Friday, September 19, 2014

Guest Post: The Importance of Data and Analytics in Customer Service

Customer service, something that is so conceptually simple, has become strangely complex in the age of social media. It is a term that can easily carry different meanings, even between business owners working in the same industry. This is because customer voices are no longer muted when they leave a store or hang up the phone after speaking with a service agent. Review sites and social media networks allow the dialogue to continue long after a transaction is completed, providing interfaces for both business owners and their customers to speak about, and respond to, questions and concerns about different products and services. For any business, there can potentially be countless relevant conversations happening across the Internet, and it is the responsibility of business owners to stay current with what customers and clients have to say by continuously collecting data about those conversations.

Analytics: Why? Why not?
Data collection and analytics are divisive topics. Some businesses rely on them and make good use of the harvested information, some mishandle that info, and others dont bother collecting it at all. Differing ideologies about whether or not these practices should apply to customer service come down to both the attitudes of business owners and the nature of their businesses. For example, a reputable Mom and Pop shop in a small town probably wont be relying on online feedback as much as a new restaurant in a big city might. Customer feedback in any form, though, is crucial for businesses to understand the improvements that they can make to products, staff, infrastructure, etc. For some, getting that information is as easy as engaging with customers in person. For others, its necessary to trek through cyberspace to find answers.

How Deep Should You Dig?
So, where is the line drawn in data collection?  Is there a line at all? Short of full-on NSA-like spying, there doesnt appear to be a clear-cut answer. The options for finding customer feedback about a business can be as simple as doing some Google searches and keeping a diligent watch on Yelp, Facebook, and Twitter pages. With that method, though, some conversations will almost certainly be missed. Leaving that task to analytics software can fill in the gaps.

The Utility of Speech Analytics
If your business operates a call center or contact center, speech analytics can be a particularly useful tool for getting a better understanding of what your customers are looking for, as well as what your employees are doing to help. As part of your quality monitoring program, this kind of software will analyze recorded calls to identify keywords, phrases, etc. that are relevant to your brand. It will also allow you to pinpoint under-performing or under-trained staff members and categorize calls as necessary. Phone calls between agents and customers can reveal a lot about the behaviors of people on either end of the conversation, and though its not possible to listen in on each individual call, these dialogues provide a unique perspective that you wont get from just reading reviews or comments online. Hearing first-hand how your employees handle customer relations is vital for understanding the feedback youre bound to receive.

Let Text Analytics Be Your Eyes
While speech analytics is great for examining phone calls, text analytics can check out just about every other channel where customers will be talking about your business. Good software will be able to gather data from social media, survey comments, email, news and review sites, and many other sources. Beyond just getting a big picture idea of what customers think about your business and its products, text analytics will help you identify areas that need improvement, as well as potential emerging issues. Proactive customer service will always win out over passive service, so the faster you act on preventing emerging issues and fixing areas that need fixing, the better off your business will be in the long term. Use text analytics data to get an idea of what your companys reputation is, and if its not what you want it to be, read up on what people dont like and make the necessary changes.

Understand How Your Employees are Operating
In any customer service role, efficiency is what separates excellent employees from the rest of the pack. One way to examine how your staff goes about completing their work on a day-to-day basis is to utilize desktop and process analytics, which will examine how employees use applications and systems to perform their work in contact centers, branches, and back-office operations. Previous difficulties with measuring and analyzing these procedures have become feasible with this solution, and with its implementation, your business can improve efficiency, reduce costs and liability, and greatly improve the customer experience.

Data collection and analytics tools are no longer just for statisticians and scientists. They are innovations that are actually making the customer service game a little easier to play. Consider taking a more proactive approach with your customer service strategy. The technology can be intimidating, but its hard to argue with the results.

 CJ Silva is VP of Operations at KOVA Corporation.

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