How Customer Data Can Help Companies Spur Innovation

In a consumer-driven market, customer experience is everything, and how you handle complaints and queries can be a turning point in that journey. For that reason, if you still consider your contact center to be a cost center, you haven't been paying attention.

Because contact centers serve as the primary touchpoint between customers and suppliers, every type of query, positive or negative, new customer or loyal one, gets approached in the same way, with the same level of urgency. This is why determining intent is critically important. The easiest way to successfully triage an interaction is to introduce context as soon as possible. Here, the value of data becomes crystal clear.

Understanding the problem allows you to drive toward an outcome, and data is the fastest and most effective way to contextualize an issue. That data can come from any point along the customer experience journey—cookies from the website, chatbot messages, fully automated phone interactions—before reaching the last line of defense: the agent. By the time the customer reaches that level, the agent can use all of the data collected along the way to more easily satisfy the request.

With all that information, being able to measure the sentiment and intent of a call becomes an opportunity, and determining intent can feed directly into the product management team, drive new product development, and deliver incredible business intelligence.

So why do many companies consider this space to be a cost center? Why do we spend so much money directing people to connect with us, then spend even more not to speak with them? It's true that interactions can be expensive—the industry average is $14 per call—but consider what it costs to acquire a whole new customer. CX shouldn't be siloed from the marketing department or any other part of the business, because every contact is quite simply an opportunity. For so many customers, it's not just the product but the journey. Why do I keep going back to certain brands? Because the support is amazing enough that it's not worth it for me to go out of my way to switch to somewhere new. They keep me happy.

Part of the journey is, of course, about pinpointing problem areas. Data can help you easily detect dissatisfaction and can even help you with internal metrics, like agent success. But go one step further: If five out of seven of an agent's calls in a day are negative, maybe that agent needs a break, and we can see the last time he took one. This kind of intelligence arms us to not only serve customers better, but to provide a better employee experience, which then translates to a better consumer experience.

The contact center agent is just as important as the sales agent because while one acquires, the other retains. We need to change the narrative around contact center employee satisfaction because the face of the agent has changed. Agents working from home with the right tools to do their jobs well are more loyal because they feel they're being invested in. And these days nearshoring, rather than offshoring, provides a more personal and culturally relevant experience for the caller.

Remember that the contact center is your customers' direct line of feedback to your company. The best way to keep up with ever-changing trends is to recognize how customers are buying so you can accommodate how they want to do business going forward. Contact centers, and the data that help them thrive, help your company constantly adapt to new realities.

How does all of this affect your bottom line? If you believe that happy customers are good, you believe that contact centers are good. And the secret to a happy customer is a good interaction. Customers communicate with us in so many ways; when we have the tools in place to actually listen and act on their feedback, we're able to build the next great thing.

Using data doesn't have to mean automating to the point of no contact. Customer service should be more human, not less. With the right data, you can grow your company, satisfy your customers, and keep your employees happy. And that's good for everyone.

Joe Manuele is senior vice president of corporate and business development at Dialpad.