One in three prefer speech recognition to a real person

Advancements in open dialogue capabilities fuelling growth.

A study by research firm Callcentres.net has found that both Australian customer satisfaction with speech recognition systems, and the technical capabilities of the systems, have increased significantly over the past several years.

It found 58 percent of respondents were either "very" or "extremely satisfied" using a speech recognition system (SRS) representing an 11 percent increase since a similar study was conducted in 2005.

Nuance Communications commissioned the study involving 262 interviews with customers spread evenly across the telecommunications, banking and finance, and entertainment sectors, concluding that the ability and acceptance of SRS in Australia is maturing and catching up to the rest of the world.

"In the US speech recognition is promoted as a really positive extra service channel that gives convenience, 24 hour access, speed and has always been positioned by the market as something that is very positive. In Australia it has been very different," said Dr Catriona Wallace, director of Callcentres.net.

Wallace pointed to the example of one Australian bank that ran advertisements in the early days of speech recognition touting itself as the bank to call if you want to talk to a real person and not a robot.

"It was a clever marketing strategy but it really positioned the good speech vendors who do have solid and useful applications for customer service in a position where they had to work a lot harder to overcome these original negativities. So Australia is definitely lagging in its uptake of speech compared to the US and Europe, however we're seeing it coming of age now," she said.

Peter Chidiac, ANZ managing director for Nuance Communications, points to advancements in the capabilities of speech recognition systems, particularly open dialogue systems, as one of the reasons behind their burgeoning acceptance.

"The biggest application of SRS that's being deployed right now is what we call open dialogue or call steering application. It allows the caller to take control of the call by openly saying, for example if they are calling Telstra; 'Im moving house and I want to disconnect my line and reconnect it at the new house', and the system understands that.

"We get on average over 80 per cent first pass recognition on open dialogue, but in a directed application where the question is coming from the system and the caller is answering we get up to 98 percent. We have one bank in Australia, a credit union, that has had a system since 2001 and they get between 96-98 percent of transactions completed within the SRS, which is a phenomenal number," he said.

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