Interaction analytics: A “blood test” for your business?

29th Apr 2014

The contact centre hasn't traditionally had a good rep – with businesses or with customers. For companies, it has often served as little more than a cost centre; for customers it presents a merry-go-round of call transfers and an insufferable amount of time spent listening to some pretty dire hold music.

However, the contact centre is changing its ways. As businesses begin to shift their focus from transactional metrics to customer satisfaction, the appetite for interaction analytics is growing and these cost centres are slowly starting their transformation into value centres.

This is made possible, in the most part, by interaction analytics. Combining the capabilities of both speech and text analytics, these systems bring data from multiple channels – email, webchat and phone, for example – together to enable contact centres to develop a single view of not only the customer, but also their own business processes.      

From cost centre to value centre    

Jonathan Wax, vice president EMEA at interaction analytics provider Nexidia, has been working with interaction analytics for nigh-on a decade, and is well versed in the ways this technology can transform the contact centre – right from the ground up. “I think [interaction analytics] forces people to start asking basic questions of their contact centres,” he says – it’s surprising to hear that many managers aren’t on top of their statistics. “The starting point is to make people understand what their call volumes are. Theoretically, the planning team should know that, but it’s amazing how many people don’t. It really makes people question the base level.”

Having encouraged leaders to get to grips with this critical information, interaction analytics then combines data collected through a broad spectrum of channels – phone, email and web chat, for example – to create a single repository. “From there, we can create metrics based on anything that’s happening in those points of contact,” explains Jonathan. These metrics could be behaviours, products, processes, sentiment – anything contained within the conversations. “With that base metric, then you can start coming up with meaningful quantification of it. So, for instance, it can now tell you how often that particular occurrence happens, and can then be taken down to agent level, or site level, so if the oragnisation is multi-site you can compare how site A is doing in relation to site B.”

Jonathan realises that, on the face of it, this may not be seen as ground-breaking stuff. “I think many people would say they’re doing this currently and it’s not new, but most organisations don’t do it as well as they want. Every so often you might come across an organisation which has done a good bit of analysis, but even then it’s not something they run on a daily basis – it’s just spot tests every few months.”

He continues: “This is why interaction analytics are, I think, massively transformative – it’s the best way of measuring what you’ve got. It used to be that you had to get people putting headsets on and listening to calls for two weeks, three weeks, and that doesn’t really work.” Even then, only one channel can be dealt with at a time. Get all the right data from all the right channels together, however, and its value starts to rise dramatically.

“Once you’ve got that data, you can use it to remove inconsistencies which can either be causes of inefficiency and therefore cost, or else they are linked to ineffectiveness, which could affect revenue, cross sell, upsell etc. So interaction analytics really can take cost out of the business and increase revenue, depending on what the business model is.”

Far from being a cost centre then, the contact centre is actually an untapped monetary mine – for the entire businesses. Jonathan explains how the data it collects can benefit many different departments. “People are beginning to export contact centre data into other systems, he says. “The classic example would be using it as a data input into their business intelligence systems for predictive modelling. A lot of companies have churn models; based on certain characteristics of a customer, they know whether they have a propensity to churn. What they’re then able to do is – based on these characteristics plus all of the contacts that the customer has had with the organisation – create a far more accurate churn model.

“Interaction analytics then allows you to use all of your contact data as a data point for predictive modelling. And I think that really is very new – most contact centre people probably aren’t aware that their company has got data models, but most big organisations do.”

In this way, the contact centre has a real bearing on other departments and can act as a reflection of the business as a whole. “The contact centre is like the heart and lungs of the body, pumping blood through the business day in, day out,” Jonathan says. “If you’re unwell, the doctor will probably do a blood test, which is exactly what call centre analysis is like. So contact centres can absolutely become a source of value to the rest of the organisation as they can give it data that it’s completely unaware of, and give it in a really timely manner.”

Extracting data from the contact centre allows you to identify and prevent ‘illnesses’ within the business before the situation becomes critical, then. Understand this, and your contact centre really begins to earn its keep.

Beyond the quantitative

Such insights are possible as interaction analytics systems have the ability measure things besides just traditional metrics. This technology can transform unstructured, qualitative data into practical, actionable information – something of increasing importance in this changing economy. “People are trying to move away from transactional metrics to ones that are more meaningful – both from a customer point of and also from a cost point of view. For example, it’s become apparent that if you drive handle time down then your repeat call rate goes up – it’s a false economy. Instead, people are starting to really understand the complexities of interactions and work that way. What interaction analytics can do is give you the data you need to make the changes.”

That last point is an important one to consider. Interaction analytics is not like a new piece of kit or software that you simply have to wire in and let it do its thing. It can transform your call centre, yes, but only if you work in partnership with it and use the data wisely.

“Call centres have always bought ‘technology’,” explains Jonathan. “If you look at all of the major changes that we’ve made to improve operational performance of contact centres traditionally, it’s all been real technology –  automatic call distributors (ACDs), computer telephony integration systems (CTIs), interactive voice response (IVR) etc. The challenge with analytics is that it’s actually a business process; it’s something you do rather than a piece of technology.

“That does cause some challenges, as you can’t guarantee a specific improvement – it all depends on how well it is managed. It also means contact centres will have to start doing things differently; it’s a technical project and it has to be integrated, so you have to work with IT. It’s a disruptive system; while others are evolutionary technologies, analytics is a disruptive one as it makes you question how you do stuff.”

This is where it gets particularly useful to speak to an expert like Jonathan. When it comes to interaction analytics implementations, he’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

He shares his advice: “The first thing you need is focus. That is, you need to start on a focused, narrowly defined issue – we use the term ‘narrow and deep’. When people understand what the analytics to do, everyone has questions to ask of it. Some of those questions fall into the ‘just interesting’ category while others are business critical and really transformative. An organisation needs to recognise that, and start somewhere that has impact for the business.

“Secondly, you then need to create a governance structure, and prioritise requests by how much business value they’ll deliver to the company. That’s critical – I can look at projects where we’ve come up with a whole lot of recommendations, but if the customer doesn’t act on them, there’s no business benefit.

“Thirdly, tied into that, is that you do need to keep reviewing activity. Because it’s not a technology but a business process, it needs to be treated like any other business process and be monitored and reviewed.

“Then lastly, you need to be cognisant of the skills that you need. The initial deployment and projects are always the most important; everyone is looking for a miracle, so if it doesn’t work everyone thinks analytics doesn’t work. So it’s critical that the company you’re partnering with can support you through that process.”

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