By Ricky Cannon, Katalyst Consultant
Firstly, what is or are “Analytics”?
Let’s not dwell on an OED definition, let’s instead look at what Analytics is to the Contact Centre. For our purposes it’s the extensive use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, explanatory and predictive models, and fact-based management which drive decisions and actions. Basically, it’s about taking a lot of data (“Big Data” if you prefer the IT-speak Americanism), identifying patterns and producing meaningful information on which to act, whether by human or automated means.
Why might you need to Compete On Analytics?
In today’s business world, accessibility to information and the sharing of knowledge is wide spread (you’re reading this on the internet, our biggest sharing mechanism after all!). Availability of resources is abundant and the cost of IT equipment has reduced, thereby making it accessible to all businesses. With these advances, the ability to gain a competitive advantage or differentiation through “traditional” means is becoming ever more challenging.
Those who want to stay competitive, or better still, outperform their competition, need to find new ways of differentiating themselves within the market place, and maximising the efficiency of business processes is one of the last remaining areas of differentiation. Using data to find areas of loss hidden within the business (whether in processes or resources), and then optimising those areas of loss, allows the organisation to find areas of savings as opposed to relentlessly expanding the organisation in an attempt to increase profits. True “Analytical Competitors” are able to wring every last bit of efficiency from their business processes and decisions using analytical data and methods.
Many executives are realising this shift and have started to turn their attention to the vast amount of data their organisations collect and how it may help them improve the way they operate. Once the executive mindset has changed to accept this need to change the way decisions, the next step is to implement a process for collecting and analysing the available data.
In the Contact Centre world, many organisations probably feel that they’re pretty good at analysing data, but the prevailing reality is that they’re good, but only to the extent possible with the tools which they are using. The majority of Contact Centre executives are relying on spreadsheets and rudimentary charting tools to get their insight into what’s happening in their operation. Since almost everyone has either Excel or an equivalent, where’s the competitive edge? The two-dimensional capabilities of spreadsheets haven’t really progressed for two decades, and many would argue that some of the tools now long since dead – SuperCalc, for example – were superior products that lost out in a world dominated by the commercial leverage of Microsoft and Lotus (now in IBM) rather than technological superiority.
This need to differentiate is driving executives to look beyond their current tools, and many are considering “Big Data” solutions as possibilities. What most find on closer inspection, however, is that off-the-shelf Business Intelligence tools require expert users, a lot of expensive configuration, and in many cases they don’t offer much more than replicating what you’re doing today (usually with a higher operational cost).
What does Best Practice look like?
This situation prompted Datapoint’s R&D team to examine what best practice might look like. The result is a solution that pulls together all of the disparate information sources into one place, and then presents it back to the user in a simple-to-read format. What that achieves is a reduction in collection and presentation effort and cost, and it also reduces the reporting cycle from weeks to minutes. Perhaps that’s enough to justify a business case to do things differently; however, it was important to take the science of Contact Centre Analytics forward too.
The team figured out that what the Contact Centre executive and management need is guidance on where to apply changes in order to use limited time and resources most efficiently. This means applying real expertise from running Contact Centres to derive measures which can be taken, and advising what any given change’s impact might be. Then, having made any changes, you would need to understand if the expected results were being achieved. A constant cycle of improvement can be commenced, together with delivering a deep understanding of what really makes the difference – especially insight from new correlations between disparate data sources – to enable the Contact Centre executive to improve significantly and exceed those all important KPIs.
So, how do you know if your Analytics are fit to compete?
We think that there are five stages on the journey to an elite standard of Analytical Competitiveness:
- Analytically Impaired
Your organisation does not use any analytics at all. Any information gathered remains unused and filed away never to be looked at.
- Localised Analytics
Your organisation has one or more localised spreadsheets or databases, but they are isolated within individual departments or only used by individual employees.
- Analytically Aspirational
Your organisation has started to integrate their sources of analysis and can answer questions such as “What is happening now and can its impact be extrapolated?”
- Analytical Normality
Your organisation has broad analytical capabilities and can answer questions such as, “How can we innovate and be different from our competition?”
- Analytical Ninja
Your organisation has fully integrated its data sources and has the data inter-dependencies figured out. You can gain insight which others cannot, and are both the most efficient and the most innovative in your industry. You can answers questions such as, “What’s next for this industry?” and “Is this possible based on our data?”