SOCAP International

Use Mining Data to Improve Your Long-Term Value

Straightforward changes in three areas can have a big impact on the true value of contact centers.

Let’s face it, our industry is rapidly changing, and we must change with it. Technology advances have changed how we operate and how we interact with customers. Customer expectations continue to increase, and internal performance demands and cost pressures are all forcing us to find ways to provide more value, particularly with our outsourced centers.

Historically, we have not spent much time selling the value of our centers. For the C-suite and other departments in our organizations to value what we do, we have to move beyond discussions of the cost savings realized from outsourcing and the perception that customer contacts are a necessary evil, and literally advertise internally the value of each of those contacts and the business intelligence we can provide. This requires that we be the experts in customer experience and share the vast amount of valuable information that flows through our centers every day with others in our company. There are various touch points at which our customers interact with our companies. These include our websites, mobile applications, social media, dispatched technicians and stores.

However, few, if any, of these channels have the breadth and depth of contacts that provide the opportunities offered by the contacts made in the contact center. When customers email us, chat with us and call us, they gift us with their thoughts and opinions about their overall experience with our organization. This information is more valuable than the richest market research. We should be collecting and mining this incredibly valuable data to not only provide more value to the organization internally, but to work more effectively with other departments to improve the broader customer experience.

In short, our contact centers can become a value-add to our organization, rather than a cost of doing business. Below are three examples of the type of valuable intelligence that can be gathered through the contact center: new product data, complaint data and customer satisfaction data.

New Product Data

If your company releases new products or new versions of existing products frequently, providing feedback on customer perceptions of and experience with the new products will be invaluable to your manufacturing and design departments. Below is an example of an organization utilizing its contact center to gather this information.

Scenario: A computer manufacturer wanted to understand customer issues with their new products.

Actions taken: The contact center organization established a group of skilled agents and routed customers who purchased a new product within the last three months to them. These agents were given a higher handle time target and time after each call from a new customer to complete a short questionnaire regarding the customers’ reasons for calling and any issues they were having with the products. The data was aggregated and analyzed and the results passed on to manufacturing and design.

Result: As a result of this ongoing gathering of business intelligence, one laptop model was redesigned so the lid was not as fragile as in the original design, and a different video card was chosen for subsequent products based on negative feedback regarding the existing model. While this data was entered in a database the group had created, the gathering of this sort of data is not technology-dependent. Though analysis would be more difficult, the data could just as easily be gathered with a pencil and paper.

This ongoing gathering of information, which is valuable to a number of departments, cost the company little except a few minutes after a small sample of calls. However, it positioned the contact center as a valuable resource of dependable and actionable data. To ensure the other departments would not be defensive about this data (since most of the data gathered was negative feedback), the contact center involved manufacturing and design in the development of the program and offered the contact center as a listening post to gather objective customer feedback that could be used to improve products.

Summary: Changes were made to design that saved the company money by reducing returns and technical support calls, while also fostering a stronger partnership among the three departments.

If your company releases new products or versions of existing products frequently, providing feedback will be invaluable to your manufacturing and design departments.
Complaint Data

Companies also have the opportunity to gather data on complaints from customers. For most organizations, the only sources for this kind of data are statements from the customer satisfaction survey and executive complaints. These are typically not representative or aggregated and analyzed. Absent this data, organizations that directly impact the customer experience often end up discussing failures in general terms, without the data to understand and address the root causes. This can also lead to friction between these departments, especially when one or more is outsourced. Below is an example of an organization that benefited from data collected by the contact center regarding customer complaints.

Scenario: The contact centers for a mobile phone provider were providing sales and service, and started to experience extremely high call volumes. The marketing department was frustrated with the contact centers because a high percentage of sales calls were being abandoned. The contact center was complaining it was receiving more service calls than expected, but no one knew why. The contact center asserted this was due to fulfillment issues, but the fulfillment vendor asserted there were no issues.

The contact centers were outsourced to one provider and fulfillment was outsourced to the manufacturer of the handsets. Not only were two vendors involved, but they were also managed by different departments in the client enterprise. This resulted in a lot of finger pointing but little coordination to resolve the problem. After a short period of time and providing a lot of anecdotal evidence that was discounted, the contact center vendor determined that a more quantitative approach would be helpful.

Actions taken: The contact center vendor created a short form to document each call associated with delivery issues. Based on input from agents, the form contained a checklist of the most common delivery issues that customers were having. For three days, every agent completed the form when they received a call regarding a delivery issue. While an automated solution would have been ideal for this, it wasn’t worth the investment for such a short study, so the forms were aggregated and analyzed manually. At the end of the three days, the contact center vendor, manufacturer and the two client departments managing the vendors met to review the data.

Result: The data showed the majority of the issues were because customers were not receiving the correct handsets. The form was modified to capture details on the handsets ordered and the handsets received. Data was gathered for another three days, and the group identified conflicting stock keeping units (SKUs) in the warehouse and the order management system.

Summary: As a result of the data collected by the contact center, the conflicts were resolved and the call volume decreased to expected numbers.

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Customer Satisfaction Data

Customer satisfaction data from surveys conducted after a customer contacts the contact center provides opportunities for the contact center to take action to improve its performance. If the contact center understands the relative importance of the attributes in driving overall customer satisfaction, it can take action on those that are most important to customers but where performance is poor. The following is an example of how one company analyzed its customer satisfaction data to understand what it really needed to work on to improve the customer experience.

Scenario: A manufacturer of a consumer product was not sure what was important to customers and where it needed to improve.

Actions taken: Analysis was done to understand the relative importance of all attributes. As you can see in Fig. 1, the data shows that timely resolution and authority to handle the request are the two most important drivers of satisfaction. However, the data also shows those are the two areas where customers feel the contact center performs the poorest out of the seven attributes.

Result: The company revised its scope of support so agents had more authority to resolve customer issues on the first call. In addition, ongoing training and new hire training was changed to better equip agents to resolve customer issues.

Summary: The contact center group shared the results not just within their own group, but with other departments. This established their credibility to deal with data accurately and use it not just to identify issues with other departments, but to improve their own performance.

This ongoing gathering of information, which is valuable to a number of departments, cost the company little.

As companies move from viewing contact centers as simply cost centers, they are beginning to appreciate, in a subjective manner, the value of these interactions and their potential to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. However, the contact center has an opportunity to move beyond this basic appreciation and take advantage of the richness of the data that can be gathered from each customer interaction. With the advances in technology and the realization that the contact center offers a unique window into the customers’ experience every time they contact us, we can mine this incredibly rich data to provide more value to the organization, expand our influence throughout the organization, and partner more effectively with other departments to improve the broader customer experience.

Jezierski_headshotKathleen Jezierski, president and COO of COPC, Inc., was instrumental in developing the COPC VMO program, which provides key performance metrics used by major purchasing teams to improve vendor selection and management for outsourced customer contact operations. For more than 15 years, she has developed her expertise in customer contact operations, specializing in the telecommunications industry where she has a proven track record of improved performance tied directly to maximizing ROI.