Speech gets sexy in call centres

Speech gets sexy in call centres

The speech recognition component of call centres is set to explode this year as software matures and CPU grunt becomes more accessible, according to one specialist market research company.

Bill Lyons, general manager of independent research firm, claims the natural language speech recognition (NLSR) market is expected to be worth $150 million in 2001.

While this figure represents less than one per cent of the total call centre market according to research, Lyons believes around 19 per cent of call centres are expected to adopt the technology this year.

"It's one of the hottest sectors in the call centre market. [NLSR] is new and everyone likes the thought they can talk rather than having to wade through IVRs (integrated voice recognition systems)," claims Lyons. "It's sexy, and with the proliferation of mobile phones you're going to see it [deployed] a lot more."

Although customer relationship management (CRM) still remains the single biggest sector of the call centre market, valued at over $500 million according to Lyons, resellers cannot afford to ignore speech recognition.

"If they don't offer [NLSR] they run the risk of missing out on a considerable opportunity," he said.

One reseller that has made an aggressive push in the NLSR market is VeCommerce, which has increased its revenue nearly four-fold in a six-month period.

VeCommerce integrates FirstContact, an application platform developed in-house, with speech recognition software vendor Nuance Communications for the majority of its solutions.

The ASX-listed company yesterday posted significant half-year results when it completed a handful of lucrative contracts, which saw it grow from just over $2.2 million in revenue for the July-December period in 1999 to over $8.2 million for the corresponding period last year.

- There are 4000 call centres in Australia.

- They represent 1500 companies.

- With 200,000 employees, call centres account for 2.2 per cent of Australia's total workforce.

- Staff and related costs account for 63 per cent of all call centre costs.

- 19 per cent of call centres will adopt natural language speech recognition (NLSR) technology in 2001.

- NLSR will be worth $150 million in 2001.

- It costs $8.8 billion in recurrent costs to run the industry.

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