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Finding value in words

Sun 1 May 2011
FYI, this story is more than a year old

If you don’t yet have social media analytics tools in your contact centre, you will have by 2014. That’s the covert recommendation from global analyst Gartner – a prediction that organisations currently tossing up which technologies to factor into their strategic planning process this year would be wise to take to heart.Providing multi-channel support is not an option for enterprises; it’s a strategic imperative if they are to avoid being at a competitive disadvantage, says Donna Fluss, Founder of DMG Consulting, in her April 2011 report ‘Best Practices for Transforming to a Multi-Channel Contact Center’.The report states that phone and email support alone just don’t cut it in the customer satisfaction stakes anymore. Smartphones and the availability of the internet have meant consumers are immersed in multiple methods of communications, but most sales and service organisations have no way of meeting these customers in their channels of choice.A brand is defined by its customer service experience, but the contact centres on the front line of service delivery are stuck between a rock and a hard place at the moment, says Gartner’s CRM Research Director Jim Davies, "On one hand they’re under intense pressure to cut operational costs, but on the other they’re responsible for delivering a positive customer experience and for driving customer satisfaction and loyalty.”With marketing departments acutely aware of the value of those customer conversations taking place in online chat forums and other social networking platforms, there’s a growing pressure for contact centres to be the eyes and ears of the business, responsible for mediating and filtering that noise into meaningful, actionable intelligence for the benefit of future business strategy. Technology innovation, or more specifically social media analytics and real-time voice recognition, is the underpinning solution for making that a practical reality.Interactive Intelligence, a global provider of unified business communications solutions for contact centre automation, enterprise IP telephony and business automation, developed an application called ‘Buzzient’ that enables its customers to capture any mention of them or their products and services on the social web, including sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and forums.Mentions of key words or phrases, pre-determined by the business rules created, would then automatically route back via email to the most appropriate agent or user in much the same way as email, chat, fax or phone calls. A similar strategy is under development with voice calls, as the capabilities of real-time speech analytics are trialled. It is part of a 12-month project by Interactive Intelligence to deliver out-of-the-box contact centre solutions and nationality sampling has already taken place."Algorithms are written to detect speech,” says Interactive Intelligence Country Manager, ANZ and Pacific, Brendan Maree. "We’re currently achieving 89% accuracy on a product that was originally written to be a "word spotting” tool.”"To accurately know why customers are calling, and how this is changing over time, is an important consideration. In an ideal world this would be captured by the CRM system, but agents are rarely motivated to accurately log enquiries by type and quite often multiple topics are discussed in one call. This would not all be captured in the CRM system,” says Davies.Instead, techniques such as social filtering, social-network analysis, sentiment analysis and social-media analytics will soon be leaned upon to measure, analyse and interpret the results of interactions among people and associations. With multi-channel communication emerges a whole other level of complexity in the organisation’s quest to manage reputation, expectation and problem resolution. Social network analysis involves collecting data from multiple sources, identifying relationships, and evaluating the impact, quality or effectiveness of a relationship. Real-time voice recognition operates in much the same way.Reminiscent of the logic behind Search Engine Optimised web copy, contact centre conversations will become inadvertently littered with buzzwords and phrases that prompt respective actions, be they automated, or instigated manually by the contact centre agent. In the voice channel, cognitive load analytics will automate voice tone monitoring and word choice of the customer and allow a supervisor to enter the call as required, should a situation arise that needs mediating, particularly if profanities occur.A common use of call speech analytics is to benchmark key performance indicators (KPIs), such as first call resolution, customer satisfaction, sales conversion and agent productivity. By correlating these KPIs with speech metrics found within each call, they could be used to drive agent performance management and optimisation.While servicing the root cause of why customers are calling in and capturing their expectations, experience and intentions, agents can then take proactive actions to address their concerns. Words can later be pinpointed to enable a human to listen to the surrounding context in which it’s spoken."The ability of the supervisor to pick a call to evaluate an agent’s performance on, knowing it was linked to a complaint or a product line, can really help fine tune that quality management process,” says Davies. "Most contact centres today rely on a random approach to call selection and supervisors waste large amounts of time searching for a suitable call to evaluate. The automatic identification of a training need, which would otherwise go unseen, would impact that agent’s future performance.”Contact Centres can be seen as a profit centre, not just because they resolve customer problems, but because your customers bring those problems to you in the first place, says Simon Young of New Zealand-based social media consultancy iJump."Where does innovation come from? Problems. The contact centre of the future can become a learning, vibrant, creative hub of the business, with the right technology and the right people in place,” says Young."Enterprises shouldn’t care how the customer interacted, they should just take care of what information they can mine,” says Fluss. "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."The future of the contact centre is that ultimately they will turn into predictive analytics engines. The three primary feeds of multi-channel 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."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.”The etiquette of social media engagement by companies and brands is still in its infancy, as consumers weigh up just how content they are with brands encroaching on their ‘offline’ interactions, whether that’s keywords identified in their Facebook status updates, Twitter posts, or comments posted on the ‘wall’ of a Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace friend."A fool with a tool is still a fool,” warns Richard Snow, Vice President and Research Director at Ventana Research. "Systems alone cannot make the difference. In my experience people in contact centres have been obsessed with technology, almost as if they hope it can make up for bad processes and inept agents."Without strong leadership and a commitment to understanding and optimising the customer experience across multi-channel interactions, contact centres will not be able to keep up with the demands of customers or cope with them airing their feelings and issues rapidly across the internet, influencing other current and would-be customers. Those organisations that invest in modern contact centre technology are most likely to improve both the efficiency and the effectiveness of their overall operations and business performance,” says Snow.

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