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Predicting future behaviour

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27th Jul 2009
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Many firms use automated data to try to get to know their customer but still end up being estranged from them due to disconnected processes. Chris Ford believes interaction analytics can be used to reconcile this and predict future behaviour. 

A common frustration when interacting with companies as a customer is being asked for information you would expect the company to already know, especially when your discussions happen on a regular basis. Being bounced around a contact centre or between websites without actually getting to someone who can answer your query has become the most frustrating experience in the 21st century.

Given an alternative, and with so much information now available via the internet, customers will find a supplier who really cares about them and is prepared to spend the effort to treat them as a market of one. Consider how often you have contacted a company via phone or a website to be presented with an automated service which collects your contact details and asks you to broadly define your reason for making contact in the first place? How often do you feel this information has been used to enhance your future experience with that company going forward?

Disconnected processes

Virtually all companies now use automated data collection services at the beginning of interactions in an effort to engage a greater breath of customers, speed up the interaction and reduce their own costs, where possible allowing the contacting party to self serve without the need for any human intervention. What is still, however, the all too often resulting experience is one where the contacting party provides their end of the engagement, fully identifying themselves and their reason for contact, only to be let down by a completely disconnected process. This can lead to immense customer frustration and falls someway short of the optimum service.

If you leave your contact information on a website you will often be bombarded with information that is irrelevant, untimely and unwanted. In the contact centre scenario, when you finally get to speak with a real human being, it is still far too common to be asked for your contact information after you have just spent five minutes completing an automated service. Although technology has developed significantly over the past five years, the experience most people still encounter is one that shows little if any joined up services and, even more irritating, little if any knowledge of who you are and why you may be making contact.

People communicate using a raft of different channels, 24 hours a day 365 days a year, on an international basis. There is a growing expectation from consumers that companies should know who you are, what you have done previously across channels and why you could be making contact on this occasion - and it’s the companies that perfect this “market of one” view that will retain clients and encourage new clients to migrate.

Collecting together what is known of the contacting party, alongside what is being asked at the point of contact, streamlines the whole engagement process, allowing the right resource to be applied at the right time. Being able to combine contact knowledge from web, SMS, email, IVR and agent driven interactions into a single view of the contacting party is now a prerequisite of establishing a new set of supplier to customer relationships, answering the challenge of serving your customer, clients and prospects as individuals.

Add to this largely inbound paradigm, the requirement to proactively outbound communicate with timely, relevant and personalised information, and you can see that there is a huge opportunity to create a rounded communications proposition that in challenging economic times could just be the difference between surviving and thriving as a business versus the all too familiar decline. Organisations that value their clients as their greatest business asset and are prepared to make investments in maximising every single interaction are the businesses that will become market leaders in their fields of expertise.

Loyalty and advocacy

What creates loyalty and advocacy and spurns additional opportunity is treating every contact as a chance to maximise the relationship the business has with that individual. If every time someone contacts you, via any communication channel, you are able to combine knowledge from previous interactions with a good understanding of the demographic the customer fits into - or, better still, insightful information on the individual themselves - imagine the quality of experience your organisation can provide.

By analysing interactions across multiple channels and combining the data with a level of meaning, firms can make huge improvements in their ability to retain customers and serve them more efficiently, without needing to spend ridiculous amounts on new systems and technology. Once companies have started to extract value from this analytical approach to engagement knowledge you can apply further focus on plotting what customers are most likely to do next based on what they are looking at on a website, how they have engaged previously or what they have requested.

Being able to predict future behaviour and apply appropriate treatments at the right time is an area that is set to explode over the coming months. There is a lengthy journey for most businesses to take with the transition from answering enquiries in a timely fashion to answering enquiries with knowledge and intellect forged from combining contact history, client demographic and preference data.

Chris Ford is business development director at Grass Roots

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