVR damages your brand. It makes customers think twice about staying with you.

Gartner has found that customers expect to use voice interfaces in around 70% of service interactions by 2023!

So you’d better get moving…

#3 You’ll save a lot of money!

If nothing else budges you… this one will. 

Delta Airlines are already saving $5million per year. They’re far from the only business managing this. 

The reasons are plain: 

Conversational IVR will save you money. It’s already too late to be an early adopter. But there’s still time to be ahead of the pack!

Read the guide:

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