One center’s journey to unlock the power of analytics Blazes a trail for improved performance.
There is no doubt that speech analytics delivers great value to contact centers looking to improve processes, performance and customer experience. Getting the most out of this sophisticated technology requires a comprehensive, strategic approach. And, as one organization discovered, when embarking on a speech analytics journey, it’s often the road blocks along the way that will help you to find a more successful route.
I had a chance to sit down with Brian Miller at Engage 2015, Verint’s annual global customer conference, to talk about the learning process that his team underwent to leverage speech analytics to deliver value to the contact center and other business units. Miller is the workforce operations administrator for the Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting User Services group, a multinational provider of integrated and intelligent information for businesses and professionals.
Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting User Services group provides technical support, customer service, training and consulting to its software clients, who are accounting, tax and corporate finance professionals. The User Services contact center handles highly complex technical calls, and interactions can last 10 minutes or longer, with about half of those interactions taking place during its peak season—the four months that make up individual and corporate tax seasons.
A few years ago, the User Services group began to look into opportunities to streamline processes, increase efficiency and improve the customer experience. The organization installed Verint’s Speech Analytics solution to provide the much-needed insights.
As Miller soon discovered, taking a traditional approach to speech analytics by reactively analyzing recordings for keywords and phrases proved to be unproductive. “We encountered a lot of the common challenges that new users often face—we were always chasing issues instead of getting to the heart of them,” Miller recalls. “We had a very narrow focus. We only understood one point of view or one supervisor’s point of view, and there was little collaboration across the organization. We didn’t know what anyone else was doing, and we couldn’t see the big picture.”
A New Perspective: Flip the Model
Those early lessons helped Miller and his team to develop a new approach. About 18 months ago, they decided to turn their model upside-down to take a broader view. A key element of the new model was a focus on providing value to other departments across the organization.
“We decided that, if we wanted to have an impact on the business, we needed to be more impactful with our internal teams. We needed to make our initiatives more important to them,” Miller says. “So we stopped doing business cases, stopped chasing issues and we stopped making progress, which is a hard thing to do. Most companies wouldn’t be able to do that from the start because they want to see an immediate ROI.”
Taking a step back, Miller and his colleagues decided to address the User Services group’s call reduction objective by taking a top-down approach. To do that, he first needed to understand why customers were calling. Miller and his team launched a new project, which was appropriately named the “Why” Project.
To kick off the project, the committee, which included product leads and team leads from User Services, met to brainstorm the reasons why customers called the contact center. They came up with the top five “why” categories across all platforms and products. Not surprisingly, as a User Services operation, the No. 1 category was “how to”—customers calling to find out how to do something. Other top categories included tax and payroll compliance questions; download, installation and update questions; and data conversions.
The team then spent several months developing each category (there are about 200 terms that make up a category, he says) to identify the probable root causes for the calls.
Getting Other Departments On Board: Communicate the WIIFM
Once the committee developed a big picture view of the reasons why customers were calling, along with the root causes, the next step was to secure the support of other departments in fixing the issues. To do that, Miller developed a communication campaign to help the internal teams understand the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) behind the customer data. For instance, with download, installation and update issues, Miller was not only able to show the product development team that a large volume of customers were calling about the download-and-install package, but also which elements they found confusing and how to improve the process.
“Once you can provide other groups with a return on investment, they begin to listen—and then they become invested,” he says. “Our development team now sits in on business case studies, listening to calls and giving us feedback, which is a really different perspective for them and for us.”
Each Business Case Win Builds Experience and Knowledge for Future Successes
In the early stages of the “Why” Project, Miller and his team targeted the largest categories that would have the most immediate impact.
“We focused on improvements that we could make right away,” he says. “We started with that just to prove that the technology could do what we wanted, and then we moved on to the more challenging issues.”
Each business case added to the team’s knowledge about the voice of the customer, customer intent and key topics and subtopics to look for. Those insights were carried over into the next case for more detailed analysis. For instance, the team’s work to reduce call volume gave them the expertise needed to tackle a more complex issue—reducing average handle time (AHT). They began by listening to calls that had a high AHT vs. those with a low AHT to understand the attributes of each. The initial expectations were that the escalated calls to tenured staff would naturally be longer, and that different types of products would have different call lengths.
Those assumptions were quickly disproved. “We listened to the same type of call with a new rep vs. a tenured rep. We found that the new rep who knew how to access resources and knew when to escalate the call had an AHT of about 10 minutes. The tenured rep didn’t use his resources and didn’t know when to stop the call. Therefore, that call lasted 30 minutes. We heard that again and again.”
The team then identified seven key attributes that made up calls with a low AHT—all of which were agent-based and included things like agent confidence, product knowledge, using resources correctly.
Those attributes are now included on every business case going forward, Miller says. “We rank them because we want to know how they impact [other issues],” he explains. For instance, “if we’re getting poor results on a call type, then we can look at whether the reps weren’t able to find the documentation or if they were having other problems within the call. We’re able to track all of those, so our business cases get more detailed as we learn.”
Other Lessons Learned Along the Way
Looking back on his team’s experience using analytics over the past few years, Miller says that the decision to dedicate first one full-time team member, and then a committee, to the speech program marked the turning point in its ability to deliver value to the organization.
Most importantly, he adds, “I would encourage anyone who is new to speech to dedicate one person to reporting so that they can fully understand that area. It’s very often the reporting that gives you the return on investment and helps you to carry the project forward. It’s easy to gloss over because it’s not immediate, but it’s critical in the long run.”
At the beginning of this year, the User Services group expanded its speech program activities to its 35 supervisors by including speech goals as part of their annual performance reviews. “Every team leader and product leader has to contribute into several business cases each year,” Miller says. “They’re actually doing far more than that because they see the value. It ensures that their products continue to improve. It also helps us because we couldn’t listen to all the calls ourselves, and we want different perspectives and different ideas.”
While dedicated staff who are accountable for ongoing projects is key, Miller points out that having a driver and influencers backing the team is critical to getting organizationwide support for your speech analytics program. “You have to have people who aren’t afraid to speak about speech to your presidents, vice presidents and directors—because those are the people who are actually going to change things for us,” he says.