Indian outsourcer Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is breaking new ground with the opening of the world's first business processing outsourcing center staffed entirely by women in male-dominated Saudi Arabia.
Tata has unveiled plans for its "all-female services center" in the Saudi capital, Riyadh as part of a plan to access a largely untapped pool of workers in the segregated Middle Eastern nation. The center, to run as a joint venture with US manufacturer General Electric, will initially employ some 400 women, with plans to expand to 3000.
Conservative culture and strict rules on separation of the sexes limit female employment in Saudi Arabia. Most banks and some factories have women-only sections, but exclusively female operations are rare. "This is the first time to our understanding that anyone has done this, because this (Saudi Arabia) is a unique market," TCS CEO Natarajan Chandrasekaran said. "In India, there has been huge opportunity for our industry to liberate underused talent and, while Saudi isn't on the same scale, there is still a big opportunity to help people, especially women, find good professional jobs," he said.
Dimension Data New Zealand has deployed a Microsoft Private Cloud to allow Education New Zealand better service its students and market New Zealand education internationally.
The new solution that focuses on securely improving the user experience of Education New Zealand's globally spread employees, giving them better tools to be more effective and productive when recruiting students, or pursuing opportunities for New Zealand institutions to educate students offshore. "Dimension Data's deployment of Microsoft Private Cloud will put Education New Zealand in a position where it can be more competitive within the global market, giving its marketing staff around the world access to more tools to be more productive and efficient in a secure manner," said Dimension Data New Zealand's Nick Halikias.
Education New Zealand chose the hybrid cloud model, which utilises both on-premise and cloud-based solutions dedicated solely to the organisation. The solution will deliver more effective mail messaging, data applications, web solutions, as well as back-end infrastructure and services. "The hybrid model has the flexibility of having a fit for purpose on-premise solution, balanced with the cost-efficiencies of the cloud," said Halikias.
Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines has upgraded its customer service by offering new services to travellers after renewing and extending its agreement with travel technology company Amadeus.
Hainan Airlines renewed its Amadeus e-Retail agreement to power global online sales, and has signed up for Amadeus e-Personalise and Award Shopper to deliver online shopping. Also the e-Personalise solution tracks user behaviour and offer bespoke recommendations and access to a range of travel options based on the context of the user.
The e-Retail platform enables customers across the world to book their tickets in more than 30 languages. In addition, Amadeus Award Shopper means customers can redeem their frequent flyer miles online and also buy tickets using a combination of miles and cash.
Speech recognition technology is more pervasive than ever. Smart TVs, smart phones, computers and even cars are rolling off the production lines with voice-activated interfaces. Technology giant Google is putting it at the core of its search-engine technology, while Apple is putting it wherever people need it, thanks to the iPhone's voice-activated personal assistant, Siri. You'd be justified in thinking speech technology is the most ground-breaking invention of the 21st century.
Except that speech technology isn't new. It's been deployed by leading contact centres for over a decade in the form of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. So have we gone back to the future? Or is consumer technology driving speech technology to new heights, and leaving businesses behind?
Whichever way you look at it, one thing is clear: unlike consumer technology leaders, many companies still aren't fully exploiting the potential of IVR technology to power a better customer experience, and improve their contact centre's performance.
And with apps like Siri raising the bar on a daily basis, this is more important than ever.
The chicken or the egg?
What few people realise when they ask Siri to set their alarm, schedule their next appointment or call their loved ones, is that they are interacting with a technology that's existed long before Apple put it in their pockets.
Speech technology can be traced back to the 50s and 60s, at the height of the Cold War, when the USA, Japan, Britain and the Soviet Union were secretly beavering away at speech recognition hardware to boost their defences. But it was contact centres that introduced it to the masses. In fact Siri itself is powered by a computer software provider that develops technology and algorithms for IVR platforms for contact centres.
So why the sudden renewed interest in speech recognition technology? It comes down in part to the rapid evolution of computing capabilities and mobile communication. Now more than ever, enterprises are realising the potential of speech technology to make things happen.
A Question of Trust
Siri and its Android counterparts have allowed speech technology to reach people on a more personal level by becoming part of their everyday lives. This helps set the stage for a generation that is more accepting of, and comfortable interacting with, an automated voice system. After all, if they put in the effort to interact with the technology, the thinking is that they will benefit in the form of increased productivity. And with acceptance comes trust, which is good news for businesses using IVR technology – but only if they use it well.
The same trust callers feel when asking Siri to organise their lives should form the foundation of their interactions with your contact centre. But currently, their trust is being undermined by substandard IVR technology solutions. From the user's point of view, traditional IVRs often don't deliver a benefit. They follow the often complex and misleading instructions, but don't receive much or any reward for their efforts. Instead, menus and sub menus can act like a virtual prison for customers, resulting in up to a third of all calls answered by traditional IVRs being sent to the wrong place. For the caller, this defeats the whole purpose of the traditional IVR – after all, their reason for being is to ensure you speak to a specialist who can address your issue.
At the same time, Siri and friends have laid down the gauntlet for businesses. They have not only made speech systems more accessible and familiar to users, they've also raised consumers' expectations. Today's consumers are acutely aware of the full potential of speech technology – how it can get their questions answered faster, provide trustworthy navigation, and generally make their lives easier.
This expectation translates directly to your contact centre. When customers call your contact centre and are greeted by IVR technology, they expect the technology to be used to deliver an effortless experience, one that will result in their queries being directed to the right place, quickly and seamlessly. It's difficult to say whether these “great expectations” are being driven by speech recognition technologies such as Siri, or whether they are part of the overall higher expectations today's consumers have when it comes to customer experience. Consumers are paying closer attention to brands, examining which brands work for long-term relationships and which are after a quick win. They expect more from every interaction – more personalised service, more value, more convenience. Whichever way we look at it, for contact centres the implications are the same: improving the ability for their customers to reach the right person as quickly as possible on the phone is a priority to achieve ongoing consumer satisfaction.
With powerful technology comes great responsibility. Consumer technology leaders are driving speech technology to exciting new heights, and it's time for contact centres to do the same. Only then can you expect to deliver precisely the kind of customer experience that will set your business apart from its competitors.