In an environment where 80% companies say they deliver outstanding service while just 8% of their customers agree, organizations are turning to big data to provide a better, more personalized service experience.
We’ve all heard of “big data”. It’s the combination of powerful algorithms and vast troves of random data that enables us to predict hurricanes, prevent diseases, fight crime and do lots of other worthwhile things.
But using it to improve customer service?
Absolutely. Big data is the next frontier in customer service, and certainly a worthwhile one – especially since 80% companies say they deliver outstanding service but just 8% of their customers agree.Soon organizations will be able to augment their human-based service efforts with big data to better anticipate customer needs, personalize their service offerings and head off issues before they occur.
Imagine having your support call routed to an agent who knows the patterns in buying behavior of your demographics. And wouldn’t it be great if your cable company contacted you to offer a package that matches your viewing habits and costs less than your current one?
Big data will make it possible.
What It Is – and Isn’t
There are plenty of misperceptions about what big data is and isn’t. Some think of it as machine learning, which is the ability of computers to learn without being programmed, or the “internet of things,” which is a way of linking services and devices together using the Internet. Others linking it to customer relationship management (CRM), which is a way to collect, store and analyze data about customers, such as past purchases, recent interactions, etc.
Big data is different from, and in fact bigger than all those. Most may know it as IBM’s Watson, which became a household name in 2011 by defeating two past champions of the Jeopardy! trivia game. Big data is the process of gathering enormous amounts of loosely structure data, aggregating it, and then employing complex algorithms to identify patterns, trends and linkages, which can then be interpreted by humans.
Using big data, we can predict outcomes, including the most complex outcome of all: human behaviors. For instance, Google is able to predict flu outbreaks based on the online activity of people searching based on their symptoms.
Because of the vast amount of information collected and enormous computing power needed to analyze it, the benefits of big data have been beyond the reach of most organizations. But that’s changing as data centers grow larger and computing power gets faster and cheaper.
The Perfect Complement to Humans
Big data represents the ideal complement to human-based customer service. Because humans have the ability to listen, understand, empathize and apply accumulated knowledge and experiences, they’re perfect problem-solvers.
But often they’re limited by the information at their fingertips. That’s where big data comes in. By actively spotting trends, predicting behavior and developing complex customer profiles, big data helps enable outstanding customer service – and in a nearly endless number of ways:
- In contact centers, organizations could use big data to understand the service expectations of their many different caller profiles. Knowing that younger callers prefer fast resolution while older ones enjoy some additional conversation, they could route calls to the agents best suited to meet the caller’s profile and expectations.
- Auto repairers could use big data to anticipate weather patterns, road usage and more to predict the number and size of potholes for the coming winter. From there, they could adjust staffing levels to meet anticipated demand, ensure they have enough tires and suspension parts in stock – and even offer wheel-alignment specials.
- Universities could use big data to identify at-risk students and offer counseling or tutoring to keep them on track to graduate.
In using big data, organizations will need to be vigilant about protecting customers’ privacy and preserving their trust. Many would object to, say, receiving a loan offer from a bank that had been monitoring their browsing history and knew they were looking for a home. The organizations that will be most successful in using big data in customer service will be those that understand their competitive advantage is their people, not their technologies.
In a world where 80% companies profess to deliver outstanding service while just 8% of their customers agree, look for big data to make a big impact on customer service.