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Bringing it All Together: Part 1: Using Proactive Mobile and Big Data to Reduce Call Volume

“Analyzing data is great. Understanding the customer journey is amazing. But we need more. We need to eliminate unnecessary contacts and improve the customer experience.” – Yochai Rozenblat, President, NICE Customer Interactions Group

In late April I was asked to attend Interactions 2013, NICE’s annual global customer conference. The event brought together more than 2000 of NICE’s customers and industry experts to share best practices, debate trends, and learn solutions to the big challenges currently facing the contact center. While the predominant theme of the event was “Big Data” – what to extract, how to interpret it, where the value is, and when best to use it - there were some other underlying messages that resonated strongly with the audience. 

  1. Understanding the Customer Journey
  2. The Power of the Emerging Channels
  3. The Need for Actionable Data
  4. The Impact of Proactive Engagement 
  5. Rebalancing the Customer and the Company
  6. Making Life Easier for the Agent

What’s truly fascinating is the thread that intertwines these six messages. When one is accomplished effectively, it will naturally have a positive influence on one or more of the others. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be talking about each of these components in an ongoing series. We’ll review how companies are using the NICE solution set to solve key challenges in each of these areas. We’ll also seek insight from the rest of the ICMI community on how other technology offerings are helping them. It seems that everyone though, is asking the technology vendors for the same thing. No matter if you are the customer, the company, or the contact center, we all want help, “Bringing it All Together”. 

In a Q&A session with Barak Eilam, President of NICE Americas, I inquired what should be at the top of a company’s investment roadmap. His answer was fast and simple, “Big Data. It’s more than a buzzword”. Ok then, let’s start with that overarching theme of Interactions 2013. It may not be a buzzword, but what exactly is Big Data? 

Gartner defines it as, “High-volume, high-velocity and high–variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making”.  According to Forrester, 80% of the world’s big data is “dark” and unstructured – recorded conversations, transactions, social media interactions and web traffic - to name just a few in our customer service world. That’s why the last part of the Gartner definition is so imperative. In the contact center, we all have lots of data that’s changing rapidly and coming at us through different channels. The ultimate goal should be to translate all that data into something actionable. 

One place that organizations routinely use big data is in the content population of their self-service and automation tools. By intercepting the common and routine questions, call volume and follow-up conversations can certainly be reduced. But the quest for true first contact resolution (FCR) is not an easy one, and the addition of all the emerging channels is actually making it trickier to obtain.

Earlier this year I conducted an interview with Matt Edmunds, SVP and GM of the Contact Center Business Unit, and Debbie Braunert, VP of Marketing, for SoundBite Communications. SoundBite recognizes the value of self-service and automation, but doesn’t think the contact center should solely rely on the customer to find and utilize the correct tools. Instead, the onus of FCR and call prevention should fall in the hands of the contact center themselves. With their Proactive Customer Care solutions, SoundBite provides the means to engage with customers before they realize they actually need support. 

Here’s how: the SoundBite platform enables organizations to capture and manage customer channel preferences – phone, chat, email, mobile– and honor their opt-in or communication allowance of each. These proactive contacts can be in the form of surveys, product recalls, enrollments, confirmations, welcome messages or reminders. Even more important, they can be used to alert customers of time-sensitive information like service interruptions, account changes, expirations, or fraud attempts.

Let’s use mobile as the channel example, as that is where the solutions really shine. By using SMS keywords, short codes, and business rules, SoundBite sends out automated customer care notifications (to customers who have opted into mobile communications) based on all the information they’ve already gathered on a customer. By reaching the customer first, they have a better chance of preventing an inbound inquiry. And doing it through mobile is arguably the most effective and efficient, as it is the channel that a customer is most likely to be in front of at any time. 

SoundBite provided an example where a wireless operator used their Contact Center Text Messaging Solution to proactively remind customers about current and past-due payments. Customers could then reply HELP or OPTIONS for more information, get connected to an agent, or automatically be directed through a payment process. The wireless operator saw a 55% improvement in same-day payments, and a significant decrease in the number of customers calling to check their payment status or inquiring why their service had been suspended. As I was writing this, I actually received a text message from my wireless carrier Verizon, politely reminding me that my payment was due! 

“Providing a superior customer experience includes implementing a proactive customer care strategy that provides options for consumer engagement via mobile devices,” says SoundBite VP of Marketing, Debbie Braunert.  “Mobile has become the core touch-point for consumer interactions as it enables multi-channel engagements and provides a convenient, real-time means for consumers and brands to interact, strengthen relationships, and build loyalty.”

Proactive outreach can also be a means to collect even more data on a customer. 

With SoundBite, organizations can send out CSAT or Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys through text message. Once the customer information is gathered and segmented, the detractors can be called or texted back to quickly resolve any outstanding issues or concerns. This proactive agent approach not only provides real-time closed-loop communication, but creates a high sense of personalization for the customer.

This is a cool example of taking big data and turning it into something actionable.

Right before Interactions 2013, NICE introduced theirCustomer Engagement Analytics platform, and the first solution they launched from it was Call Volume Reduction.  The intention is to help contact centers reduce call volume by increasing FCR, next call prevention, and self-service containment, by really understanding the root cause of the FIRST contact. This is all accomplished by utilizing and intertwining the big data collected by NICE through speech analytics, text analytics and contact/transaction analytics. They are, shall we say, bringing it all together. 

As Eilam of NICE continued on during our Q&A session, “This is all tied together. The customer journey feeds into big data and big data influences and impacts the customer journey. And these smart devices we all hold in our hands? Mobile, chat, social and phone? Yes, all are enabled by big data”.