Speech Analytics – The Largest Focus Group

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Ever since its creation, marketing practitioners have leveraged the “focus group” as a standard approach in securing feedback on products, services, promotions and more. Now, technology that incubated in the central hub for customer service – the contact centre – is adding new meaning to this conventional marketing definition.

Software solutions, such as speech analytics, are enabling and empowering marketers and others across the business, to access what can only be called the largest focus group around.

Speech analytics provides valuable intelligence that it derives from recorded customer interactions. Taking a proactive approach that goes beyond “what” is happening in contact centres and other customer-facing departments to “why” it’s happening can help businesses get ahead of the issues, respond to emerging trends and take advantage of opportunities.

What does that have to do with focus groups? Speech analytics, much like focus groups, draws upon conversations occurring with real customers within the contact centre. The main difference is that speech analytics provides access to feedback at a much larger scale. The technology helps eliminate biases that can sometimes be generated by surveying a small sample of customers outside their natural environment. It’s here in the contact centre that a new type of focus group lives every day – one that is rich with customer intelligence, including what they want and need, and how well a company delivers it to them. It helps marketers, along with customer service operations and product development, listen in to real customers with real problems, seeking real solutions. By creating an index of every word and phrase identified in thousands or millions of recorded customer interactions, speech analytics can automatically identify changes in customer behaviour, categorise positive and negative feedback, help understand brand recognition, identify customers at risk and more.

Today’s Marketers Gain New Insights from Customer Intelligence Right Inside Their Businesses

In its “Speech Analytics in Contact Centers – Market Insight” (January 4, 2008) research study, analyst firm Frost & Sullivan provides a clear snapshot into the relevant use of this technology. It surmises that “by aggregating the call centre’s information along with data from other sources, you get a much more nuanced picture of the root causes of customer issues. You can then take action to correct (or anticipate) problems that’s quicker and more effective.” The report also states that “speech analytics is necessary for its power to predict customer behaviour like churn through call mining or emotion detection, and for its ability to provide near-instant feedback on marketing initiatives.”

Many have had the experience of calling a company’s contact centre to complain about a service technician running two hours late. Other common scenarios, for example, are calling an organisation about its dysfunctional cell phone, or even a promotion that was under-delivered or over-billed. These can manifest themselves as “emotional” calls because they have impacted 1) your time/schedule, 2) how you communicate with the outside world and 3) your personal finances, not to mention failing to meet expectations. All that agitation on the phone may have accomplished more than most realise. More and more, given the proliferation of social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, consumers are becoming more involved and engaged with their favourite (and sometimes least favourite) brands.

While it’s important for marketers to mine the customer complaints and conversations happening online, these typically represent the tip of the iceberg. There is a vast amount of customer feedback available in your own backyard. By using tools like speech analytics to mine similar customer insight and feedback collected in the contact centre, you can help shape what ends up eventually in the public domain and in the world of social media. This collaborative marketing approach helps savvy professionals work in tandem with their contact centre managers and broader customer service operations teams to tap into the largest focus group available within an organisation.

Regardless of whether the feedback is negative or positive, many customer interactions contain actionable intelligence and valuable insights. Those are the conversations that when mined and analysed en masse can help marketers gain important insight on the positive and negative impacts of customer queries on business performance and marketing outreach – such as cancelled orders and account closures. Some speech analytics solutions have the ability to automatically surface trends of increased and decreased usage of any terms and phrases without the need to predefine these in advance. This capability allows marketing leaders to identify new emerging trends and changes in customer behaviour that they might not otherwise even know to ask about in a regular focus group – such as recurring references to a new competitor’s offering, complaints about flaws in a recent promotion or unknown problems with a product. The possibilities for the types of business intelligence that can be gathered are plentiful and very powerful.

Imagine, as a marketer, the ability to know the exact issues customers are having with a recent promotional offer. Identifying problems early can enable marketers to make fixes and adjustments on the front end of the campaign, rather than long after it concludes – thus impacting its success.

Next time you think about creating a focus group, look within your own organisation for the largest sample ever!

Further Reading

  • Speech Analytics In Marketing
  • Speech Analytics for Customer Surveys
  • Audio Mining
  • Sentiment Analysis


  • Daniel Ziv of Verint
Author: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 14th Mar 2010 - Last modified: 31st Mar 2023
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