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Extracting Business Insights: Integration

This is the third posting in a four-part series on business insights.

I promise this post won’t turn into a rant, but there is an aspect of my customer experience with call centers that continually annoys me. Last week I had to call my telecom provider for technical assistance. The automated voice answers and asks me for information about myself and my reason for calling. I have no problem with this part of the experience. But once I get to a live person, I have to tell them all of my customer information, even though I just gave the nice computer-lady my customer account number. Then I get transferred to another department for additional help and have to give them all of my information again! And it’s not just to verify that I am how I say I am, they literally don’t know who I am when I get transferred to their station.

Many of you may be preparing to send me links to stress management tips thinking I have cracked. But this is one of those small things that annoy me because it can be easily fixed with a little data integration. I’m sure the call center experts will tell me how difficult it is to integrate systems and transfer information between call center reps in real time, but as a customer, I don’t care – I want my problems resolved without having to re-tell my information and problem to every rep I talk to.

Customer Feedback MatrixHowever, most of us involved in customer experience management or voice of the customer (VoC) programs are guilty of a similar sin – not integrating customer feedback. To be more precise, we are guilty of not integrating insights from all the customer listening posts modern organizations possess. As Bruce Temkin notes on his blog, one of the key trends for next generation VoC programs is to extend the reach of these programs into all types of customer information, especially by tapping into unsolicited and unstructured customer feedback.

This trend of tapping into additional sources and types of customer data will continue to challenge our VoC programs, which often struggle to integrate insights across multiple surveys or multiple years much less across very disparate sources and data types. Most progressive, customer-centric companies are aware of the need to integrate additional customer listening posts, but it is a tough nut to crack. However, the benefits of this integration can be significant. The article I have been discussing in this series (“Unleashing Hidden Insights”) points to three general benefits: 
 

  1. You can find new insights. I’ve seen cases where a low priority finding from one source gets elevated to the highest priority because it consistently appears as a finding in multiple sources of customer feedback.
  2. These new insights can be more strategic because competitors are less likely to have access to all the same sources of information.
  3. Insights are made more compelling when there are multiple points of validation. Key decision makers are sometimes tempted to dismiss survey findings, but they are less likely to dismiss findings that are backed up by multiple data sources.

So, how do we accomplish this integration? The focus is often on consolidating all feedback/listening mechanisms under one team or in one department or even into one dataset, but I don’t think this is the best approach when integrating across disparate sources and types of data. I really like one of the options presented in “Unleashing Hidden Insights”: Analyze each source separately, compare findings and do a qualitative integration of insights across all sources. 

By focusing on integrating the insights, you allow the actual listening post to be managed and analyzed by those closest to it – the brand team manages brand image surveys, tests, and panels; the product team conducts their own user-centered design process; the call center collects and analyzes customer comments; etc. There are obviously times where consolidating quantitative data from multiple sources into one dataset will be useful, and it’s a nice idea to dream of one master customer information database, but I think integrating insights is a more practical and efficient goal, especially when dealing with both structured and unstructured data sources.

As an example, Microsoft created an insights search engine. Their database collects insights from all qualitative and quantitative projects they conduct and can be searched and subjected to pattern detection to find additional insights across projects.

So let’s get to work on instituting a framework for integrating insights from all the customer listening posts your organization has to offer while continuing to tap into other sources of customer feedback. The benefits of this effort will yield new insights that are more strategic and more compelling than ever.

Troy Powell, Ph.D.
Vice President, Statistical Solutions
Walker Information

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