CUSTOMERS using DBS Bank's call centre are a much happier bunch this year, and it is all thanks to the use of cutting-edge new voice technology.

Compliments are up 45 per cent year on year, and complaints are down 17 per cent.

The technology, speech analytics, picks out key phrases used by customers to DBS operators, allowing the bank to find out more about their needs and problems.

For instance, the bank has learnt that customers tend to call in to "cancel credit cards" when they are told they have to pay an "annual fee".

The bank deduced this after the technology detected the frequent use of both phrases in the same call.

The technology's uses include identifying key phrases used in phone conversations and grouping them according to how often they are used together.

This allows the bank to see patterns in customers' concerns and needs.

"We would never know that by sending out a (request for payment of) membership fee, it is creating calls to come in, and customers start to evaluate about whether they should keep a card," said Ms Lena Low, head of the DBS Customer Centre.

"It may not necessarily mean that we do not send out any more (requests for payment of) membership fees, but it means that we need to actively engage our customers prior to the fee being levied, to engage them to use our card more often so they automatically qualify for a waiver."

DBS implemented speech analytics technology in January, and has already received more compliments and fewer complaints, compared to the same time last year.

"We are... able to equip our customer service officers with skills and knowledge that help them provide better and more personalised service," said Ms Low, whose officers handle more than five million calls a year.

That massive number of calls makes up 40 per cent of all calls received by DBS on its phone lines.

The rest are resolved by the electronic system without the need for human involvement.

Besides higher customer satisfaction, DBS has seen improved operational efficiency. The time taken to meet each customer's requests has dropped by 5 per cent since the system was adopted, or by 16 seconds per call.

This saves DBS about 107,000 staff hours every year, which it can re-deploy to training and providing more value-added services for customers, said Ms Low.

Speech analytics helps to raise efficiency by performing analysis on calls which take very long, thus shedding light on the root cause. Officers can then be trained in the appropriate aspect.

The speech analytics technology is provided by Nasdaq-listed NICE Systems, and can recognise various languages and even English spoken with a Singaporean accent.