We’ve all been through it. After a frustrating attempt to figure out a discrepancy in your phone bill online, you finally give up and call the company. After being transferred twice and speaking to three people who each had to validate your information and ask what the problem was the problem of customer-facing analytics takes on real meaning.


There’s nothing more frustrating than speaking to customer service representatives who don’t know who you are, don’t know anything about your account and can’t help you get the solution you need quickly. That’s a big problem, because in today’s economy savvy customers have choices. If one business doesn’t meet their needs, they can easily switch to a company that can.


To protect themselves from customer attrition, businesses deploy business intelligence (BI) tools to recreate the personal touch their customers crave: the feeling of walking into their local stores, seeing the same salesperson they’ve been working with for years who knows them by name.


Customer-facing analytics provide that personal touch - even through an electronic medium such as a Web site. BI can help ensure that every customer touchpoint provides a personally tailored interaction. When a company interacts with someone online, over the phone or in person, that person’s account information and market demographic are available to make sure they are being served properly, their needs are met and that upsell opportunities aren’t missed.


BI can help organizations treat customers as people, not just as an account number. This article explores the ways in which BI can enhance an organization’s image with customers online, over the phone and in person, demonstrating the role technology can play in improving customer interactions and increasing loyalty.


Improving Customers’ Online Experience


Customers expect a lot. Shoppers can find the best prices for products and services on sites that compare offerings and ferret out deals. Online book retailers provide tailored recommendations for books based the shopper’s previous selections. People can even find a potential spouse based on personal preferences. Immediate access to data has become the norm, and any business that fails to meet customers’ desires for quick information will face problems.


The easiest, most cost-effective way to provide personalized information is to apply BI through Web sites. Companies can have a personalized interaction with customers without having to use costly human labor. An analytics-backed Web site can provide user-specific information to the Web site visitor, capture his orher actions/purchases/preferences for further analysis and give him or her the information they need in a quick, unobtrusive way. It can also provide insights for future marketing campaigns personalized for that customer.


Web-based customer analytics have a wide range of applications. Investment banks can provide details about account performance, holdings, industry research, performance against the market and other performance indicators. Such information will let the consumer know how his or her portfolio is performing. Job banks can proactively alert clients to opportunities that might suit their skills and experience. Mortgage companies can alert customers about insurance offerings that correlate to a new home purchase. In short, Web sites can provide consumers with information about their existing accounts and create tailored offerings for consumer preferences.


As analytics improve, it’s astonishing how good computers have become at “guessing” what you’d like. Netflix predicts what movies a viewer will enjoy based how the viewer has rated other movies in the past. Through the simple application of customer analytics, the Netflix Web site provides a valuable recommendation service. Customers expect this level of service, and it’s becoming commonplace on successful businesses’ Web sites.


It’s important to not forget business-to-business client relationships - relationships where analytics can be even more valuable. These customers typically spend more money and demand more information, because their businesses might be dependent upon it. An advertiser can view its ad impression rates on different Web sites and compare them against industry averages. Retailers can track the status of orders and shipments from manufacturers. Car dealerships can track inventory at manufacturing plants and plan inventory levels based on upcoming promotions. Any time one business relies on another for information, it’s safe to assume they will want insight into account processes and status.


As more and more customers, both individuals and businesses, prefer to interact with companies online, Internet customer service interactions can make or break a business. The equation is simple: make it easy for customers to find what they want, and they’ll keep coming back.


Improving Phone Interactions


Most people who call into customer service are already irritated. The best way to transform an unhappy customer into a happy one is to address his or her problems quickly, interact with the customer on a personal level, listen to (and document) their issues and provide information about what will happen next. A customer service representative armed with information can transform a bad situation into a memorable, positive experience.


For those instances when a customer calls into an organization for reasons other than a problem – for example to start a new service - customer-facing analytics provide the customer service representative the ability to capture information about a prospective client and tailor offerings to the individual’s needs. For example, a phone company can sign up a family for the most cost-effective plan. Analytics provide the ability to cross-sell and upsell based on consumer patterns, versus promoting a cookie-cutter offering for all customers and making them feel that they’re just another checkbook.


Whether assisting distressed customers, providing information over the phone or signing up new clients, customer-facing analytics can be a key differentiator for businesses, helping them attract and retain customers.


Personal Touch


In-person encounters with customers provide the opportunity to make a lasting impression. Any employee can be a company advocate in your campaign to create customer satisfaction, but one behind a computer screen can be a particularly valuable asset. In addition to providing good service, a customer service representative can ask better questions to serve a customer, provide insights into products that may interest the consumer and appear more knowledgeable.


Whether customers have a question about a product, the industry, or a specific inquiry, BI can help answer their questions.


An Improved Image


A happy customer is a company’s most important asset. By providing consumers with the information they want, when and how they want it, businesses can create loyalty and build a lasting relationship. Though buying and implementing new technologies comes with some hassles, providing customer-facing employees and Web sites with consumer-focused information will be an investment well worth making. Without business analytics, businesses of all types are at a disadvantage. Customers will likely remember all of their interactions with a business, but the business won’t be able to do the same.


By providing employees and Web sites with information about customer contacts and their order histories, you can interact with customers in an ongoing, two-way dialog. When your customer calls in and your sales representative knows everything that the company has sent them – from marketing offers and promises to late payment notices – a representative can speak to the customer about the things that matter to him or her in a way that demonstrates care for the individual or business. An employee can discuss previous interactions, anticipate problems and even provide fixes before the customer asks for anything. This level of personal service harkens back to a time when the customer was always right and their needs were addressed. How refreshing.

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