Using big data to optimise customer service – tricks of the trade revealed

Consumer expectations are changing rapidly, and successful customer loyalty hinges on outstanding customer service. The increasing digitisation of business processes means that customers expect their problems to be dealt with and solved instantly.

Behind the scenes, however, customer service staff often find themselves struggling to offer immediate solutions at the drop of a hat. More often than not, the bottleneck can be located in a phlegmatic search method that throws out a massive jumble of information but can’t efficiently glean through it to pinpoint what customer service staff need to solve the problem at hand.

Particularly when using more technical products, customers often find themselves needing to reach out to customer service. In most cases, this process is an ordeal from the get-go, from being put on hold for a seeming eternity to finally reaching an employee and explaining the problem, and then waiting some more as the well-meaning service center staff tries to find a suitable solution.

One reason for the lengthy wait is the huge amount of data (big data) that comes up in the research process, coupled with a search system that is inadequate or lacking altogether.

According to a recent study by Dynamik Markets, less than 20% of today’s companies meet the service expectations of their customers. With consumers expecting hair-trigger solutions, companies need to realise that when 'you snooze, you lose.'

Service center employees need to be able to answer a broad range of questions spanning everything from general product information to specific product warranty or technical details, and to have instant access to extensive information.

Clearly no one can be an expert on everything, and corporate databases with their enormous wealth of information are the most important tool for service center staff. Unfortunately however, all that valuable data usually doesn’t do them any good because they simply can’t locate what they need when they need it. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. 

If a company recognises its need to improve the customer experience by being able to handle and utilise large amounts of data to hone in on what they really need, they can gain an invaluable competitive advantage. Enterprise search systems offer a pivotal tool to realize this otherwise elusive goal.

Seek and ye shall find immediately

Without enterprise search, crucial knowledge lying dormant deep in the system which can actually be pinpointed instantly and precisely with an enterprise search solution instead gets lost in a list of hundreds of uselessly displayed search results. Enterprise search turns the drudgery of searching for information into a short and sweet step that delivers perfect and immediate results.

This is done by accessing and connecting all sources of information, whether it be located in the file system, the cloud application, the ECM system or social media channels, and then linking this information intelligently to make it clearly and efficiently searchable.

Most professional search solutions can well understand information content regardless of whether the information is structured or unstructured – it can all be integrated into the search. This even includes information located in forums or community portals, so that suggestions for solutions that have been discussed by the community will also be displayed.

The service centrw staff can pass this information right on to the customer, since it is displayed in a way that makes it immediately accessible and usable. The employee is not overwhelmed by a trying to sort through and structure a daunting list of mostly useless search results to find the right answer. This is all handled by the enterprise search system, which provides the respective department with a 360-degree view of the information landscape.

This means that specific application scenarios, issues, and questions are shown with the aim of supporting or even optimising existing business processes. Thus, the employee receives both a comprehensive view of the customer and of the typical questions about a particular issue or product. The customers receive the information they need without the wait and the staff can handle a lot more customer inquiries a lot more efficiently.

Let’s say a customer notices that the spin cycle on his new washing machine seems to be overly loud. The service center co-worker enters the model number of the washing machine and the phrase 'noisy during the spin cycle' into the search field.

Right away, general information about the washing machine is displayed along with possible reasons why the spin cycle might be noisy and solutions to address the issue. In addition, the sales representative simultaneously receives a pre-classification of the problem and a list of replacement parts he may require when doing on-site trouble shooting.

The system also links other important results to help the service center give an informed answer, including requests from other customers who had the same problem, which product or model was affected and how this problem was solved in the past. With just one search query, the staff gains instant access to the company’s entire spectrum of knowledge and can give the customer pertinent, top quality information without needing to be an expert in this field.

This results not only in greatly increased customer satisfaction, but also in vastly improved company competitiveness. The service center is equipped to provide the right answer themselves, without needing to bother a technician; the sales rep can show up for an appointment with the customer with the right spare parts needed to solve the problem the first time around and avoid repeat visits.

Personalised service in community portals

Companies are increasingly using customer forums or community portals on which customers describe and post their problem online, classify it to a given problem category, and then wait to see if the rest of the community discusses the issue or the staff can post a satisfactory response. This approach, which is quick and usually leads to a solution, also has its share of drawbacks.

Companies offering these portals soon find themselves facing an endless stream of requests and questions. The critical issue here is that most requests are redundant because the customers don’t check the questions that have been posted in the past to find out what solutions have already been offered.

> See also: A reality check on how to get big data out of the lab and into production 

In most cases, their problem has already been discussed in the community or described by someone else. Instead, they pose the same question, assign it to a topic category (often incorrectly), and put it online. Thus, the entire platform is confusing and the staff spend a great deal of their time answering recurring questions for which solutions can already be found on the platform.

Enterprise Search systems offer a targeted strategy to avoid these problems as well. Once a customer has formulated his request, the system can instantly analyze and automatically classify it.

Even before the customer finishes sending his question, the application is proactively displaying a personalised list of posts that deal with this exact problem. Ideally, the customer finds the solution before he even posts his issue.

The platform doesn’t get gummed up with repetitive queries, and instead provides a transparent overview of issues and solutions, where the customer automatically gets a solution to his problem and the co-workers don’t find themselves answering the same question over and over again.

When it comes to customer service, nothing is more critical than the full utilisation of information to meet the needs of customers in the best way possible and thus provide real customer satisfaction and sustainable customer loyalty. 

Sourced from Daniel Fallmann, CEO, Mindbreeze

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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