According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “coming of age” is defined as the attainment of prominence, respectability, recognition or maturity. It means something has reached an important stage of development and is accepted. The first known use of the term “coming of age” was in 1729 and it was used to describe the point at which an individual reached late adolescence or early adulthood.
Coming of age has been a theme of countless books and songs over the years. One of my favorites is Bob Seger’s song “Night Moves.” It was the lead single from Seger’s ninth studio album, also called Night Moves, in 1976. The autobiographical song tells the story of the 19-year-old Seger and his infatuation with an older woman. She was 20. Despite Seger’s best efforts, long-term romance wasn’t in the cards. She eventually met someone else and broke Seger’s heart.
Seger once told music journalist Timothy White that many of his early songs were written in an attempt to impress this particular girl. Seger was inspired to write “Night Moves” after seeing the 1973 movie “American Graffiti” and realizing that he had a ’60s story to tell, too. Rolling Stone magazine named “Night Moves” Best Single of the Year for 1977.
In the contact center, analytics is also coming of age. It may not be set to music, as Bob Seger’s coming-of-age story was, but it’s no less dramatic. I’ve been a believer in analytics since the beginning and I believe that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, analytics will be the foundation of every solution in the customer care industry. In the meantime, analytics is finding its way into more and more customer experience (CX) equations.
“Despite all the talk about the value of analytics, most companies still struggle to understand the practical ways they can benefit from it and how to implement it.” —Tom Goodmanson
While there is a lot of talk about the power of analytics and CX, there’s only one person I’m aware of that is backing up this belief with bucks. At the Calabrio Customer Conference (C3) 2018, Calabrio CEO Tom Goodmanson issued an analytics challenge to Calabrio customers. Calabrio announced a contest for customers to showcase their best use of Calabrio analytics to drive results around customer satisfaction, employee engagement and impact to the enterprise. Oh yeah, there was a prize announced too. $100,000!
“Despite all the talk about the value of analytics, most companies still struggle to understand the practical ways they can benefit from it and how to implement it,” said Calabrio’s Goodmanson. “The Calabrio analytics competition at C3 was about showcasing the types of measurable operational improvements and ROI that can be obtained from analytics initiatives based on customer use cases that every company can relate to. It was also about inspiring other customers to look at our new solutions that have made it easier than ever before to build an analytics foundation in the contact center.”
I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at Calabrio’s C3 this year when the winners were announced. First place took home $50,000 and second and third place got $25,000 each. I’m glad I didn’t have to choose first place among the top three— they were all impressive use cases. But the judges awarded first place to an innovative and impressive use of analytics in customer experience engineering.
Radial, Inc., a bpost Group Company, is a multinational company with customer service business process outsourcing (BPO) among their many lines of business. Their BPO brought home the first-place honors with their agent advocacy assessment analytics project. Representing Radial at C3 was Customer Experience Manager Nicole Price.
“We’re in a highly competitive market and we’re always looking for ways to improve our customer care performance.” —Nicole Price
The motivation behind the Radial analytics project, according to Price, was the company’s constant drive to optimize the customer experience. “We’re in a highly competitive market and we’re always looking for ways to improve our customer care performance. We’re continually looking for a way to maintain the competitive advantage,” Price said. “Analytics plays a big part in our competitive strategy.”
Radial’s Price admits she’s a tinkerer and was inspired to try new customer care theories by a book called “The Effortless Experience,” by Matt Dixon. In this book, it was demonstrated that experience engineering is a powerful tool in reducing customer effort. Price was particularly interested in the use of “advocacy” language by agents, which studies have shown can reduce customer effort by significantly large percentages.
Radial’s project methodology was to identify two categories of phrases being used by agents—“Advocacy” and “Powerless to Help.” “Advocacy” verbiage indicated that an agent was willing and able to help the customer. “Powerless to Help” phrases, such as “There’s nothing I can do” and “Those are the rules” indicated that an agent was unable or unwilling to help the customer. Once the phrases in each category were identified, Calabrio analytics was tuned to identify and classify these phrases for assessment. Price’s goal was to identify the behaviors of agents who used advocacy language and replicate those behaviors among the larger agent workforce.
“What we discovered,” Price explained, “was that agents weren’t exclusively using one phrase category or the other, they were using a combination of both ‘advocacy’ and ‘powerless to help’ verbiage. So, we established test-and-control groups and utilized Calabrio analytics to identify specific verbiage and phrases in all customer calls.”
Radial even developed its own metric for measuring advocacy and powerless verbiage in a customer contact. Called the Net Advocacy Score, this key performance indicator (KPI) for agent performance scored agents based upon their use of both advocacy and powerless verbiage. Calabrio Data Explorer built the advocacy scores and presented the data distribution on a bell curve that identified agents in greatest need of coaching. Price and her team reviewed all of those contacts in order to analyze why powerless verbiage was being used as much as it was.
Underperforming agents were then partnered with supervisors who provided role playing exercises and sentiment coaching with the goal of increasing “advocacy” language and reducing “powerless to help” language.
“The results of this project were immediate and dramatic,” Price stated. “Metrics related to customer satisfaction and customer perceptions, such as rep knowledge and rep demeanor noticeably improved, but the biggest impact was related to first-call resolution, which saw an immediate 3% improvement among the group of agents that underwent additional training. We expect the improvement in FCR alone will translate to a savings of over $88,000.
“Analytics continues to play a critical part in our business as a whole,” Price continued. “We have a dedicated team whose focus is identifying behavioral drivers that lead to improved agent performance. We’re now expanding our agent advocacy assessment analytics project across all of our lines of business.”
Concluded Calabrio’s Goodmanson, “One of the most important lessons from the C3 challenge is that, with the right analytics foundation in place, innovators like Nicole Price and Radial will be set free to empower contact center managers and agents to transform the customer journey in ways we haven’t yet imagined. I have to say that I’m already very excited to see what another year of experience with Calabrio’s analytics capabilities will enable our customers to achieve for next year’s analytics challenge!”
I had to know how Radial had spent the $50,000 they won in the contest. I figured it would be on something extravagant, maybe a little impulsive. So, I asked Price. Her response? “Storage fees.” I guess when you’re dealing with a technology that has come of age, like analytics, decisions have to reflect a certain degree of maturity.