Yishay Carmiel, Founder and CEO of Meaning, explains how AI-powered assistive voice technology is set to power the customer service industry by minimizing barriers created by language and cultural nuances.
Call centers are known for notoriously high employee turnover. In fact, the average tenure of a call center agent is around 22 months, and the annual attrition rate among India-based call center agents ranges from 28% for in-house agents to 38% for external subcontractors. Customer service is a vital function of most businesses, and the loss of institutional knowledge and the cost of rehiring talent can take its toll.
While there are multiple factors that influence job satisfaction and ultimately drive employees to seek employment elsewhere, one overlooked area is technology. When workers don’t have the tools they need to succeed, frustration and loss in motivation is inevitable. This may not always lead to team members leaving, but it does hurt morale and productivity—it’s also entirely avoidable.
To better understand some of the hurdles call center agents have, Meaning and Gradient Flow surveyed hundreds of agents in India about the most important part of their job: communicating effectively. With the goal of identifying key challenges and potential solutions to enhance job performance, the survey explored factors such as tenure, understandability when speaking to callers, and affinity to tech solutions.
The results were overwhelming, and a bit unexpected. Despite a vast majority of respondents indicating that they feel they can consistently be easily understood by callers (91%) and that they can easily understand callers (95%), nearly all (96%) believe assistive voice technology would enhance job performance. This was true even for agents with more experience. The appetite for technology aimed at improving language and speech comprehension is there, and it’s easy to understand why.
The benefits of better communication listed by respondents included: mitigated conflict, increased employee engagement, improved productivity, improved client relations, a healthy workplace culture, improved direction for employees, professional growth, and improved communication skills. This leads to better understanding of customers, increased innovation, and improved job satisfaction. Many respondents also noted that better communication leads to better customer service.
Voice assistive tech can help minimize barriers created by language and cultural nuances. While chatbots and other solutions have their place, there’s no replacement for human-to-human conversion, and generative voice tech has the power to improve communication significantly. This can go a long way in improving both the customer and agent experience, and the industry is taking notice.
We’re starting to see more enterprise generative AI products come to market delivering value in the domain of speech. And the largely untapped, but very valuable use cases are many. Beyond customer service, in gaming, a user can opt to sound like their on-screen character. In a virtual meeting, a person with a speech impairment can make their voice easier to understand, enabling them to focus on their work contributions rather than potential misunderstandings.
Unlike other generative AI models, like DALL-E, which can be interesting but only somewhat useful, speech-to-speech (S2S) technology has the potential to empower participants to enhance conversations in real-time and at scale. This not only equates to workers feeling more confident in their roles and job stability, but also opens up new revenue streams and expands the talent pool, improving overall business.
Research consistently shows employees who have the appropriate tools to perform their jobs are more content and perform better. Generative speech technology can serve as a tool to help with this. As the survey results show, call center agents are receptive to assistive tech aimed at improving communication, and it can deliver real business value. It’s likely we’ll hear a lot more and see far greater adoption of AI-powered voice assistive tech in the year to come.
About the Author
The Founder and CEO of Meaning, Yishay Carmiel is a recognized global expert in machine intelligence and natural language understanding. A seasoned technology entrepreneur, Yishay has a successful track record and vast experience building, launching, and growing disruptive AI-driven revenue-generating products and services across startups and Fortune 500 companies.
Yishay is currently the founder and CEO of Meaning, a cutting-edge voice synthesis startup; prior to that, he served as the AI leader at Avaya and led all conversational AI initiatives at Avaya, which he joined as the founder of IntelligentWire, which was acquired by Avaya in 2018 and turned into Avaya Conversational Intelligence. Before this, Yishay founded S-Infiniyy, which Spoken Communications acquired in 2015. Yishay is the author of numerous research papers in conversational artificial intelligence, machine intelligence, and deep learning and has been recognized as a leading global expert in the field. In 2017, Yishay was chosen by SpeechTek Magazine as “Speech Luminary of the Year.” Yishay is a regular speaker on AI and Entrepreneurship.