Does the social media contact centre hold the future for analytics?

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DMG Consulting's Donna Fluss explains how social media, analytics convergence and the contact centre hold the clues to a major future trend.  

If the increasing popularity of speech analytics technology has helped drive a reappraisal about the value that contact centres can deliver to the whole enterprise, then the latest generation of analytics tools could revolutionise the contact centre entirely.

Historically viewed as a ‘cost centre’ within the organisation, or a way to strip people, processes and costs from branches, recent years have seen organisations steadily acknowledge the potential of contact centres as profit centres.
As part of this, there has been increasing investment in speech analytics technology, as enterprises have sought to structure unstructured call data to deliver greater customer insight. Speech analytics implementations grew by 39% during the recession while other IT sectors saw growth slow or drop, and while challenges still exist in terms of making the findings more actionable, it is still forecast to grow 40% in 2011 and 32% in 2012 according to DMG Consulting.
However, it is the latest development that captures the imagination. With more discussion and interaction happening via the social web, through blogs, social networks and web chat, the need to extract relevant and timely information and sentiment from the vast body of social media communications is driving the need for text analytics. With this rapidly capturing the attention of enterprises and contact centres, a number of speech analytics vendors have introduced text analytics capability into their solutions with a view to combining the two, including Verint, NICE Systems and CallMinder, while numerous other vendors are reportedly also considering the move.
While text analytics has long been utilised in the publishing, research and scientific communities to structure and extract meaning from both long and short form communication, social media is the "killer app" for text analytics according to Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting, promising insights into what customers are writing about the business or to the business through channels such as chat systems, where all the content would historically have perhaps been collected but then tossed. And it is the growing interest in social media that will be the catalyst for the coming analytics convergence.  
Holistic view of the customer
"Speech analytics provides insights into what customers say to you when they call, and text analytics provides insights into what customers write – whether by chat, email or social media," explains Fluss. "Organisations want a holistic view of what is happening with their customers, bringing this together to look at the different pieces, and the reason they need to do this is because customers aren’t consistent in the channels they use. People interact in the channel of their choice, when it is convenient. So to have a holistic view, you want to have both analytical capabilities going at once."
DMG is forecasting robust growth for text analytics in the immediate future, projecting a CAGR of 26% through 2013 as business users become more aware of the benefits of text analytics. However, Fluss admits that businesses will have to become more sophisticated users of social media before text analytics really hits its stride.
"Social media is the killer app for text analytics, so when we start to see organisations figure out how to use social media as one of their primary communications channels, or one of the channels used in contact centres, then we’ll need the analytics to understand what is going on, in the same way that speech analytics is being put into contact centres," she explains.
"Right now the next step is for organisations to understand the power and benefits of social media.Where it is being used today is really for risk avoidance, it is to see what is being written about an organisation so that they can take early action if it is bad news. But organisations have to figure out that they can also use it to generate revenue and reduce cost. As it relates to the contact centre, we want to cost-effectively provide an outstanding customer experience so that we can go beyond customer loyalty and expand profitable relationships.
"On top of service, organisations are also trying to create revenue and once we get the fundamentals done we can start building on it. And how do we build on it? By bringing in things like speech or text analytics which give us insight into what our customers have on their minds - but only if we’re using the channels properly. We’re using recording properly – we have a lot of experience. Social media, however, is not there yet from a maturity perspective. We’re probably three years away from social media really being taken seriously and for organisations to have some idea what to do with them within contact centres."
Multichannel analytics
For true holistic view of the customer, however, multichannel analytics won’t stop there. While the convergence of speech and text analytics is still some way off, there is a further source that will ultimately be brought into the fold.
"Multichannel analytics falls into many categories but the two primary feeds of course will be what customers write or speak about the business,” continues Fluss. "But there is also analytics that we need to get out of the self-service applications, both spoken (IVR) and web self-service."
And by the time this is achieved, contact centres could well be a very different beast from those of today. "The future of the contact centre is that ultimately they will turn into predictive analytics engines," forecasts Fluss. "The three primary feeds of multichannel analytics will be fed into predictive analytics and then that information will be used in a variety of different ways to provide agents with the information they need to do the job they need to do. So there are a lot of pieces to this concept. But ultimately it will happen."
At present, this analytics convergence is strictly conceptual – "I do know a couple of organisations doing this, but even then it is still more conceptual than institutionalised," adds Fluss. There are plenty of challenges to overcome on the way, not least the change management best practices that need to be applied so that organisations can apply what they have learned from the analytics on a timely basis – something that firms are wrestling with presently with speech analytics.
However, it is a realistic long-term goal for organisations and their contact centres - a department that was previously overlooked as a provider of value and insight - and a natural evolution for analytics.
"Enterprises shouldn’t care how the customer interacted, they should just take care of what information they can mine," concludes Fluss. "The days of caring about speech and text analytics should ultimately fade into the background and we should just have customer analytics solutions, which means analysing and gleaning insights from all the different ways that customers interact with us."

About Neil Davey

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Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.

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