Inside View: Laura Sikorski on Analytics


Laura Sikorski on Analytics

I had a conversation recently with Laura Sikorski, who is an independent consultant and leading contact center industry authority, on the critical topic of analytics.

Laura Sikorski

“An example of a lesson learned with analytics is the increased usage of the chat channel—about 20% per year since 2016.”
Laura Sikorski

Her expertise and work focuses on operations and technology, but always with the customer in mind. Her guiding principle is in fact “think like a customer.”

To begin our chat I asked Laura, “What are the top trends impacting the use, use cases, and the market for analytics in the contact center?”

Laura replied, “Contact centers need actionable data to intelligently run their operations. That need is becoming increasingly important in order to provide ever-improving customer and employee experiences, the last one also helping the customer experience as happy, well-motivated employees provide high quality service.

“That data is typically housed in a data warehouse. It is granular and the source of an enormous amount of information from CRM, back-office, workforce management (WFM), IVR, ACD, quality monitoring (QM), screen capture, speech analytics, self-service, and artificial intelligence software. In fact any data resource that can provide insights about how an organization takes care of their customer needs.

“Pulling this data into reliable dashboards and management reports will help predict what needs to be done to provide superior customer satisfaction and experience, employee satisfaction, and increased sales.

“Actionable data will enable you to see trends in customer issues and find out what they are looking for in products and services.”

“Do you have examples?” I asked.

“An example of a lesson learned with analytics is the increased usage of the chat channel—about 20% per year since 2016,” replied Laura.

“The wait time is minimal, answers are reliable and printable and customers do not mind waiting for them, and staff stress is reduced as they can answer three to four chats at a time with pre-scripted information.

“Having said that, I do feel text and video channels will be the next waves of increased customer usage and analytics will dictate their sustainability. They are easily imported into the customer record and customer effort is minimal.

“We are more accepting of text as a reliable way to communicate. It provides instantaneous answers to questions, delivery expectation and notices of completion, appointment confirmation, and document signatures, just to name a few of its benefits.

“I am getting fewer telephone calls about ‘did you get my text?’ and almost never get calls on ‘did you get my fax, or did you get my email?’

“As to video the COVID-19 pandemic has made all of us more comfortable with video calls. I am already seeing an increase in telemedicine, one-on-one WhatsApp, Facetime, and ‘how to’ interactive sessions usage.”

I then asked, “What is happening with the suppliers of analytics solutions, and how do these developments affect the quality, functionality, support, and pricing of these products?”

“Lately I see contact center software suppliers competing on the type of information that can be imported/retained in the customer record as part of their standard pricing,” said Laura.

“If the supplier system enables contact center management staff to create their own customer and/or agent dashboards and report information using data from other actionable data sources, they have a competitive advantage.”

So I then posed to Laura, “What, if any, are the challenges affecting analytics use, including obtaining all of the expected benefits, and what are the causes of these issues? And how are these overcome?”

Laura replied, “The challenge I see is how to determine what analytics are required. The information gathered should result in the ‘pulse and temperature’ of what is happening in your center at a specific time.”

She then provided several thoughts on what contact centers should be asking their agents (tenured and new), team leaders, supervisors, and executives to begin developing the type of analytics they need:

  • Are your customers happy with your products and services?
  • How well are your agents providing customer needs?
  • How are your agents responding to customer queries?
  • Are your agents listening to the customers?
  • What is an acceptable service level, wait time, and abandon rate?
  • Do you want to know who your customers are and why they may be calling before they reach the agents?
  • What self-service options can your customers use?
  • What agent productivity statistics are needed about your agents?
  • Do we want to link customer satisfaction surveys with call and screen recordings?

“Staff from all departments that interact with the customer and the contact center should also be interviewed,” Laura added.

I followed up on her answers by asking, “What are the best practices in analytics solution purchasing, including supplier due diligence, packaging (e.g., buy standalone or as part of a suite). And in their installation, use, support, and to maximize the benefits of the investment?”

“Suppliers should include as many features as possible in their native contact center software pricing OR provide costs by feature as native, optional, and third party,” said Laura. “I have championed them both to be best practices with the suppliers I deal with.”

“I have found that over the years suppliers will sell based on everything the software can do.

“When it comes time to provide a price on the features that the contact center wants, such as customizable reports, workforce optimization, QM, screen recording, they are submitted as add-on pricing: which results in ‘sticker shock.’

“Feature implementation dates should be spread out i.e., go-live (keep it simple), 90 days after go-live, 180 days after go-live. This allows time for appropriate training and familiarity on how to use the features to their fullest advantage.

“Also, suppliers’ professional service pricing should be clearly explained—as this can be another expensive ‘surprise.’”

My final question was this, “What are your recommendations to our readers to help them extract the most benefits from their analytics solutions?”

“You probably wouldn’t drive your car too far, except to the mechanic, if you checked your gauges and saw the check engine, low tire pressure, and battery lights on, etc.,” said Laura.

“This analogy may seem odd. But is it?

“How can you operate your contact center and know if you are satisfying your customer and staff needs without looking at your available gauges?

“If you did not have access to ACD real time and historical reports, agent performance evaluations forms from QM software, and staffing schedules and adherence from WFM software, you are working in a vacuum and truly running blind.

“How can you operate your contact center and know if you are satisfying your customer and staff needs without looking at your available gauges?”

“Analytics will give you the ‘ammunition’ for executive management on why you need to hire additional staff and new technology to stay competitive, to explain why revenue is down due to order fulfillment issues, why customers are complaining about long waiting times in queue, why your turnover is high, and why customers are leaving.

“Take the time to review what actionable data you have at your fingertips and use it to your best advantage to prove why your contact center provides the highest value to your company’s bottom line, so that when you ask for something you get it!”