ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) allows us to interact with devices, such as smartphones and smart home assistants, using our voice. In call centers, ASR helps customers interact with automated systems and self-service menus without the need of a human operator.

This technology is useful for call centers because it can reduce wait times, improve your agents’ efficiency, and keep customers happy by giving them faster support.

It’s worth mentioning that ASR can also stand for answer-seizure ratio, a call center metric that call centers use to gauge the percentage of calls answered by agents in a specific amount of time.

For the purpose of this article, however, we’ll be talking about automatic speech recognition. We’ll discuss how it works, how to use it in your call center, and how to meet any challenges that come along with using it.

How Automatic Speech Recognition Works (In Detail)

To understand what a caller is saying, ASR breaks down human speech into small units and matches them to a database. This process, called acoustic modeling, uses algorithms, statistical models, and machine learning to match and decode sound patterns.

ASR software is trained to recognize different speech patterns, accents, and dialects. There are two main ways this is done:

  1. A traditional, hybrid method that combines many language models. These include a lexicon of words and their pronunciations, patterns of speech, and language statistics. This method works, but it has some downfalls, such as lower accuracy and a need for humans to train the models manually.
  2. An end-to-end deep learning method. This method doesn’t usually need an acoustic or language model, but adding them helps it be more accurate. This method requires less human intervention and tends to yield better results.

ASR is used in a variety of applications, like voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, dictation software, voice search, and call centers.

Common Call Center ASR Applications

Automatic speech recognition can be an invaluable addition to most call centers. Here are some of the most common ways you’ll see it being used.

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) Systems

IVR allows customers to interact with a computerized system using their voice. If you call your bank or phone provider and get a robot on the other end of the line, IVR and ASR conduct a natural conversation and perform simple tasks like account inquiries, bill payments, and more.

Call Transcriptions

Call transcripts are helpful for call centers that want to maintain a database of conversations without human aid. They help you build a bank of scripts you can refer to for better performance analysis and decision-making in the future. Transcripts can also help you:

  • Identify frequently asked questions
  • Analyze customer sentiment
  • Stay compliant with different regulations

ACD (Automatic Call Distribution)

ACD and routing software can use transcription and speech-to-text to classify calls or redirect them to the most appropriate agent based on skill level or other factors. This saves time, builds customer satisfaction, and makes your team more effective in the long run.

Note Taking

Taking notes during sales meetings, calls, or even after customer interactions can be time-consuming. ASR software can help automate the process in each call. Without having to focus on taking notes, your agents can put their energy into building relationships with callers.

Unexpected Ways Call Centers Can Leverage ASR

There’s more to ASR call center applications than what’s mentioned above. Here are some of the more cutting-edge use cases.

Process Optimization

ASR systems help you capture and manage call transcripts so you can identify potential process bottlenecks and issues and find better solutions over time. This improves the overall efficiency of your entire call center program.

Quality Verification

You can use ASR to better monitor call center quality and how your agents manage various challenging situations. You may not be able to check thousands of calls daily, but ASR can help you spot patterns that need improvement. It’s also a good tool for identifying discussion patterns you’d like to implement at scale across the whole company.

Call Moderation

You can use ASR to moderate calls and check if your agents are actually sticking to their script. You’re also able to set up systems that notify you if certain words are used repeatedly. This can be a valuable way to train your team as well as create consistent interactions with customers.

Identifying Frequently Asked Questions

Want to create a knowledge base that’s actually useful? ASR can help you spot repeated questions or words in your database so it’s easier to focus your efforts and draft materials that your team will find helpful.


You’re free to integrate your ASR with other tools and systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, productivity and planning tools, analytics platforms, and more. It’s also relatively simple to set up the technology and create custom solutions, serve your customers more effectively, and help your agents grow.

Automated Agent Assistance

Agent assistance is often required during training and beyond. Instead of having a senior look over your new agents’ backs, you can implement an ASR feature and manage agent assistance in an automated way.

Biometrics & Security

You can also use ASR as a biometric security measure for logins. For instance, you can use voice recognition for logins to ensure that only authorized personnel can access your call center systems. This helps you maintain compliance with data privacy, security, and other regulations.

Potential ASR Challenges in a Call Center Environment

Although ASR is valuable in a wide variety of situations, it does come with its fair share of challenges. Here are some of the most common ones you might encounter.

Accents, Speech Nuances, and Non-Standard Patterns

ASRs are fed with a variety of speech sounds when building their database. However, they cannot predict all possible ways of pronouncing a word. As such, the system may not be able to understand all accents and small nuances in pronunciation, which can quickly become frustrating for the caller.

Noise and Interruptions

If your callers are interrupted or calling from very noisy environments, your ASR could struggle to understand what they’re saying. This means your caller might have to repeat themselves, which again, can easily become super frustrating.

False Insights

False positives and false negatives are terms that describe times when your systems mistakenly hear something that wasn’t actually said. They can lead to incorrect data collection or even wrong decisions that affect your entire operation.

Critical KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to Keep an Eye On

To make sure your ASR system is set up correctly and will make your call center as efficient as possible, follow these call center KPIs:

  • Transfer Rate: If there’s a high rate of calls being transferred from one agent to another, that means the system likely incorrectly routed the call in the first place.
  • Average Abandonment Rate: If your customers are disconnecting before even speaking to a rep, that means they became frustrated enough trying to navigate the system that they hung up without getting help. Their frustration could be due to the ASR not understanding their query.
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): There’s a lot of reasons your CSAT score could be low. One of those reasons could be a poorly set up ASR system. If your scores are low, it’s worth looking into whether there’s a deeper issue with your system.

How to Start Using ASR in Your Call Center

Attempting to train your own ASR is going to require extensive resources and infrastructure. Our advice? Don’t attempt it.

The easiest way to start using ASR is to use call center software that has trained models and helpful features you can tap into. This way, you’re not starting from scratch, and you have a suite of tools at your fingertips to uplevel your call center operations.

Our favorite call center software is Nextiva, which offers a ton of helpful features like:

  • Interactive voice response
  • Call recording
  • Automatic call distribution
  • Call routing
  • VoIP phone numbers

Nextiva also makes it easy to track and measure your call center’s efficiency with its advanced dashboards and reporting capabilities.