Big Data? Big Deal

Paul Stockford
Paul Stockford

There’s a new industry movement afoot. You’ve likely heard the term “Big Data” and perhaps, like many others, have wondered why the big talk about Big Data. That described me until I sat in on a keynote presentation by Matt Ariker, now with McKinsey & Company, at the Verint® Systems’ Driving Innovation™ global customer conference this past June.

Big Data is not a contact center, or even a business, exclusive. It can be applied to everything from customer intelligence to fighting crime to optimizing roadway traffic conditions. In a nutshell, Big Data refers to the huge amounts of large data sets that are routinely collected during the normal course of any number of organizational, operational, business or other functions.

In the contact center, Big Data would include the volumes of customer calls that are recorded by a call logger or a quality monitoring system, emails that arrive in the customer care center and are archived, webchats that are captured, customer surveys that are completed, and now, social media channels that are reviewed and recorded. Beyond the contact center, data is also collected in any number of formats, such as reports, applications, forms and so on. The challenge for all industries is to pull all these huge quantities of data together, analyze them and put the results to work for the benefit of the organization. The good news for the contact center industry is we already have a head start. As Ryan Hollenbeck, senior vice president of global marketing for Verint, shared, “We were in Big Data long before it became fashionable.”

The purpose of Big Data is to leverage all that recorded and captured data and put it to use beyond its initial purpose, which, in the contact center, usually has something to do with quality assurance or regulatory issues. While contact center analytics typically provide a single point of insight or offer a relatively simple solution to a question, Big Data is like analytics on steroids. It’s like Analytics 2.0.

While there is plenty of recorded data in just about every industry and vertical market, most of that data is structured. Think survey responses, claims forms, medical reports and so on. What makes the contact center so unique is the amount of unstructured data that is stored there. Unstructured data is pretty much what it sounds like—communications data that doesn’t necessarily follow a preformatted form or structure. In other words, voice conversations, emails, social media posts aren’t formatted but instead are free form. As the contact center industry has discovered, applying analytics to these unstructured customer communications today leads to unique insights that could not be understood and proven outside of the realm of assumption and conjecture in the past.

Because of the nature of contact center customer communications, contact centers are, according to Ariker, at the leading edge of the Big Data trinity: talk, text and transactions. Applying analytics to these communications channels today allows companies to definitely identify factors that lead to a better understanding of why customers behave the way they do. Before analytics it was only possible to make assumptions based on incomplete data. Analytics provides a means of testing and proving assumptions, providing actionable information to managers throughout the enterprise.

Taking Big Data analytics from the realm of single-point analytics to what Ariker refers to as “Big Data derivative analytics” provides increased levels of insight for the contact center and, more importantly, for the enterprise as a whole. Big Data derivative analytics refers to the process of asking the same question five times from five different perspectives; i.e., Who, What, When, Where and Why. The results provide users the opportunity to see the interrelationships of data in the proper context.

Why is this important to the contact center? According to Hollenbeck, “Big Data represents the next wave of opportunity for the contact center to emerge in an enterprise leadership role. From an unstructured data standpoint, no other function has more data than the contact center. Combined with how far the contact center industry has come with analytics in terms of understanding its application and value, there’s no doubt in my mind that the contact center will be at the center of the Big Data movement.”

I have to agree with this assessment. For the contact center today and in the future, Big Data is definitely going to be a big deal.

To learn more, we suggest you attend our next Customer Care & Big Data Forum, runs in Dubai From December 9-12, 2013.

Paul Stockford is Chief Analyst at Saddletree Research, which specializes in contact centers & customer service.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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