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Harnessing Big Data to Improve Customer Service

Contact centers are a wealth of customer information, but it can be overwhelming too. Learn how smart companies are using this data to give their customers better service.


Harnessing Big Data to Improve Customer Service
By Marty Tibbitts, CEO, CITADEL

At a recent industry conference, global payments processor Elavon demonstrated the power of Big Data in the contact center environment. Retaining high-value customers has always been a top priority for Elavon, who serves more than one million merchants in the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Puerto Rico. When warning signs of potential customer defections appeared, the company was determined to take proactive steps to identify dissatisfied merchants and find ways to help them. Elavon’s biggest challenge was figuring out a practical way to do this across their large customer base.

Elavon found the answer at its Knoxville contact center where 300 agents handle approximately 10,000 calls a day, all of which are recorded and transcribed. The company used speech analytics software to automatically analyze content in the recorded chain of calls. The application helped Elavon’s Business Review Unit determine words and phrases in their call transcripts that hinted a customer could be on the path to switching to a competitor.

“Of the 10,000 calls our Knoxville center receives each day, about 2,000 could be construed as being ‘at risk’ in some way,” explained Elavon’s Business Review Manager, Speech Analytics Roman Trebon, who led a team of four analysts that reviewed the data. By immediately reaching out to those at-risk merchants, Elavon estimated it saved nearly 600 accounts worth $1.7 million over a three-month period.

The implementation of speech analytics in Elavon’s Knoxville call center represents one of the best available use cases for Big Data analysis — the advanced process of examining large amounts of different data, or big data, in an effort to uncover hidden patterns. By harnessing big data into a more useful form, their contact center can become proactive rather than reactive in solving customer service problems and finding opportunities to encourage customer loyalty.

Recent customer relationship management trends indicate that over the next few years, more contact centers will begin looking at their business intelligence as a meaningful resource to help differentiate their brand in the marketplace.

A new generation of tools and technology are now available to extract that meaningful information from Big Data to help retain clients, reduce costs and improve the customer experience. In 2013, spending on business-intelligence software is expected to reach $13.8 billion, up seven percent from 2012, according to analyst firm Gartner, which projects spending will hit $17.1 billion by 2016.

The challenge for contact center managers will be keeping their focus on organizational alignment so that team members are well-versed on how to use big data to accomplish collective goals. Investment in data management tools, like Big Data systems, will enable center personnel to better understand how that information and technology will improve their customer service efforts. As a result, the contact center will ensure actionable business intelligence gets to the right person or department at the right time in order to make it usable.

Big Data Opportunities and Challenges

Have you ever wanted to know exactly how customers were using your product and whether they were likely to stay customers? The more you know about your customers over time, the better your chances will be in keeping them from going to a competitor. Big Data analysis technology is a springboard to solutions that support real-time metrics and leverage predictive analytics to simulate and forecast consumer behavior.

Predictive analysis is being used to generate vast amounts of data about customers’ buying habits, attitudes, preferences, and pet-peeves. In a practical way, figuring out how to make use of this data could mean all kinds of improvements to the customer support experience. Ultimately, the goal is to apply big data analytics methods that move beyond customer satisfaction to nurturing customer loyalty by more deeply understanding the customer’s total experience.

For example, through big data analysis a company might discover that a certain demographic of customers prefers shopping online instead of buying products at brick-and-mortar shops; and text messages over e-mails. As a result, a retailer might launch a text message marketing campaign to promote online products and e-commerce options to customers in that demographic to increase sales.

Additionally, knowledge derived from big data analytics technology has the potential to save costs, foster ideas for new and improved products, identify cross-sell/up-sell opportunities, and determine the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

With more companies leveraging consumer intelligence to stay competitive in the market, there is a danger that they will become mesmerized by Big Data, which could pose a potential risk. Any time an organization uses big data to amass customers’ private, sensitive information, there is the chance that it could be misused or used ineffectively. External auditors and risk professionals should play a key role in the big data process to address policies related to privacy, security, intellectual property, and even liability.

