UK financial services provider Standard Life is moving forward in the customer service stakes through the use of a natural language voice recognition system for its life and pensions business, provided by speech specialist VeCommerce Ltd.

Voice recognition is a replacement for menu-based IVR systems, which have a reputation for being inflexible and alienating customers, and based on the Standard Life experience, appears to have matured to become a viable and more user friendly alternative in a call center environment.

In the Standard Life example, customers calling into the company are greeted with an automated but human voice asking how she can help and customers are able to respond by speaking normal sentences such as ‘I have a question about my pension’. The intention is to create an automated but intuitive system that mirrors the type of interaction a caller would have with an agent in order to maintain customer satisfaction while simultaneously driving down costs through self service.

A key component in the VeCommerce system is the VeConnect software which interprets the request, based on context and syntax rather than just key words, and determines the most appropriate destination or specific agent for the call. In addition VeSecure has also been deployed, which automates customer identification and verification over the phone prior to transferring the call to an agent, as well as VeQuery which allows customers to get the latest information on their policy values without having to speak to an agent.

Our solution essentially helps customers in three distinct ways, said Tom Risbrook, VeCommerce sales and marketing director, Firstly, it ascertains what the call is about and, where necessary, takes the customer through the security checks quickly and efficiently in order to fully authenticate the customer. Depending on the issue, the system can then answer the query or transfer the caller to a customer service representative. Critically, it transfers the call to the right department. What’s more, the details the customer has already given appear on the screen… so the customer does not have to go through the frustration of having to repeat their answer.

Following the implementation Standard Life has increased its call handling capacity by 25% and seen a 66% reduction in misrouted calls due to better first-time routing to the right advisor, resulting in higher levels of first-call resolution.

NLVR could really start to come into its own in the area of fraud prevention, once speaker verification is deployed. Verification identifies the unique characteristics of an individual voice. Once stored in a voice print file on a secure server it can be used to authenticate an individual, doing away with the need for PINs and passwords.