Alok Kulkarni is Co-Founder and CEO of Cyara, a customer experience (CX) leader trusted by leading brands around the world.
Some of the most significant innovations of our time have stemmed from organizations taking action based on customer insights and feedback. For instance, retailers like Target and Walmart began offering consumers a buy-online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) option for added convenience. Sephora and Whole Foods are among the many businesses that have adopted AI-powered chatbots since customers wanted responses faster than agents could provide.
In the past, I’ve argued that business leaders should embrace “angry” customers because sometimes after you address the issue, it’s the disgruntled buyers who end up being your most passionate brand ambassadors. But customers—whether they’re angry or not—can lend even greater value than brand loyalty. When properly gathered and analyzed, customer feedback and other insights can inspire the kind of innovations that disrupt industries and change customer lives.
Of course, such customer feedback has been collected by all kinds of businesses for decades and through various means. But one source of real-time customer insights remains woefully underutilized: the contact center. This may be surprising given the contact center’s direct line of communication with customers. Amid their obsession with average handle time and other metrics, many companies fail to realize the call center’s greater value.
Call Centers: An Untapped Gold Mine Of Insights
The contact center is teeming with rich data. It is, after all, the eyes and ears of an organization. What one customer is feeling often reflects the sentiment of many. Even if you’ve got thousands of five-star reviews, contact center feedback could indicate the beginning of downward trends that should be immediately shared with everyone from product development teams to shareholders, sales, marketing and IT.
If it’s related to shortcomings with your product or service, early negative customer feedback can help you update your offering (or create a new one altogether) before you start losing customers and prospects. Of course, you don’t want to only focus on your disgruntled customers; it’s equally important to know what your brand is doing right. You just need to resist the temptation to dismiss what may appear to be outlier feedback, as it could be the tip of the iceberg.
On the road to maximizing the impact of call center insights, there must be a system in place to organize, analyze and justify the data received. Here’s what I recommend.
Customers have varying preferences when it comes to how they share feedback or reach out for support. A 2020 study (download required) from Vonage shows that the pandemic changed consumers’ preferences for communicating with businesses, signaling major growth for video chat, chatbots, app-based messaging and calling. The study also confirmed that today customers expect fast and seamless CX catered to their needs at any given moment, and they are ready to leave any business when this falls short.
With that said, potential sources of customer input live in so many different areas: service cloud, sales cloud, survey data, customer scores and operational data on the backend (such as supply chain data). Collecting this information must take a multipronged approach. It’s not just going into one system; it’s organizing multiple systems and data sources to really understand what’s going on.
It’s important for every person in your organization to have access to real customer feedback—either from reading raw data, listening to call recordings, riding along on agent calls or taking customer inquiries themselves. Achieving such hands-on access requires a methodical process of gathering, formulating and analyzing all the data.
For executives, this process is two-pronged. First, you must figure out how you will procure information from agents. Employees in the contact center are in the trenches listening to the calls. They hear what their customers are saying. But for those in the C-suite, gaining that level of knowledge isn’t going to happen on its own. How can you deliver that insight?
This is where customer journey analytics plays a crucial role. Customer journey analytics refers to the process of analyzing CX across each and every touchpoint throughout the customer journey. This practice helps companies manage, measure and improve CX and business outcomes. In fact, a 2021 Genesys survey revealed that “top-performing organizations ranked customer journey analytics as their second-highest CX-related investment priority.” Customer journey mapping and analysis allow organizations to secure actionable insights, optimize customer journeys and continuously test and measure the performance of CX initiatives.
The data collected from call centers is both operational and customer-focused. These two categories of information can be linked to show patterns and flag potential issues early. I once worked with a company that would experience a large volume of dropped customer calls at the same time every Monday afternoon. For years, the company couldn’t determine the cause. Not until they looked at their call center data—and linked the patterns that arose in operational and customer feedback—did they finally identify the problem: server upgrades and/or resets that were scheduled at the same time as the dropped calls. Knowing this, IT was able to resolve the issue.
You can also harvest call center insights to spur innovation and product design to solve key pain points and outperform the competition. Then, as customer needs evolve and new challenges arise, offerings can be adjusted accordingly. This starts with company leadership promoting transparency with customers and having the right technology in place for internal teams to secure contact center feedback and implement it on a continuous basis.
Customers can help fill in missing pieces when it comes to innovation, product development, CX improvements and more. The information is already out there, but it’s up to you to leverage that data to gain the practical insights that inform better decision-making. Once you devise a strategy for collecting, categorizing and leveraging those insights, you can count your organization among those who have embarked on an exciting journey toward achieving greater innovativeness and meaningful impact on the customer.