Real Time Is the Real Deal

Paul StockfordI don’t like the sound of 2013. It has an ominous ring to it. When good things happen, they rarely happen on the 13th of anything, let alone in a year with a 13 in it. Just look at 1913. 1913 was the year the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. The 16th Amendment reads as follows: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” In other words, that’s when we, as Americans, started getting taxed on our incomes. Before that, you got to keep what you made. Since 1913, the federal government gets to take whatever percentage of your income they want, spend it however they want with the added bonus of being able to tell individual states to go pound sand. I don’t know what 2013 has in store for us, but if it’s anything like 1913, it won’t be good.

In the contact center industry, things should be less ominous, but could be equally dramatic. Be prepared to learn that everything you thought you knew about real-time anything as it applies to the contact center is wrong. Real-time is rapidly being redefined in the customer service arena and it no longer means “shortly after something happens,” as it has in the past. In 2013 and going forward, real-time will be defined as measuring or monitoring something in the exact second it is happening. That will have far-reaching implications in terms of efficient customer service and effective business practice.

In 2012, I conducted a benchmark research study among end-users in which I attempted to measure awareness, and understanding, of real-time performance management. I’ve been bullish on performance management, also referred to as performance analytics by some in the industry, since I first started writing about it in 2003. Performance management was revolutionary and ahead of its time in its ability to provide unified performance measurements that lead to actions that improve contact center performance. The measurements were provided in the form of objective reports or graphical representations that didn’t necessarily rely on the judgment of supervisors or managers. Performance was exactly as it was represented by the measurement results.

Today we find performance management the dominant choice for performance reporting solutions in the contact center. With a U.S. market penetration rate of 55%, it is fair to assume that the benefits of performance management software are well known, but what if you could kick it up a notch? What if you could get your performance results, not after the fact, but as the transaction was actually taking place?

The real-time performance management research project, which was underwritten by Voice Print International (VPI), attempted to measure perception of and attitudes toward real-time performance management. What we discovered was that 51% of our respondents were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the amount of time it was taking them to share performance metrics with agents and managers. Over 90% of the customer service executives we interviewed stated that they felt there was value in sharing real- time metrics with frontline agents.

The results of the study validated that real-time performance management was not only understood, but that it would clearly be in demand in 2013. The paper that I authored detailing the results of the real-time performance management study can be downloaded from VPI’s website,

Speech analytics continues to be on the leading edge of the Big Data movement, providing business intelligence from unstructured data and customer intelligence from recorded transactions. Again, the value of speech analytics is well understood as evidenced by the fact that it was ranked No. 1 on the list of the top five technology solutions to be evaluated for purchase in 2012 on the annual survey of end-users conducted by the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) at The University of Southern Mississippi. Now imagine speech analytics on steroids and you’ve got real-time speech analytics.

Real-time speech analytics is something that would even impress James Bond. It allows users to extract usable information from a customer communication as that communication is happening. In other words, rather than reviewing the conversation once it is over, the conversation is evaluated in real-time. Real-time speech analytics offers the potential to correct or address any problems as they are occurring rather than having to go back and try to fix damage once it has occurred. This is mind-boggling.

“Using the voice of the customer—as their words are spoken in real time—automatically empowers agents to handle difficult customer situations and supervisors to address training shortfalls as they develop,” said Larry Skowronek, vice president of product management for Nexidia, an industry-leading provider of customer interaction analytics. “This is the best way possible to quickly arrive at fast, optimal performance improvement. Real-time speech analytics is truly the next frontier. “

As you look at everything that is happening in the customer service industry and try to decide what will really matter in the year ahead, put real-time analytics at the top of the list. Real-time performance management promises to super-charge operational efficiency while real-time speech analytics has the potential to solve customer problems before they happen. This is pretty heady stuff.

Maybe 2013 won’t be so bad after all.

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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