Making Sense of Big Data

It’s not just the quantity of data that can offer value, it’s also the speed with which all this data is generated, as well as how it is used. When it comes to describing big data, much of the technology industry commonly uses the “three Vs” model — volume, velocity and variety — to characterize different aspects of the data. 1) Volume: refers to the massive amount of data being collected. By some estimates we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day (a quintillion is 1 followed by 18 zeros) — so much that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been generated in the last two years; 2) Velocity: the frequency of data generation or frequency of data delivery that needs to be analyzed as it comes—all in real time; and 3) Variety: the different types of data such as structured and unstructured data (i.e., images, videos and text from contact center conversations).

Before starting a big data initiative, contact centers must first determine exactly what they want to achieve by collecting and analyzing data. Are they looking to retain customers? Do they want to predict future trends regarding consumer purchasing patterns? Are they looking to drive maximum sales of products and services? Each objective will influence how data is collected, organized and used. Determining a strategy will help contact centers establish a clear understanding of what data is actually valuable to them.

Data quality management is something that’s often overlooked when it comes to big data analysis. While accessing and analyzing large data sets may be important, it is even more critical that the information being evaluated is based on “quality” data. For example, it’s likely that call agents could enter data in inappropriate fields in a CRM system. Data that is not high quality, or riddled with errors and inconsistencies, diminishes the analysis process, and the value of the contact center’s mission, goals and objectives is jeopardized. When managed correctly, data quality minimizes risk.

Big data also requires big leadership. It takes high-level support and call center managers with deep analytical skills to make effective decisions. Contact centers need to employ the right people who know how to apply advanced analytical tools to generate predictive insights into customer activities as a direct result of the data.

Creating Value from Big Data

Big data provides an opportunity for business enterprises to find insight in new and emerging types of data that will make operations more responsive. Its usage opens up new avenues for productivity, growth and customer interaction. Here are five broad ways in which big data analytics can create value for a contact center:

First, by using big data analytics tools, contact centers can unlock significant value from usable information to greatly improve their customer support value. Companies with access to this level of intelligence obtain a greater understanding of customers through behavior and preference, which ultimately drives customer retention and brand loyalty.

Second, the valuable data that’s mined from contact center logs is of particular interest to chief marketing officers. By leveraging the massive amounts of data extracted from recorded customer transactions, marketing departments can tailor specific marketing campaigns and product offerings to drive additional revenue. Big data analytics gives marketers the capacity to identify, measure, and manage the factors that are positively impacting their brand.

Third, big data analysis can help contact centers achieve costs savings, especially through First Contact Resolution (FCR). Research has shown that solving customers’ problems on the first call is linked to lower costs, higher customer satisfaction and other benefits. Big data analytics enables contact centers to truly measure FCR patterns from all cross channels and data sources at any given moment.

Fourth, successful cross-selling and up-selling opportunities are available based on what customer intelligence you find through big data. The right data analysis technology can help a contact center minimize the level of resources required to identify new products or service upgrades that call agents can offer customers. You’ll likely need to involve call agents in the analysis process, which requires providing them with considerably more insight about which specific products customers are most interested in.

Fifth, identifying why customers are leaving is just one type of data that needs to be analyzed and managed. Data analytics helps contact centers understand the metrics that are impacting customer satisfaction and loyalty, and gives them the opportunity to make the changes necessary to keep customers coming back.

Contact Centers Make Slow, Steady Shift towards Big Data

The move to embrace big data solutions won’t happen overnight for many contact centers. For years, customer care organizations have struggled to recognize the benefits of transforming the structured and unstructured data they collected from billions of customer interactions each year.

Despite their long history of collecting raw consumer data, contact centers are making slow but steady progress toward moving beyond traditional KPI measurements — such as average talk time and average speed of answers — and implementing big data analytics to meet their customer service objectives.

The abundance of information gathered from recording calls between agents and customers, makes it the most valuable collection of custom intelligence. And yet, call recordings are a prime example of data sources that are often underexploited for business purposes. Although hundreds of millions of calls are recorded in contact centers throughout the year, some experts agree that a small percentage of these recordings are ever played back and listened by managers.

