Cover Story

Uncovering Treasure: New Solutions Enable Businesses to Realize the Richness of Customer Data

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  January 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Call centers, CRM systems, social networking and other sources often house a gold mine of customer data. Yet uncovering those riches and putting them to good use can be as difficult as finding El Dorado. However, a wide variety of solutions providers now offer tools and services that can help your organization discover its own Lost City of Gold.  

The advent of social media has helped businesses understand the need to get a handle on unstructured data, notes Diane Berry, Coveo’s (News - Alert) senior vice president of marketing and communication. Yet, as IBM’s latest CIO survey says, most organizations are data rich but insight poor, adds Ed Shepherdson, senior vice president of enterprise solutions at Coveo.

Boasting 700 customers, including such big names as CA Technologies, GEICO, Lockheed Martin, PepsiCo, T-Mobile (News - Alert), Verizon, and YUM! Brands, Coveo offers what it calls insight consoles to present mashups of media from all of the above-noted data sources, explains Berry.

Text analytics is a key feature of the insight consoles, adds Shepherdson. This feature harvests information from unstructured data and does theme generation across all the platforms from which the consoles draw. For example, the Coveo solution can take a thread from Twitter about a performance problem and compare the information in that discussion to data on the vendor’s community portal to get an idea of how widespread the issue might be, who’s affected and what to do next.

With Coveo 7.0 Multi-Channel Text Analytics, customer service teams gain better insight into their customers, customer issues, products and up-sell opportunities. Better insight helps them to serve customers more quickly and efficiently; executives are able to understand trends across the entire customer base as well as obtain complete views of individual customers. Meanwhile, product planners and engineers can use this capability to better determine where knowledge exists, how it can be used and how it can be captured even after employees have left. These abilities speed time to market, allow for the creation of more innovative and customer-centric products, identify product issues before they become pervasive, and avoid such issues in the first place by leveraging past experience and globally distributed expertise.

Shepherdson adds that the insight consoles are customized to suit the needs of different employee roles within an organization. That’s important, he notes, because a customer service representative needs access to different information than, say, an internally-focused employee or a manager. Coveo works closely with its customers to understand the needs of each role within their individual organizations so it can effectively customize insight consoles as needed.

"Coveo 7.0 will allow organizations to not only access, but make sense of vast amounts of unstructured data, in near real time, thanks to the Multi-Channel Text Analytics module on top of this very flexible indexing technology,” says Vincent Fosty, managing partner of Kurt Salmon. “As a global organization with consultants across North America and Europe, gaining insight into data stores siloed by systems, departments and geographies is core to our business. With Coveo, we're able to search, consolidate, correlate and analyze information on customers, engagements, past projects, our people and more, all through a single interface, giving us a level of insight into our business that wasn't previously attainable. Coveo has really helped us to accelerate sales as well as better serve our customer engagements."

Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder of ThinkJar, an advisory and research think-tank focused on customer experience and CRM, says: "The ability to consolidate information from disparate sources, including social channels, and correlate it with other enterprise information gives customer service organizations a deeper level of insight that's a true market breakthrough. Multi-Channel Text Analytics on top of this combined data provides an even deeper level of insight to uncover key trends, identify issues before they become known to customers and more. This ultimately helps organizations know and serve their customers better, save costs and increase profitability."

Aggregating and analyzing data also has moved front and center at HyperQuality.

“HyperQuality was historically positioned in the contact center quality improvement domain,” explains CEO Chris Coles. “In 2011, we extended the competencies gained through eight years of listening, scoring and analyzing in to more voice of customer-related areas, as well as more proscriptive recommendations for systemic improvement in the manner in which companies interact with their customers. This approach was further enhanced with a recent release of our software service to provide better dashboard and alert capabilities for running the business of customer service.”

The company aims to continue to evolve its capabilities – both in terms of technology and process – to provide richer assessment and analytic tools for the market, based on inside the call interactions.

“The conversation between customer and company remains one of the least understood, yet most valuable areas of insight for a variety of decision makers inside a company,” notes Coles. “A wide array of managers/leaders, from product managers to service delivery owners to program management, benefit from structured and quantified insight about the conversation between company and customer.”

