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CONTACT CENTER CORNER: Wading Through the Quagmire That Is Reporting and Analytics

Wednesday November 12,2008 12:41:32

By Monique Bozeman

Analytics applications are hot, still emerging, mixed in with more mature applications and well, very confusing. Research analysts attempt to categorize, re-categorize and coin market segment terminology, niche vendors strive to extend beyond their core competency and claim functionality they may yet be growing into, and larger suite vendors move to add an analytics piece -all in search of market stature, wallet share and longevity.

In doing my own structural market analysis, I have a compiled a running list of over thirty-five different market segments for reporting and analytics that touch the contact center depending on which definition you use: channels covered, functions performed and analyst’s origins of expertise. Contact Center Performance Management, Customer Experience Analytics, Interaction Analytics, Service Process Integration, Workforce Optimization, Operational Analytics, Web Analytics, Speech Analytics, Multi-Channel Campaign Management … and the list goes on.

I’m not about to attempt to clarify the market structure in a mere 500-word column, in no small part because I myself am still wading through buzz words, market buckets and overlap. Stay tuned. What I will attempt to do is set up a very simplistic view and provide a few key questions you’ll want to ask yourself and prospective vendors.

Lest we forget, at the heart of any analysis is a desire to gain an understanding of the data so that you can take some action to effect change. The goal is to get good data, see it in a visually pleasing report format, analyze it, understand it and act on it so that you can reduce costs and improve your customers’ experience, your operations and ultimately your bottom line.  My educated but unsubstantiated guess, taking into account my own first-hand experience as a consumer, is the majority of companies still don’t know in any truly meaningful way who is contacting them, how often, for what reasons and by what combination of paths.

Here are a few key questions you need to ask yourself and vendor prospects during the evaluation of analytics applications:

Can we get good data and critical mass to support analysis? One of the biggest obstacles to good analysis is getting at good data. Organizations should also understand the requirements and dependencies a software solution may have on the data it’s fed in order to actually make real use of the information.

How basic or sophisticated an application do we really need? Applications run the gamut from very basic to very sophisticated. Do you really need a sledgehammer to crack a walnut? Or do you want to buy a solution you can grow into, such as one that has the ability to do cross-channel analysis whether your focus is marketing campaign effectiveness or customer experience analysis?

When the vendor deployment team leaves, will we really be able to use the application ourselves with the skill set we have, or will we require ongoing vendor or outside consulting resources to make the application sing? Knowledge is power and historically, only a few experts within an organization, residing no doubt deep in the bowels of the company in a windowless office next to Milton in the basement, provide insights. One of the key benefit statements you will find on every other product data sheet you pick up is ease-of- use interfaces and roles-based views and reports— in other words, extending the ability to gain insight across the organization to various user groups.

Do we want a software as service (SaaS), usually pronounced sass, or a premise-based deployment option? Some vendors offer both deployment models but usually lean more heavily towards one or the other or only offer one option. Many emerging analytics applications are trending towards the SaaS model with most web analytics vendors offering a SaaS solution. Any privacy and security concerns need to be addressed, as well as whether IT or business units will be the first line of support.

Do you need really require real-time or near real-time analysis for what you are trying to find out? This criterion is important to ask internally. Often real-time analysis is critical to point to changes you can actually make pretty quickly to affect operational performance. Analysis that will point to changes and recommendations that will take time to implement don’t really require real-time reporting and analysis.

Finally and most importantly, if you find the right analytics application(s) and do the analysis, will you/can you really fix the issues highlighted by the insight? We’ve all worked in organizations where a flurry of activity is mistaken for productivity and effectiveness, where folks would rather move papers around on a desk rather than effect real, but sometimes painful change.  Will your company really make the changes the analysis and insights point to? Believe it or not, many don’t. If not, save your money and go ask Milton where that one analyst in your basement hides.

Monique Bozeman is a contact center industry expert/analyst, marketing consultant, writer and speaker.  She can be reached at info@moniquebozeman.com