Be Mindful Of Marketing

In the days before speech analytics, marketing intelligence could be hard to come by. According to Jim Linkhauer, now a speech analytics consultant for Adtech Global, a provider of contact center services, the most effective data extraction tool was a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. “When I was an operations manager,” recalls Linkhauer, “I would have to walk down the middle of the call center with a box of doughnuts to get agents to tell me anything about what customers were saying about the product we were selling.”

Scott Bakken, Founder and President of MainTrax
Scott Bakken, Founder and President of MainTrax

After his company implemented a speech tool, Linkhauer combed through analytics results during a national product launch and gleaned insights about everything from the effectiveness of the ad campaign to competitive offers to customer complaints. Linkhauer began sending the marketing team nuggets of information on a daily basis to aid and support their strategic decisions. “Listening to what the voice of the customer was telling us about the product we were launching was invaluable,” Linkhauer says. “Data like: ‘5% of callers are signing up longterm,’ and how often callers bring up names of specific competitors when the new product is mentioned would end up on the CEO’s desk, and he’d say, ‘This is awesome! What else can you tell me?’”

When product teams studied the data, they’d ask specific follow-up questions, prompting Linkhauer to build more search categories and locate relevant customer-agent conversations. Not only were results quick and accurate, not a single doughnut was required. “I once heard someone say that speech analytics is like having an instant focus group with 24/7 trending analysis,” Linkhauer says. “It helps take the guesswork out of marketing.”

Patrick Botz agrees. “Speech analytics is a fantastic tool for quickly identifying competitors’ new campaigns and threats,” adds Botz, a vice president for VPI, a provider of speech analytics and workforce optimization software. “By tagging CRM data such as campaign name, product name and order value to recorded calls, marketers can focus their speech analytics searches on higher-value calls for even greater insights.”

Without a doubt, speech analytics produces a treasure trove of business intelligence that can help marketing make critical course corrections that can revitalize a sagging campaign. Too often, however, this statistical gold dust doesn’t make it across the Great Divide between operations and marketing.

As Paul Newman said in “Cool Hand Luke,” “What we got here is a failure to communicate” (although I’m fairly certain he wasn’t referring to speech analytics). Unfortunately, operations and marketing tend to be siloed in many businesses, and neither department pays much attention to the other.

FIGURE 1 - Goals for Pursuing Analytics
FIGURE 1 – Goals for Pursuing Analytics

Even so, more than 55% of contact centers that have not yet implemented speech analytics plan to use it to improve marketing and communications, according to the results of the 2014 Contact Center Analytics Survey, by Strategic Contact and Contact Center Pipeline (see Figure 1), which surveyed 335 participants from a wide range of industries.

However, once contact centers actually implement a speech analytics solution, improving marketing and communications gets shunted aside like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. As you can see in the chart in Figure 2, “Improve marketing/communications” ended up near the bottom, just ahead of “Gain competitive insights,” which is itself a marketing issue.

Our experience with clients confirms that speech analytics is largely considered an operations application. The survey’s feedback from contact centers that had implemented analytics as well as centers that were planning to, all prioritized operational goals like: “improve customer experience and satisfaction,” “improve agent performance,” “improve processes,” and “improve training.” Meanwhile, marketing’s most urgent questions—from “What’s going on with the new product launch?” to “Have we positioned the product correctly?” to “What are consumers saying about the product?”—go unanswered.

FIGURE 2 : Analytics Goals and Use
FIGURE 2 : Analytics Goals and Use

That’s a shame, because marketing and operations ignoring each other is like two brothers fruitlessly jumping up under a tree branch to reach an apple just beyond their grasp. Ah, but if one gives a boost to the other, they can win the prize and share in the bounty. Case in point: If marketing adds more user-friendly self-serve options to the company’s website, operations could see a big drop-off in customer calls. The result? Reduced expenses and happier customers. Everybody wins.

Operations can proactively help marketing as well. When a credit union’s marketing department asked operations whether callers were mentioning their recently launched loyalty program, they were disappointed to learn that, according to the contact center’s speech tool, very few callers referred to the Gold, Silver and Bronze packages. However, after conducting a content audit—a manual review of a select number of random recordings from the appropriate business queue—operations learned that callers were referencing the program. It’s just that customers were largely ignoring the official package names and instead were asking about “perk points.” It’s a good example of the gap that can exist between expected and actual customer language, which can only be revealed when operations and marketing departments cooperate.



Discovery and Rediscovery

At MainTrax, the first thing we do with a new client is schedule a discovery session—ideally with a variety of key stakeholders from multiple departments—to clearly define intentions, expectations and business goals. But we also recommend that clients conduct occasional rediscovery sessions to ensure that current processes are aligned with initial goals and to identify additional ways to leverage the power of their speech tool.

Here are some of the questions we ask in initial discovery sessions that can be just as helpful when revisited after implementation of a speech initiative:

  • What specifically do you want to learn by using speech analytics?
  • How are you currently gathering this intelligence?
  • Are you interested in monitoring what the agent says, what the customer says, or both of these channels?
  • Why is understanding this information important to you?
  • How do you plan to use this information?
  • Who else is this information important to, and why?
  • Which departments are likely to be involved?

