Five Steps to Business Intelligence Success

In today's business climate, companies can no longer depend on networking or outspending their rivals. Now they have to outwit them through innovation, superior service, and better information. Underlining the importance of information, companies spent in excess of $46 billion on third-party market research in 2017.

In many cases, highly sought information already resides in contact center archives of recorded voice and data interactions. Unlike the sterile tables of thick market research reports, this information contains the full richness of the customer's voice. Unfortunately, there appears to be a tendency to leave this valuable information safely locked away.

Collecting and sharing strategically significant consumer information represents an outstanding opportunity for contact centers to make valuable contributions to problem solving and marketing strategy. Speech and data analytics tools are widely available and are surprisingly affordable. Instead of listening to hours of recorded conversations searching for needles in the proverbial haystack, data mining software can swiftly drill into mounds of unstructured information looking for specific words or phrases. The more advanced systems can even self-categorize customer speech so that trends can be identified and tracked over time. Integration with voice of the customer software helps identify root causes of customer defections and sources of dissatisfaction.

If you agree that sharing strategically significant information throughout the organization and if you have the will to move forward, then the question becomes how to go about it. Pelorus recommends a five-step program.

Five Steps to A Successful Business Intelligence Initiative

  • Find out what information is needed;

  • Obtain buy-in from management and peers;

  • Ask probing questions;

  • Add BI as an evaluation item; and

  • Spread the word.

Find out what information is needed.

The effort needs to be sharply focused. You want intelligence gathering to be a natural outgrowth of what the agents are already doing, not a completely new project for which they have neither the time nor the training. Arrange meetings with product marketing management to get a clear understanding of current information priorities and determine how to probe for this information during the natural flow of the conversation.

Obtain buy-in from management and peers.

Adding a new mission will mean some rethinking of the metrics and targets by which contact centers are measured. You should be able to build a powerful business case by contrasting the time and cost of collecting third-party market research compared with harvesting the information you already have. As well, it is quite possible that many executives within the company have never actually listened to a recorded conversation with a customer. Savvy contact center managers will periodically issue customer intelligence reports and include audio recordings of actual interactions.

Consumer research extracted from recorded interactions can be analyzed and delivered in days or even hours. Collecting data from consumer surveys typically take several weeks or even months to plan and execute and then analyze and present the findings. A shrewd move would be to reach out to your in-house market research department. They can tell you which information the company wants and how to frame probing questions. Together, you can team up for an exceptional business intelligence program.

Engage the customer and ask probing questions.

This is the easiest part but often overlooked. If a cable TV customer calls to close an existing account, of course the agent should ask why. The reasons given must be actionable. Simple answers like poor service or high cost are not acceptable. Try to identify specific instances that can then be relayed to sales personnel charged with customer retention. Today customer engagement is a key business strategy for major businesses, particularly those that are focused on consumer products and services. What better way to engage customers than by asking them for help?

Add BI as an evaluation item.

If business intelligence is not an evaluation item, it probably won't get done. Evaluating agents on the basis of providing business intelligence could be a little tricky. There are no KPI's to capture this activity. Like other soft skills, evaluators need to make judgments about performance on BI initiatives. Things to look for when reviewing recordings are whether probing questions were asked or whether agents took the opportunity to probe for specifics.

Spread the word.

Contact center management should implement a formal process for summarizing, editing, and distributing the information. This should include periodic reports at least monthly or even biweekly as well as flash reports that can occur at any time. Email reports should include examples of actual recordings.

Customer service representatives are not detectives or market research interviewers, but because of the daily direct connection with consumers, they are uniquely situated to gain valuable insights about customer needs, behaviors, and preferences. Contact centers today are spending millions on unsophisticated speech analytics and voice of the customer software. The object is to find that elusive needle in the haystack that will steer strategy. However, those valuable nuggets of information will never be found if they weren't there in the first place. This data is far too valuable to be stored away in giant databases and largely ignored except for the purpose of agent evaluations. Forward-thinking contact center managers will take advantage of this great opportunity to elevate the prestige and recognized contribution of the contact center.

Dick Bucci is founder and chief analyst at Pelorus Associates. He can be reached at