5 Smart Moves with Prebuilt Business Intelligence

A new software solution is coming onto the market: prebuilt business intelligence. And for customer service directors and staff, prebuilt BI promises to add the power of perception to your most important customer programs and contacts. By bringing sophisticated analysis to your customer-facing applications, prebuilt BI can ratchet up customer satisfaction while in many cases lowering operational costs.

What Is Prebuilt BI?
Prebuilt business intelligence is a way to get at the information hidden in your data. But it is not the large-scale, multiyear BI initiative that attempts to consolidate and mine data from across the entire enterprise. Instead, prebuilt BI is an application or module unique to a single application or to a group of closely related applications. It rests on Web-based portals and the technology that lets users easily customize them. And it uses those portals to give you access to prebuilt extracts from the applications' data.

Once you gain access, you use prebuilt BI by prototyping -- setting up a problem situation and hypothesizing solutions. Prebuilt BI doesn't dictate a narrow set of questions you may ask, and it doesn't try to anticipate the ways your needs will change. Instead, it permits you to set up a quick approximation of the situation, test a solution using a few typical parameters, and get a result. It then lets you improve the relevance of the answers by going back and applying new filters. You do that iteratively until your results are "close enough" to meet the demands of the situation you're facing.

How can prebuilt BI help you increase customer satisfaction? Here are some typical applications:

  • Develop indicators that define the path to satisfaction. Start with a customer satisfaction survey. Pull from your customer data all the customer characteristics you have for each customer with a reported satisfaction level. Are there any patterns? On the first round, you'll get some "false positives" -- common sense tells you that the fact that your typical satisfied customer lives on a street beginning with R is irrelevant. But what about this group of customers whose dissatisfaction appears to correlate with calls to the contact center between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.? Apply a few more filters and see if perhaps there's a training or supervision problem that occurs in the contact center during the dinner hours.
  • Deploy real solutions to real problems. Look at the path between a customer's initial complaint and the ultimate solution. Prototyping and iterative filtering can result in a tool that lets CSRs feed customer questions into the system and, while the customer is still on the phone, retrieve possible solutions based on the customer's own history and the experiences of similar customers.
  • Compare your organization to others. Some prebuilt BI applications come with a "starter kit" of common metrics and measures used in your industry, against which you can measure current performance. Utilities, for instance, should look for metrics that focus on such concerns as outage duration, preventive maintenance, or bill accuracy. A product vendor might look at the volumes of competitive products sold by each of its dealers.
  • Anticipate problems. Are new prices or regulations going into effect? Look back at customer issues and complaints the last time a similar event occurred. Focus on the characteristics of customers with specific reactions. Then develop a series of communications to offer, in advance, information that is most likely to address these customers' questions.
  • Ratchet down the cost of service. What is your cost to respond to the average satisfied and dissatisfied customer? Is there a simple formula involved, such as, "The more money spent, the higher the satisfaction level"? Do the most-satisfied customers have the longest history with you? Or is there an inverse relationship? What steps might be taken to move the profile of the dissatisfied customer closer to that of the satisfied customer?

While prebuilt BI is frequently ready for use right out of the box, it doesn't answer every question immediately. You'll need to play with the data and try out new combinations and filters. You'll find you head up some blind alleys. But prebuilt BI is so easy to use that you've invested only minutes getting there. It's easy to back out, apply new filters, and run the application again until a promising pattern emerges.

In short, prebuilt BI is the new way to get fast answers to many of your most pressing customer satisfaction needs.

About the Author
Brian Owenson heads application architecture at Oracle's Utilities Global Business Unit (formerly SPL WorldGroup). He is the product strategist responsible for moving Oracle Utilities applications onto a common platform and onto Oracle Fusion Architecture. He also heads product strategy and development for Oracle Utilities Enterprise Business Advisor, a business intelligence application. Previously, Owenson headed product strategy for SPL Customer Care & Billing. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

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