At some point in the not-too-distant past, the job of customer service became the customer's responsibility. Want product information? Scour the Web to find it on your own. Need to pay a bill? Go to a Web site, verify your identity, enter your information, and click the submit button. Want to book a flight or make a reservation at a restaurant? It can all be done via the Web. You don't need a human to help, and you shouldn't expect one.
But there are still plenty of instances when self-service is impossible or impractical and another human—likely a contact center agent—will have to step in.
In the past, these agents were likely to be less informed than the customers calling in, and their motivation to provide a good experience was rather low.
But this will no longer do. Today's contact center needs to leave traditional approaches behind and transition itself into a real-time customer engagement center.
Luckily, new tools and approaches to customer care are reshaping the customer service dynamic, empowering agents in brand-new ways that are also putting the service back in customer service.
As we look specifically at the contact center space, the challenge is to provide data when it's needed, and the need today is immediate.
Real-time analytics, though still in its infancy, is quickly becoming a necessity in customer service, according to Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting. "Post-call analytics are fully mature, and now the goal is to help the agent while she's still on the call," she says.
According to Fluss, recent innovations have started to give companies a practical way to use real-time input from customers and enterprise business intelligence solutions to optimize the service experience. These innovations, she says, will be "game changers" for companies and their customers.
Real-time speech analytics takes traditional speech analytics to the next level, looking at interactions while they are happening and generating actionable insight that can be used to positively impact their outcome. As it monitors a call, the software can flag a customer at risk of churning or identify a hidden sales opportunity.
It can also trigger supervisor alerts during emotionally charged or highly complex interactions. "Supervisors can instantly identify calls at risk of going in the wrong direction and barge in to correct the situation in real time," says Mike Burkland, CEO of Five9, a provider of cloud-based contact center solutions.
To show how hot real-time analytics has become, in just the past two years, Forrester Research has identified a 66 percent increase in firms' use of the technology.
And Frost & Sullivan's Stratecast practice noted in its "2014 Big Data and Analytics Survey" report that 75 percent of firms have either deployed or plan to deploy a real-time analytics solution in their organizations. The company expects real-time analytics to become a standard requirement of all data management systems in 2015.
One of the pioneers in the area of real-time analytics, NICE Systems, in July announced the NICE Engage Platform, its next-generation customer interaction capture platform. The platform enables customer-facing organizations to incorporate real-time interaction data and analytics into all of their service processes.
"The NICE Engage Platform is the result of collaboration with our customers who are challenged to meet the demands of their 'now' customers," says Miki Migdal, president of the NICE Enterprise Product Group.
Verint Systems has also launched a real-time analytics solution, called Verint Engagement Analytics.
Verint Engagement Analytics is a cloud-based software and services package that captures data from multiple interaction channels, including Web and mobile activity, phone conversations, email, chat sessions, social media posts, desktop activity, employee performance, and survey responses. Once the data is collected, the tool uses algorithms to generate relevant metrics (such as a customer satisfaction