Everything You Didn’t Know About Speech Recognition, But Should

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With smart speakers and virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant part of our everyday lives, most of us understand the concept of voice-enabled technology. But how does speech recognition fit into this landscape and, more importantly, what value can it offer your business?

What is Speech Recognition?

The goal of speech recognition is to let people operate applications and devices, and access services, in a more natural and convenient way—using voice. This reduces reliance on clicking, tapping and typing. These manual approaches are not only more laborious but also exclude certain customers, such as those with motor disabilities who can’t use keyboards or other tactile devices.

The brain behind the modern speech recognition system is called an automatic speech recognition (ASR) engine. This intelligent software is able to interpret spoken audio and convert it from a verbal format into a text format. This text then acts as a command to drive the next steps of your speech-enabled solution.

Decades of Development

Speech recognition technology is by no means a new concept, but it has evolved substantially since the mid-20th Century. While today, you can carry voice-enabled technology in your pocket, the first documented speech recognizer, launched in 1952, involved an entire room of electronics. Made by Bell Labs, this ‘Automatic Digit Recognition Machine’ was dubbed Audrey, and it could recognize the sound of spoken digits (zero through nine) when it was ‘adapted’ to the speaker—a ground-breaking achievement at the time.

In 2021, there are a great many speech recognition applications and devices available on the market. The more advanced ASRs, built on the foundations of artificial intelligence and deep neural networks, are able to recognize a diverse range of natural languages and dialects, spoken by millions of customers, with great accuracy. All this translates into a high-quality, friction-free automated user experience.

But the journey is far from over. Speech recognition is an ever-advancing field and the market for this technology continues to expand. Looking forward, experts predict that the global voice and speech recognition market will grow at a CAGR of 19.5% during 2021-2026.

Looking at it from another angle: in 2020, there were over 4 billion digital voice assistants being used around the world. In just four years, that number is expected to double. That means there could be more voice assistants on our planet than humans in the near future.

How Does This Impact Your Business?

Speech recognition technology has a wide range of use cases in the commercial world today including in the contact center, financial services, and employee applications. Being able to automate tasks such as password reset or enabling customers to self-serve provides numerous benefits for your organization.

Improve efficiency
Organizations can use speech recognition to step up productivity and performance through a wide range of services, such as voice-activated banking or apps that allow users to compose messages verbally. Not only does this make the customer experience more efficient, it also helps your company save money.

Enhance your IVR
With a well-chosen ASR, you can boost accuracy and speed within your IVR, reducing agent handling times (AHT) and routing calls more efficiently to improve the overall customer experience.

Support analytics
You can automatically transcribe all verbal conversations in your contact center. This makes these interactions easier to analyze, whether you’re using automated sentiment analysis tools to gauge customer satisfaction levels or flagging common call patterns and issues for swift resolution.

Enable multi-tasking
Speech-enabled applications are hands-free. This way, your users can do other tasks (such as drive) while accessing your service. This improves usability and customer satisfaction.

Scale your reach
As with any automated technology, you can scale speech recognition rapidly without increasing human headcount. This makes it easier for you to expand into new markets or manage seasonal spikes in demand.

When you think about it, there are so many ways for your organization to integrate speech recognition into your solutions and services, to boost usability, save time and enhance CX.

To harness these advantages and meet employee and customer expectations, it’s vital to choose a high-performing, highly accurate speech recognition engine that scales as the needs of the company evolve. This requires an ASR engine that is AI-driven and can accurately recognize naturally spoken language and learn from real-world use for maximum ROI.

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