It's Time to Listen to Your Customers

"Customers don't call the contact center because they have a problem with the contact center," Josh Ives, senior vice president of customer operations at Fanduel, has said.

In my job as an analyst, I get to talk to a lot of really smart people. One thing I've noticed that smart people do is take something obvious, make it sound profound, and use it to uncover an unexpected truth.

Research shows that 90.3 percent of contact centers record their calls. They only listen to about 1 percent of those recordings for agent feedback, and the rest just sit on hard drives waiting to be sent to that big bit bucket in the sky.

Those recordings are a potential gold mine of customer feedback and insights into your customer experiences. New technology is opening the door to accessing this information in new and exciting ways.

New artificial intelligence and natural language analytics capabilities now make it practical to take these recordings and listen to them to look for insights into your customer experience and agent performance. Several organizations are using this technology and insight to provide agents with feedback on their performance. AI-driven quality management tools allow organizations to potentially score every call to provide performance and trend information. These tools can also flag calls of interest, either based on customer sentiment, long pauses (a sign of a bad call), or specific topics of interest, which can be much more valuable than picking a call at random and hoping it's interesting.

As valuable as this data might be for your contact center, it can bring much more value to the rest of your organization. Every day customers tell your agents exactly what they think about your products, exactly where your customer journey is breaking down, and exactly how they feel about all of it. This data is a gold mine for marketing, product, customer experience, and many other teams.

Here is an example of how to use analytics of customer calls to the contact center to identify friction in the customer journey. Knowing that pauses in contact center conversations are a big red flag, a financial services organization reviewed calls and mapped long pauses against the topics that were being discussed. Quickly it became clear that many of these pauses were happening during the automated signature gathering process. After some digging, it was discovered that the auto signature vendor's product had limitations that forced it to build a convoluted process to get the signatures. A new vendor was found, and a significant point of customer friction was erased. Finding this type of issue without these capabilities would have been next to impossible.

An eager audience for this information can often be found in the CX team. CX executives are struggling with surveys, their primary source of customer input. Uptake is dropping, and most respondents only take the survey to vent after a bad experience. The CX team's job is to bring value and insight into the entire organization, but the primary data source is lousy and getting worse. Customers' insights in their own words is a thrilling option for these folks.

In June, Colleen Fazio and I presented at Forrester's CX North America event on the concept of getting data from contact center recordings into the hands of the CX team to enhance the voice of the customer. In our research, we found some companies that were doing this today. They tended to be very large organizations whose CX and CS teams were closely aligned and under the same management.

That alignment is probably not a coincidence. This is not an idea that has executive visibility today. I've yet to hear of someone from the C-suite declare that the company needed to take contact center data and use it to build up voice of the customer efforts. All of the companies we talked to did this as a low-level guerilla effort. The closer aligned people are the easier it is for them to pull off this sort of a skunkworks project.

Through our research into this, Colleen and I discovered 4 steps that were consistent across the teams we saw doing this. We feel this is a good roadmap for people interested in leveraging this valuable asset:

  1. Get CX and CS leaders together and aligned on goals.
  2. Assess your readiness (technology, people, resources, alignment & culture).
  3. Assemble a team including CX and CS leaders, data scientists, AI developers.
  4. Start small and grow the effort from there.

Consider this a suggested roadmap to take advantage of this valuable data source for your own voice of the customer work or use this same roadmap with someone you know in marketing or product. This is an exciting new way for contact centers to provide significant, strategic value to their organizations.

Max Ball is a principal analyst at Forrester Research.