From the January 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

If you've got a high-volume call center, you're probably not combing through each recorded call every night. It's understandable, yet it's a shame--because that call-center data could be crucial.

Many companies are picking up on that fact. Technology like emotion detection and word spotting helps businesses cull information not just from what customers say, but also how they say it.

NICE Systems Ltd., for one, offers NICE Perform, which includes emotion-detection and word-spotting features trained to pick up on variations in tone of voice as well as key words, such as cancel, happy and even a competitor's name. Says NICE's Virginia Flood, "NICE Perform enables us to identify patterns of behavior--what a customer intends to do, what their next step might be."

Knowlagent takes things a step further with what co-founder and co-chair Matt McConnell calls "sensing"--identifying what an agent says and does in the course of a call. Knowlagent's Coach software will track, in real time, how long it took an agent to upsell a product, or even how many times an agent has put a customer on hold.

The key to making these solutions work in your business is giving the data the attention it deserves. "Understanding the underlying causes of performance trends is critical to determining how to improve quality, lower costs, generate revenue and increase customer satisfaction," says Mariann McDonagh, vice president of global marketing for Verint Systems in Melville, New York. Verint's Ultra suite delivers information about customer interactions to key people.

No matter what solution you choose, keep agents informed. Kimberly King, president of InterWeave Corp. in Tampa, Florida, a performance management consulting firm serving the call-center industry, says, "This system should not be perceived as a 'caught you doing something wrong' system. Educate everyone before installation so you can set them up for success."

Above all, keep on top of this technology. Says King, "Make sure it evolves as your business does to ensure you the greatest return on investment."

Kareren E. Spaeder is a freelance writer in Southern California specializing in small business and education.