Why Voice (Beyond Telephony) Has Extended Value in Financial Services
The evolution of technology is a constant that all businesses must manage. This requires organizational agility and adaptability as new technologies come along. Typically, most of the IT department’s attention goes to technologies that have only come onstream in the past few years, such as cloud, 5G and AI. Legacy technologies like telephony, however, remain widely-deployed, and it’s easy to overlook how newer technologies are impacting their evolution.
Telephony is especially important, not just because it’s so widely used, but also because the technology has remained static, especially in the workplace. The installed base of PBXs remains large, and while these systems still manage telephony quite well, their utility has declined. Other technologies around telephony have simply evolved faster and are providing new forms of value to enterprises.
Thinking about voice as data
With the advent of VoIP and packetized switching, voice has become a data application, creating utility that is not limited to the PBX. There is a fundamental need for IT decision-makers to broaden their view of voice beyond telephony. In 2020, this means a wider world of data applications and integrations with collaboration tools like Unified Communications, and contact centers with cloud-based call recording and voice call archiving.
Voice may remain strongly associated with telephony, but as a data stream, it is being used to voice-enable applications in new ways that are highly intuitive for today’s tech-savvy banking customers. Many text-based applications that customers have long used to engage with banks can now be done with voice interfaces. Not only is this often more convenient for some customers, but in COVID-19 times, hands-free, touchless communication is strongly preferred.
These trends are only going to continue, and raise implications for all businesses, especially those in regulated sectors like financial services. Not only will IT face challenges in adopting these new technologies, but there will be a multitude of compliance needs, such as how to archive communications coming from data streams. While systems may be in place to capture text-based communications, capturing data-driven voice in a compliant manner represents a less-familiar challenge.
Challenges, yes — but opportunities as well
As voice becomes integrated and embedded with more applications — especially as AI matures — the challenges will grow, both for IT and compliance. These could be viewed as major obstacles among tech adoption laggards, but banks cannot ignore how their customers are making more use of voice-based applications, especially as they become more mobile-centric.
By thinking of voice mainly in terms of telephony, its value to the organization becomes seriously undermined. Telephony isn’t going to disappear, and legacy voice call recording will continue to capture and retain that activity. This may meet basic compliance needs, but these tools are limited compared to today’s technologies, and they cannot capture all the other forms of voice that are flowing over digital communications channels.
In short, voice is becoming a critical channel of communication for customers, and banks will not be able to capture this data with legacy voice call recording technology. This has important implications on two fronts. First would be staying current on meeting the needs of your customers. More interactions are becoming voice-based, and if those data streams aren’t being captured, you’ll be working from a reduced base of information.
For large institutions, this represents a massive data set that can yield deep insights about customers, especially with AI-based tools that are built for scale and speed. The richness of voice for delivering these insights is not well-understood, but they can make all the difference for improving customer satisfaction, customer retention, and building long-term relationships. If your contact center isn’t re-tooling to support a voice-based digital customer experience, it’s time to re-think that.
The second front — compliance — is equally important. As voice grows in importance as a communications channel, banks are going to need the right technology for voice communication and voice call recording across all modes — fixed-line, mobile and Web-based. Being a data application, voice streams can now take many forms, and call recording regulatory compliance obligations cannot be met solely from archiving legacy telephony call records.
Implications for Financial Services
During pandemic times, these issues become even more pressing for both IT and compliance stakeholders. Remote working has been growing for years but has taken an order-of-magnitude leap in 2020, and is widely viewed as here to stay. With fewer customers coming into branches, voice has never been more important, as it’s the next-best communication channel when people cannot interact in person.
Aside from that, voice is poised to become the channel of choice as touchless experiences become the de facto standard for everyday interactions. Whether it’s for personal or business needs, banks should expect new ways to engage and communicate in this environment, and voice will have a major role to play. To deliver a great digital customer experience, contact centers must be able to capture data from all touchpoints, and many of them will be voice-driven. Aside from the voice conversations normally captured from phone calls, there will needs for AI-driven speech recognition for applications like sentiment analysis, speech-to-text, real-time transcription, etc.
These capabilities will not only capture and create new streams of data. With analytics and cloud-based horsepower to process all this in real time, banks will gain an unprecedented level of understanding about their customers. Not just about how their problems get solved by contact center agents, but richer insights about their behaviors, anxieties, attitudes, expectations, etc.
There is much to consider here for IT, but equally so for compliance stakeholders. Call recording compliance will extend beyond telephone interactions between agents and customers, into the realm of person-to-machine communications. This is already occurring with smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, or digital assistants such as Cortana for PCs, or Siri for iPhones. Conversational AI is emerging to provide more intelligent forms of self-service, where customers can use voice to engage with chatbots.
The evolution of voice for compliance
These are basic examples of how the world of voice is evolving, and all of it falls under the compliance umbrella, both for voice recording and archiving. IT will have a distinct set of challenges to deploy the right technologies across the organization, but compliance teams must then take those technologies and apply their expertise across new applications for voice.
While the underlying technologies may not be that relevant to compliance teams, the implication here is that the scope of coverage for being compliant with voice is now going beyond telephony. With AI coming along, it will soon go much further. This may pose new compliance challenges, but the bigger picture needs to be kept in mind — voice is more than telephony, and if managed properly will yield significant benefits, both to the organization and to your customers.
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