In our last newsletter we spoke to consultant Donna Fluss about performance management in the contact center. This time we'll turn to the issue of unstructured data and real-time decision support. In her recent book, "The Real-Time Contact Center," Fluss looks at the application of near real-time analytics to analyze unstructured data - which she says make up 95 to 99 percent of call center interaction content. She goes on to say that 90 to 98 percent of actionable customer insights are wasted because companies lack the processes and technologies to leverage unstructured interactions."It's phone conversations, email, instant messaging and surveys, and if we can't structure it we can't do anything with it," Fluss says. "All this information is coming to the agent and then it's gone. My goodness, customers tell us everything." Fluss figures businesses could save a lot of money spent elsewhere just by instructing a few agents in the call center to ask about key products and how they might be improved. "You'd get hundreds of inputs a day and you'd save a fortune on focus groups." There are other reasons for focus groups of course, but her point is that enterprises have invested in sophisticated contact center assets, yet tend to instruct agents to keep their interactions with customers as short as possible.

Fluss defines "analytics" in the context of a strategy that engages enabling applications: data warehousing, data marts, BI, decision support, OLAP, modeling, personalization and reporting. "Real-time" analytic applications collect information from customer interactions, analyze patterns and preferences, and present actionable information to the agent while the customer is still on the phone or in a short time frame thereafter. These applications include a transaction engine and a business rules engine, making them capable of real-time decision support. The good thing is that traditional and real-time approaches are related and operating in parallel. We won't go into products here, though Fluss does mention some in her book.

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