Turning customer insight into real business value

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Nancy Dobrozdravic, VP Solutions MarketingWhen I was growing up, my mother never had a shortage of advice for me on how to improve my behavior (“you’re going to wear that?”), with such helpful commentaries reaching a fever pitch in my teenage years. These memories come to mind as I think about today’s organizations struggling to absorb and figure out what to do with consumer feedback and opinions.

There have been online mechanisms for collecting customer feedback for quite a while now, with one of the earliest vehicles being surveys embedded in customer emails or popping up in a visit to a company’s website following a customer interaction of some sort.

Now there are countless ways for consumers to express their sentiments and relate experiences with vendor organizations on social-networking sites, blogs, tweets, etc. You can liken it to the rhythm of motherly advice of my teenage years – it’s continuous, and you never ever asked for it.

Even before this glut of consumer commentary, organizations struggled to do something with the input they received. I remember a survey from several years ago that showed 95 percent of commercial organizations actively collected customer feedback through surveys and the like – but only 10 percent of those same companies actually did anything differently based on the intelligence they received. It’s not that companies do not want to improve the way they do business and make their customers happier – it is just not all that easy to change business processes and people’s behavior to put those changes into action.

I witnessed this firsthand when I worked for a predictive analytics/data mining company several years ago. I would get frustrated that all the insights revealed (“these are your best repeat customers and cross/up-sell opportunities”) would rarely surface other than in an analyst’s report.

The breakthrough in getting those analytics to help improve sales and customer satisfaction levels was when we packaged up those predictive models and inserted them into the nerve center of customer-facing activity – call centers – and were able to make real-time recommendations available to the agents. This was successful since the call centers had the best defined, structured and repeatable business processes along with appropriately trained personnel.

What was true of call centers years ago is even more true for the modern contact center today – no matter where, when, or how a customer wants to be heard, contact centers are the best unifying force within the enterprise for productively handling those consumer conversations to everyone’s benefit.

I am slightly obsessed with how organizations can marry such operational efficiencies and expertise with the power of information. I have come to see the contact center as the defining piece of the customer-centric mosaic – and it is why I am at Aspect today.

All this is by way of letting you know where my focus will be in future blogs (although my mind will wander occasionally) – how do we take full advantage of the contact center, not only in uniting communications with customers across multiple channels (phone, Web, IM, email, etc.), but also in providing the enterprise the structural and procedural backbone for optimizing each and every interaction/transaction.

And remember: the customer – and your mother – are always right.