However, over the last year or so, a growing number of customer care executives are having a greater appreciation for how big data is being used to revolutionize the way contact centers process information. As a result, the spectrum of analytics tools that vendors are making available to contact centers has grown exponentially.

Currently, speech analytics software and technology from companies such as Avaya, CallMiner, Nexidia, NICE Systems, Utopy, and Verint Systems offer contact centers a variety of ways to automate the mining of customer transaction information from call recordings and transcripts and turn that content into usable business information.

Rather than just periodically listening to a call recording to make sure agents are sticking to the script, contact center supervisors can take further steps to leverage that unstructured data. Big data analysis enables managers to identify conversations where the customer says, “never again,” or “doesn’t work” or any such key words that signal their dissatisfaction. Strategic analysis of big data extracted from recordings will go far in improving customer retention policies.

Telephone call recordings are not the only valuable data source. Customer interactions can take place over a multiple of different channels, including email, instant messaging, computer screen recordings, and Web forms. The good news is that today there are huge growth opportunities in big data analysis, and it is proving to have a very attractive ROI for contact centers investing in the process.

Bottom Line

The era of Big Data is upon us and therefore shaping the future of contact centers. Although tried-and-true metrics such as calls waiting, abandoned calls, and expected wait time remain the backbone for center success, responding to patterns in the data analytics is providing new customer service opportunities for contact centers.

One thing that is certain in this new phenomenon of data-driven technology: it is pushing the bounds of systems used to judge customer sentiments and behaviors. Data analytics are doing a remarkable job of linking disparate data silos to patterns of customer behavior and trends that are predictive. Big Data is motivating leading contact centers to move away from pure cost reduction strategies and invest in analytic tools that effectively improve customer satisfaction and loyalty and provide real-time results.

Click here to go to the original SOCAP article.

Contact CITADEL to learn more about harnessing big data to improve customer service and how it can benefit your company.


Third Party Verification

For some industries, TPV is not only good business practice – it’s required.


Third party verification (TPV) is the process of getting an independent party to confirm that a customer is actually requesting a change or ordering a new service or product. Depending on the type of transaction, TPV may be required by law for some industries: telecom, energy, and credit card transactions. But for others, like direct marketers, it’s just a good business practice.

Third party verification services are an important resource for businesses processing a large amount of orders. By putting the customer on the phone (usually via transfer or 3-way call), a TPV provider asks a customer for his identity to determine that he is an authorized decision maker and to confirm his order.

There are a couple of ways to offer TPV. Live operator services place high-quality agents on the phone to interact with your customers, whereas IVR (interactive voice response) systems prompt users with touch-tone phones to interact with a database without speaking directly to a person.

For the business owner who has to decide which type of TPV service to provide, live operators do offer advantages. Operators who know the legal requirements can complete your third party verification, be available for customer with follow-up questions or transfer them back to members of your sales team for final processing. You can elect to have these operators support IVR verifications or elect to have them handle your entire call verification.

As regulation becomes more prevalent across many industries, proactive compliance will help you stay a step ahead. Use TPV to reduce complaints, increase customer satisfaction and protect your business’s credibility. Contact CITADEL to learn more about third-party verification and how it can benefit your company.


Social CRM

Your customers want to talk to you … are you listening?


Social Customer Care or Social CRM is driven by today’s consumers who are choosing where and when they want to contact you. If they have a problem, they will reach out to you on the channels they are most comfortable with: their phone, email or chat. In addition to the channels you may already provide, they are utilizing their own social networks to talk about your products and services. Are you ready to respond to them?

Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Customers. Are your customers social? What channels do they use to communicate with friends and family? They probably learned about you on these channels so they assume you’ll be there when they have a problem. If not, they will move on to your competitor or talk about your lack of response in their social circles.
  • Channels. You most likely have some customer care channels in place; what about email and chat? Are all of your channels connected so that everyone has the customer’s complete history? Customers are most happy when they do not have to explain their issue over and over again.
  • Culture. Finally, think about your internal audience. Are they social savvy? Does your company already communicate on these channels? Are employees empowered to do so? It’s hard to show your customers you understand social if you’re not already there yourself.