Coles adds that it almost always costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain a current one, yet some business leaders haven’t taken the time to find out exactly what their customers are experiencing and how they can maximize that interaction so they’ve created a high-value customer for life.

“To me, the single smartest thing an executive could do right now is determine what impacts customers – positively or negatively – and work to align offers to retain the customer,” says Cole. “In this global economy, business leaders have to be thinking about the competition and the ease of transition customers have between one company and another.”

HyperQuality sells ClearMatrix, a solution for performance management and workflow management that draws on enterprise objectives and provides actionable insight that allows business owners to make better decisions. The company recently released ClearMetrix 3.0, which delivers dashboarding and analytics that allow it to take data from call center interactions, including chat, e-mail and other media, aggregate that to provide a holistic view of customer experience and how customer experience relates to what the business is trying to accomplish. That enables the business to see its successes; fine tune select products or processes; and, if needed, change its services, pricing, campaigns, etc.

“The performance visibility that ClearMetrix 3.0 provides isn’t simply about tracking contact center metrics, it’s about driving business objectives,” Bailey Shewchuk, senior vice president of sales, marketing and business development for HyperQuality, tells CIS magazine. “Every business owner and executive is looking for ways to optimize customer contacts that impact revenues and costs. ClearMetrix 3.0 provides them the visibility into their customer interaction data so they can make quickly the right decisions that influence their business.”

M5 Networks also delivers solutions that arm its customers with insight into their customer data and interactions. In fact, Brent Barbara, vice president of client solutions and alliances at the 11-year-old company, says he actually coined the phrase actionable intelligence.

He explains that M5 started out using a third-party technology, which has since been acquired, but a few years ago invested in its own business intelligence software solution, which is now in use with 65 to 70 percent of its customers. M5 in September added to its arsenal of actionable solutions with the introduction of Live Answer Service Metric, a SaaS-based feature that provides actionable intelligence about the call-answer rates at M5 clients' businesses.

"In our business, a single missed call can mean losing the chance to gain a new customer. That's why the Live Answer Service Metric is the first report I look at every day,” Carmine Abruzzo, general manager of life quality BMW, says. “After just a few days of monitoring this report, it was clear that we were missing calls in the mornings. We adjusted our staffing and can now be confident that we are providing the outstanding service that our customers and prospects expect."

Not only does Live Answer Service Metric provide customers with various data on incoming calls and call treatment, but it also ranks such data and offers it in a format through which customers can compare their performance on these fronts with other businesses in their vertical.

"It's no secret that people hate it when they try to call a business and are forced to work their way through an auto-attendant labyrinth, only to end up being greeted by voicemail," says Barbara. "This solution will enable our clients to see the rate at which calls are answered by alive person, and provide information that ensures they impress prospects and deliver on service commitments to their clients."

A company called LivePerson (News - Alert), meanwhile, focuses specifically on the customer experience as it relates to organizations’ websites.

Robert LoCascio, LivePerson’s chairman and CEO, tells CIS magazine that he decided to establish the company in the mid 90s after seeking assistance from Dell (News - Alert) via e-mail through the computer company’s website and never receiving a reply. He decided then that chat was the answer to provide customers with more consistent customer service experiences via websites, he says.

Today, LivePerson is focused not just on helping its customers deliver better service via chat, but on assisting them in using chat and other tools to increase their online sales. This new strategy enabled LivePerson to grow its business from a $20 million entity in 2005 to a $135 million outfit in 2011, LoCascio says, adding that five to six years ago its largest customers were investing about a half a million in its products while today its largest customers pay on the order of $10 million for LivePerson solutions.

LoCascio says conversion rates (the percentage of website shoppers that actually check out and make a purchase online) have been stuck at 1 percent since 1995. But with tools like those provided by LivePerson, he says, there’s now an opportunity to bring them up to 5 or 10 percent.

Among LivePerson’s newest offers are LP Marketer, which allows businesses to target chats and special offers to end users on a customized basis; LP Insights, which enables LivePerson customers to analyze chat interactions; and Analytics Driven Engagement, which helps marketers drive conversion rates from advertisements on Google (News - Alert).

Edited by Stefania Viscusi