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Talk vs. Text: The Real Voice

By Beth Baldys

Mon Sep 16 2019

Why does sound of voice matter?

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Voice of the customer” is a self-explanatory expression: customers talk, we listen. Right?

In an ever-evolving digital age, our definitions of “talk” have changed right along with our means of communication. We “listen” to text mined from social media channels, we analyze “conversations” between caregivers on online health forums. Linguist John McWhorter even coined a phrase for this new kind of text-based communication, describing us as “talking with our fingers.”

When it comes to insight gathering, what does it matter if our data are text-based, rather than verbal or acoustic speech?

As it turns out, quite a bit.

While digital media are fascinating areas for study, we can’t expect to use the same tools when working with voice. Understanding real talk — even after human voices have been transcribed — requires a totally different lens than when analyzing the written word.

For example, when we simply look at content (i.e., focus on the words) we can miss nuanced patterns that act to signal how speakers feel about their experiences and issues. For example, the sound of someone’s voice can give us clues as to how strongly and passionately they agree or disagree.

Sarcasm can be completely missed without auditory signals taken into account. Positive sentiment can be communicated in words, but hearing the strain of choking back tears helps us understand at a new level.

If we only focus on analyzing text, we flatten the signal, and meaning is lost. Humans naturally draw on a broad range of linguistic tools to communicate.Our tone, our pauses, our pace of speech, and more. By removing those elements, we weaken the signals that we can use to truly understand their beliefs, attitudes, and intended meaning.

That’s why inVibe’s team of analysts and sociolinguists listen — really listen — to every response, to every question. That’s why we’ve created tools for qualitative tagging, and why we are able to employ our speech-emotion recognition algorithms.

Voice research is a growing science — with companies like Amazon working to understand the so-called “vocal biomarkers” that may signal not just emotions but mental health conditions. At inVibe, we are excited to be developing real “voice of the customer” solutions to help you understand your key stakeholders even more clearly.

Contact us to learn more.

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