This visual from Chess Media Group accurately depicts the Social CRM process and necessary responses. No matter how automated technology can make the process, human interaction is still necessary. If you do not have enough resources, the challenge can be daunting. Consider hiring a multi-channel contact center to help with your social customer care initiatives. Well-trained agents can act on your behalf to intercept customer issues when they happen and address them according to your company standards.

Using outside resources to supplement your internal team is a smart strategy when it comes to servicing your customers. Face it – you can’t be there all the time, but a trusted partner’s team can. Contact CITADEL to learn more about social customer care options and how it can benefit your company.


Voice of the Customer

Are you using the most important market research tool of all?


Much has been written about the evolution of VoC or Voice of the Customer and with good reason. Businesses need feedback from their customers if they want to launch a successful product or improve their service. And monitoring customer conversations about your brand or company is no longer an option but a necessity. Customers are talking – whether or not you are listening. There are many technology companies that provide platforms to help you monitor these conversations and engage with your customers.

Your company may not need a full-blown VoC technology solution, but you still should be listening to your customers. How can you start? With a simple, time-tested approach to obtaining customer feedback: a survey or poll. A well-conducted survey can give your company the information it needs to go to the next level. Knowing your customers allows you to gain insight into their behavior and better anticipate their concerns.

But what if you do not have enough internal resources to develop, manage and execute a survey? The costs and logistics of undertaking a survey large enough to get the data you really need may be prohibitive. Think about outsourcing to a qualified contact center that can gather the feedback you need in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

Partnering with the right contact center can give your business the data it needs while keeping your budget intact. Contact CITADEL to discover how we can create a custom survey for your business.


Case Studies

Appointment Setting: Healthcare

CITADEL helped a continuing education client fill their classes with new and existing customers.


Client: Continuing Education Provider for Physical Therapists

Business Issue: Client needed to quickly fill perishable inventory of continuing education classes.

CITADEL Solution:
Lead qualification for client’s database of past students, combined with lead generation campaign for new student acquisition.

Client Results: Two classes were filled within one month timeframe and CITADEL doubled the number of leads in their database. Client has expanded relationship and is now utilizing CITADEL for lead generation in their healthcare staffing division.


Lead Generation: Insurance

CITADEL generated qualified leads and pumped up sales in the competitive insurance category for this client.


Client: Advertising aggregator for multi-platform (web, video, print) local media outlets.

Business Issue: With expansion into additional platforms, local outlets could not provide adequate customer service; the sales team was responsible for fielding inbound Tier 1/Tier 2 requests.

CITADEL Solution: Customer Care Concierge provided high-level of service to subscribers, allowing internal team to focus on content and sales.

Client Results: Using CITADEL allowed their sales team to focus on sales and expansions into new regional markets. CITADEL was a very cost effective alternative to hiring and training new staff members specifically to handle the inbound customer service requests.


Business Intelligence Reports

Customer Strategies for Direct Response

If you generate revenue through direct response, your customer strategies are highly focused in two areas: acquisition and retention. Read more to learn how a highly trained contact center can help you successfully execute these strategies.

Enter your email address to download BIR_Customer_Strategies_for_Direct_Response.pdf

Sales Cycle Compression

This report explores the true cost of acquiring qualified leads, which are vital to the growth of your business. Learn how to increase your sales team’s productivity by outsourcing their least productive tasks.

Enter your email address to download BIR_Sales_Cycle_Compression.pdf

Customer Satisfaction and BPO

Discover the impact of offshore outsourcing on the customer experience … and why more companies are reshoring their call center business. Download this report to learn how to estimate the true cost of offshoring on your bottom line.

Enter your email address to download BIR_BPO_and_Customer_Satisfaction.pdf

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