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Using Customer Insights to Drive Engagement

Using Customer Insights to Drive Engagement

Using Customer Insights to Drive Engagement

Key takeaways from Engage 2015, Verint’s Global Customer Conference

Empowered customers are driving a paradigm shift in service strategies. Customer engagement has emerged as the great new arena in which businesses can integrate the necessary elements to transform customers into lifelong advocates. Organizations are beginning to look beyond the single customer experience to focus on becoming more journey- and engagement-oriented, says Nancy Treaster, senior VP and general manager of Strategic Operations for Verint Enterprise Intelligence Solutions.

I had a chance to speak with Treaster last month at Engage 2015—The Verint Systems Global Customer Conference in Las Vegas, where some 1,200-plus contact center and operations leaders gathered to share strategies, best practices and the lessons learned on their own journeys to customer engagement optimization.

The foundation for customer engagement is data—the information that you have about your customers and your employees. Customer engagement optimization then is “using analytics to create actionable intelligence to drive personalized, consistent service, but also marrying that data with what we need to create engaged, empowered employees,” Treaster explains. “That is the secret sauce—ensuring that the employee is part of the equation and they get the information that they need to deliver the customer experience.”

The following are two examples from the conference that caught my attention. Both organizations are using customer data to drive customer experience—the first by using customer insights to differentiate the service experience; the second has integrated customer feedback into its quality program to deliver a better customer experience and higher employee engagement.

Analytics in Action: Differentiating the Business

What do customers expect when they connect with your organization? An apples-to-apples comparison of customer experience within a single vertical no longer exists. No matter which industry you’re in, or what types of products or services your company provides, your customers’ expectations are set—and continually raised—based on their last experience with service leaders like Apple, Zappos and Starbucks.

A Canadian financial services company realized this dynamic and leveraged speech analytics to make “transformational changes” in its vision and mindset to differentiate its brand based on customer experience. While, historically, the bank had focused its customer experience efforts on the interaction with a contact center agent, the leadership team decided that they needed to start driving the experience before that connection by ensuring that the IVR experience matched the “wow” experience provided by the agents. Center leaders also wanted to remove the burden from agents of having to spend interaction time trying to turn around a caller who was feeling frustrated from having to spend time on hold or in the queue. “We weren’t looking to build a hold experience,” the operations director explained. “We don’t want customers to be on hold, but it’s inevitable.”

Using its recording platform to capture the voice of the customer, the operations team applied speech analytics to analyze what other companies were doing and to dig deeper into what customers were saying when they mentioned their experiences with other banks, as well as leading service providers in other industries.

The contact center then made three changes on the front end to create a better experience:

  • The contact center held a voice competition, based on the reality TV series “The Voice,” in which frontline team members auditioned to be the bank’s IVR voice. They then replaced the conventional IVR script with fun, positive messages. (Employees enthusiastically participated in the competition, which is now an annual event.)
  • Hold music, which leaned toward 1980s pop songs, was updated with more modern selections. Recognizing that music preferences are subjective, the center added an option that allows customers to select their own hold music—or they can even choose to listen to the CEO’s iPhone playlist.
  • The center added a callback assist option to allow customers to save their place in the queue and receive a call when an agent is available.

“Allowing more control in the customer’s hands creates a better experience,” the director said. He added that, although each of the changes might not be considered momentous on its own, but “if you combine all three together, it really allows customers to have a better experience.”

The center used speech analytics to collect customer comments after each modification to see how those changes impacted customers’ views of their experiences and to gauge whether the organization was moving in the right direction with their strategy. As the director pointed out, one of the key benefits of leveraging speech analytics for the bank was the ability to go from “We think” to “We know” when making changes that impact customers.

Customers Are the Best Judges of Their Experiences

How do your customers really feel about the experience they had with an agent? Incorporating customer feedback into a quality program can help to improve both employee performance and the customer experience.

One health maintenance organization decided to revamp its QM program to do just that. The organization’s previous program relied on a 22-point checklist, which the quality team used to monitor and rate agents. The problem: Agents could meet all of the criteria in the checklist and receive high scores, yet the experience for the customer was still “rote.”

According to the HMO’s senior director of operations quality, “We were treating every customer and every agent exactly the same way. We expected every agent to deliver quality exactly the same way to every single customer regardless of who the customer is. We were not driving the experience; we were just answering the questions to get them off the phone.”

The redesigned program groups quality metrics into four key areas: customer feedback, compliance, accuracy, and policy & procedure. The quality team monitors agents for specific compliance, accuracy and policy & procedure elements that should take place on every call, and marks them as “yes” they occurred or “no” they did not. The agent’s customer feedback score is determined through customer surveys.

The customer feedback survey focuses on six behaviors, which include things like positive language, whether the rep used the time on the call efficiently, and the rep’s confidence on the call. Customers are asked to rank agents’ performance on a 1-to-5 scale. The center initially used a 1-to-10 rating scale but found that the longer scale was actually skewing results. After following up with customers who provided low ratings, the operations team discovered that customers felt that the scale was too long to listen to, so they ended up just hitting “1” to get through the questions. The team switched to a 1-to-5 scale, which is easier for customers to listen to, understand and repeat. Survey results improved significantly, and “there was much less noise in the results,” the director said.

