In my writing and speaking, I try to avoid “market babble,” which numbs ordinary readers with technology buzzwords and three-letter acronyms. Lately I have been accused of overusing the phrase “interaction-handling processes,” which some people have taken as an instance of market-speak. So I’ll explain what I mean by it. It has to do with contact center agents – or customer service representatives, if you prefer – trying to resolve customers’ issues. When handling a call, for example, this includes how they identify the caller, how they identify the caller’s issue, the systems they use to resolve the issue, how they close the call, and what they need to do afterward. It used to be common for companies to provide agents with a script to guide them through this process, but now these inflexible routines are being replaced with more advanced automated systems. These systems guide the agent through interactions of different types – general inquiries, complaints, sales and support, say – and allow them to personalize responses based on the caller’s profile. It is generally true that the more an agent can adapt the process to personalize the responses, the better the customer experience will turn out.
Let me move on to another term, “operational intelligence”; before you dismiss it as market babble, let me say that it is a market category that our firm has defined and is found as well in the Wikipedia. Until recently, I believed that as applied to the contact center, operational intelligence was limited to the infrastructure and monitoring how people and processes are performing. Operational intelligence in this context works by capturing, often in real time, events occurring in the infrastructure, comparing them to agreed service level agreements (SLAs) and raising alerts if the agreements are not being met. It also produces reports, dashboards and analysis of how the systems have performed so that companies could make improvements where needed.
My view broadened when I recently spoke with Vitria, which has taken operational intelligence into the realm of customer service and customer experience management. First and foremost its Operational Intelligence product called M3O Analytic Server allows companies to create “live” maps in electronic form of a variety of processes, including the end-to-end customer acquisition process, the billing process, the activation process or the process for handling a customer service inquiry. It’s important that these maps don’t stop at business unit boundaries, so companies can map customer-focused processes and activities that cross business unit boundaries, communication channels and computer systems. Also, because the maps are live, companies can allocate the time that should elapse between one activity – or event – and the next, such as between when a call center agent raises an alert (about a complaint he or she can’t resolve) and someone calls (or e-mails, text messages or writes) the customer. Our firm’s benchmark research on operational intelligence found that 62 percent of organizations require no latency or low latency in their call center processes.
After these maps are set up, the product moves into operational mode. Companies typically define an event as having occurred because data has been entered into a system (say, a CRM record has been created or updated), a transaction has been logged (perhaps the customer signed into the company’s Web site), or maybe someone has just “tweeted.” As long as these or any event can be associated with a process and a customer, the Vitria system can recognize that an expected event has occurred and note the time and what should happen next. If the next expected event doesn’t occur within the set timeframe, the system can raise an alert or initiate an alternative process, thus tracking the process and the time to execute. By capturing all events and timings, the system can produce an analysis of what is working and what isn’t, where bottlenecks are occurring and what (or who) is causing a breakdown in the process. In this way, companies gain visibility into how their operations are working and insights into what needs improving, and their people are prompted to take actions to improve. Vitria has smartly built upon its business process management solution that can also operate in the cloud (See: “Vitria Provides Business Process Management in the Cloud”).
My research into customer experience management (CEM) showed that dealing with customers in an increasingly difficult task. These days customers interact with people all over an organization, in marketing, sales, customer service, the contact center, finance and even HR and manufacturing. They also interact with companies over an increasing number of communication channels: phone, e-mail, letters or forms, surveys, Web self-service, IVR, text messaging, chat and social media. And customer data sits in multiple systems: CRM, ERP, billing, data warehouses, call recordings, text files and others. Keeping track of all of this and optimizing processes to give customers excellent service and satisfying experiences can be a nightmare. Some people might cry “market babble” if I call this operational intelligence-driven CEM, but Vitria offers a unique solution that could give a boost to customer service and make multichannel contact centers a reality.
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Richard Snow - VP & Global Research Director