For initial discovery sessions, we supplement these questions by sharing quick wins, case studies and “Aha!” moments from other clients that illustrate the numerous ways that analytics can positively impact marketing campaigns and strategies.

Ultimately, the extent of marketing’s involvement might come down to who’s writing the check. Linkhauer suggests that the higher the decision maker is on the organizational ladder, the more likely it is that marketing will get some attention. “The way I see it, there’s far more ROI for the marketing team than for anybody else because the savings from forgoing unnecessary focus groups and the ability to repair and redirect flawed advertising campaigns will pay for a speech initiative many times over,” he says. “I don’t care which speech vendor you use; the price of your speech solution suddenly becomes chump change.”

Hearing Is Believing

Analysts like Paul Tessier recognize that, when marketing shares in the bounty of speech analytics data, everybody wins. Tessier, a speech analytics manager at one of Canada’s leading financial institutions, doesn’t just feed data to his marketing colleagues, he welcomes them into the process from the get-go. He begins with his own discovery process to identify what marketing wants to learn, then programs the search engine accordingly to isolate calls pertaining to those specific issues. He then invites marketing folks to listen to selected calls, either by providing access to the actual audio files via a secured shared drive or by inviting them to a conference room where the calls can be accessed directly from the speech application.

The reaction? Priceless. “It wasn’t uncommon to hear, ‘Oh, I can’t believe I’m hearing that!’” Tessier says. “Often there were ‘Aha!’ moments where they’d scurry off to tell their managers what they heard. Marketing people have the best perspective of whether a product is being positioned or explained correctly, so inviting them to listen in on the right calls is the best way to make sure that key decisions are being made correctly.”

Inspired by marketing’s enthusiastic response, and having successfully implemented a similar program in another organization, Tessier is looking to expand and formalize the process at the bank. While working for a large telecom company, he conducted monthly calibration meetings that focused on a monthly discussion topic supplied by the executive team. Each four-hour meeting was attended by a crossfunctional team—comprised of representatives from customer care, customer experience, sales and marketing—that listened to high-value calls on the specified topic. “Every meeting generated lightbulb moments and actionable takeaways,” Tessier says. “For instance, a marketing rep would recognize why customers were getting confused by the way agents were explaining a particular product feature.”

By gathering various departments together, challenges can be identified, discussed, and acted upon quickly and effectively. “Someone might say, ‘That’s a customer care issue, I’ll take care of it,’ while someone else says, ‘I’ll own that one, it’s a marketing issue.’” Tessier says. “Coming together as a group lends itself to people stepping up and holding themselves and each other accountable.”

What prompted Tessier’s advocacy for sharing agent-customer conversations with other departments? Well, let’s just say he learned his lesson the hard way. “After getting a request from marketing to analyze a particular issue, I spent weeks building out a cost analysis, tracking call volumes and identifying trends in utterances and categories, then submitted the report with three calls,” he says. “I later found out it was the three calls that moved the project forward! I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I put three weeks into those analytics and they barely looked at the report. Next time, I’ll just submit the three calls!’”

Good call, Paul. Time after time, I’ve seen clients shift their focus to make marketing a higher priority after conducting a content audit and hearing what’s “really on the calls.” A content audit enables you to better understand the real “voice of the customer” and identify the most impactful issues.



“My supervisor isn’t here, but he’d tell you the same darn thing.”

“Please calm down and listen to me for a change.”

“Oh, I do understand your problem: You haven’t paid us in a long time.”

Churn Is the Killer App

The value of retaining customers cannot be overstated, and reducing customer churn is an area where analytics shines. Indeed, if necessity is the mother of invention, then analytics is the mother of retention.

Dave Patchen, my partner at MainTrax, has worked with dozens of clients on closing sales, capitalizing on upselling opportunities, and analyzing marketing effectiveness, but he says that, for many organizations, retention is the holy grail of speech analytics. “It’s rather tedious to reverse-engineer calls to discover predictable indicators of customer frustration and language patterns that identify silent switchers,” he says. “But if you devote the time to review calls that took place upstream, you’ll find that the customer provided clear churn signals early on.”

Patchen’s advice for anyone who wants to reduce churn? Take the time to connect the dots, then reach out immediately to callers whom your speech tool identifies as customers at risk before they call you again to say they have already committed themselves to another provider. Every customer you retain may be worth thousands of dollars in future revenue and replacement cost savings.

Despite clear evidence that speech analytics can deliver enormous value to marketing, I continue to be surprised at how few contact centers pay attention to “the people across the hall.” Part of the blame lies with speech analytics vendors who focus their demos solely on improving customer experience and agent performance. Another factor is simply human nature; operations people tend to be laser-focused on operations and only operations.

Foresight, big-picture thinking and consensus building is required to peel back the layers of potential applications to ensure that marketing—and consequently the entire organization—can benefit from the actionable business intelligence produced by speech analytics.

Scott Bakken, Founder and President of MainTrax, is a highly respected independent voice in the speech analytics industry.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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