The new program also revised the quality team’s role. Previously, the team monitored and rated agents, and then coached staff on the areas that the quality team determined to be a skill deficiency. The new role calls for quality team members to listen for “verbatims” to share with agents. The director describes verbatims as, “words that the agent said or used that drove a conversation down a certain path,” and words that a customer said that should have prompted the agent to take a different action to change the experience.


Look for Partnerships to Break Down Silos

The most impressive customer engagement success stories tend to occur where there is organizationwide alignment around the strategy. But, for many businesses, functional silos still remain a top challenge in driving customer engagement strategy. So how do you get your message across? By applying analytics to the data available in the contact center, you can form strategic partnerships with other functions to provide valuable intelligence.

“Contact center leaders have the ability to elevate themselves within the organization and their concept of transforming the way that they engage with customers if they can partner tightly with other departments, such as marketing,” Treaster says. In many organizations—and B-to-C companies, in particular—marketing groups are finding it increasingly difficult to reach consumers effectively through email and outbound calling campaigns. Marketing has discovered that the inbound interaction with the contact center offers tremendous value in helping them to understand their consumers’ history, intentions, preferences, what they’re likely to purchase next and how to get the marketing message across, she says.

A financial services company at the conference provided a key example of how the contact center partnered with its marketing and product development groups to deliver value through customer intelligence. The bank recently introduced a new product—a mobile app that provides customers with a one-stop shop to access and manage all of their accounts, including accounts held at other financial institutions.

After the product’s launch, the bank leveraged speech analytics to identify how many times customers mentioned the app by name, how many times agents mentioned it, how it was being promoted and what customers were saying about it. The center shared that information, in real-time, with its account and product management teams. The information allowed the teams to instantly tweak product training for the center. The teams also called customers who had voiced complaints to collect further feedback on how they could fix the issues and improve the product.

Change Management Is Key

While conference presenters and attendees alike shared remarkable accounts of customer- and employee-centric process improvements, all acknowledged that they are pieces of the larger picture.

Customer engagement optimization is a journey, Treaster says, adding that: “The combination of analytics, engagement management and workforce optimization underpins what we have to do to transform the way we engage with our customers.”

But, she says, “The technology operates underneath the covers—it’s a small part of the equation. Change management is what makes all the difference. If you don’t have an effective process to manage change, you’re missing the opportunity to transform your customer engagement.”

Innovations in Speech Analytics: Making Analytics More Actionable

Speech analytics was a central theme at Engage 2015, so it was fitting that Verint announced the latest release of its speech analytics solution at the conference. The new release represents major changes and advances to the solution’s speech engine, analytics engine and the user interface.

A notable upgrade is the combination of the solution’s complete semantic index and machine learning to automatically detect and reveal themes that customers and agents are discussing, says Alain Stephan, global VP, Customer Analytics Practice. “Even if you weren’t looking for a certain topic or you didn’t categorize it, the solution will automatically tell you what your customers or agents are talking about in clusters,” he explains. “Before, analysts would have to listen to hundreds of calls, write down what they were hearing, and then translate it into rules and categorize it. This allows you to start realizing immediate value—without having to categorize a single thing.”

Proactively identifying and revealing themes provides contact centers with increased “velocity to insight,” says Senior VP of Product Strategy Oren Stern. “It offers the ability to find the ‘unknown unknowns’—all those different variations in the themes that you might not otherwise be able to find—faster and more easily and provides you with a much more quantifiable view of those insights instantly, so you can understand whether a theme is anecdotal or a significant trend that requires immediate action.”

In addition, the speech engine was completely overhauled to increase both speed and accuracy. “The team did a rip-and-replace of the analytics and transcription engine, increasing its out-of-the-box accuracy up to 33% without any tuning,” Stephan says. “We’re also now able to process 100% of the calls with half the hardware, which doubles the speed while cutting in half the total cost of ownership for the transcription process.”

Speaker separation is another key enhancement, which allows contact centers to distinguish the caller from the agent. Contact centers can easily determine “not just what was said, but who said it, and the context in which it was said—the back-and-forth discussion—which is powerful,” Stephan says.

Finally, the user interface has been completely redesigned to provide a visual context of conversations—similar to a heat map—which allows users to easily identify and take action on critical insights.

Besides raising the bar on accuracy and speed to insights, the new release’s ability to proactively identify and reveal emerging trends, and self-train as new topics are added, makes speech analytics “less of a science project” for center leaders and more useful in driving the decision-making process, Stephan says. “Turning the insights into action and process improvements requires planning and change management. It’s based on the CAKE methodology: capture, analyze, plan and engage. People often get hung up on the analysis step—but analytics are not worth much unless you can take those next two steps.”

Susan Hash

Susan Hash

Susan Hash served as Editorial Director of Contact Center Pipeline magazine and the Pipeline blog from 2009-2021. She is a veteran business journalist with over 30 years of specialized experience writing about customer care and contact centers.
Twitter: @susanhash

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