This article was originally published on Customer Magazine
One of the unintended consequences of digital transformation within large enterprises and service providers to those enterprises is massive and exponentially growing data fragmentation. With so many different databases, applications, and an increasing number of AI engines and APIs for exchanging data between systems, it is becoming more difficult to sift and sort through information that is clear enough and consumable enough to enlighten decisions.
As more and more decisions and budgets are in the hands of business owners inside enterprises (with the role of IT becoming more focused on DevOps to support growth or efficiency initiatives) new services and data sources are being added, all with the promise of helping to automate, improve or otherwise actualize cost savings or revenue growth.
As Customer Experience (CX) becomes one of the most important focal areas for all enterprises, nowhere are we seeing more data fragmentation than in the CX world. In large part, this is being caused by the blurring of marketing, sales and customer service, the proliferation of multiple communications channels, the growth of mobile and social applications, and the risk that if enterprise do not compete based on extraordinary CX they will lose market share.
The number of CX platforms is stunning. Just “customer feedback” software and platforms alone, as shown on this market map, recently published by Insight Platforms, are many, ranging from traditional vendors like NICE and Forsee, to challengers like Clarabridge and CloudCherry, with dozens of start-ups able to generate traction quickly given their ability to leverage new cloud computing and open-source software tools.
How do leaders responsible for the ultimate business outcomes manage all this? The elimination of silos is critical but understanding exactly how that is done is equally critical. Data can be made available from any variety of sources; it is not the consolidation of databases that is necessary anymore, when innovations including containerization and connectors make it possible to consolidate the feeds themselves, into applications that unify the applications for that data.
For Eventus Solutions Group, a contact center and CX company, the development of such a “harmonization” platform happened organically, as they worked with enterprises to transform their programs and found a common issue: their clients had many applications and tons of data, but they weren’t sure how to make sense of it and apply it for basic benefits – improving conversations with customers, resolving issues faster, automating routine tasks, and reducing costs while doing so.
“The inability to connect information and make it actionable has been a challenge since data became available,” said Jeff Tropeano, Senior Director of Managed Services, Eventus. “At the time, data was being collected and stored in their source systems and sat idle until a report needed to be built. The data wasn’t integrated, living in independent silos. Today, with the stakes being much higher, data has become the lifeblood of digital businesses, and nearly all enterprise businesses are digital and increasingly complex.”
Tropeano said that in the process of completing over 300 CX projects for clients across industries including financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, e-commerce and more “we saw similar patterns, and recognizing those patterns led us to develop a platform with connections to many data sources across the core contact center system families and CX vendors. We didn’t set out to become a software and platform development company, but necessity was the mother of invention. We had a clear vision of success, and nothing else on the market fit that vision. Our idea for a solution was so compelling that we did the bold thing and developed our own platform, which has become the IntelligenceHub platform.”
Most contact centers struggle to get unified information about their operation; some operations solve this problem by pulling data from multiple sources and combining them on a one on one basis, leading to inaccurate data, development lag times, and rising costs.
“Our IntelligenceHub platform unifies data from multiple sources into a single data fabric. Having that unified data fabric allows us to provide insights and analytics on a super intuitive interactive user interface that provides useful and actionable information at every level: from the C-suite to the floor managers.” Tropeano said.
The company was able to develop the platform in-house and used it to support their fully managed solutions clients (for whom they run the entire contact center and CX operation). “Unlike companies who start up to build software and platform solutions, we built a software tool out of necessity. Our experienced team actually used the platform every day to run their operations. The bottom line is that it impacts the business outcomes we’ve promised to those clients for whom we run their centers and programs,” Tropeano said.
IntelligenceHub was built using non-proprietary elements, on Linux, running on AWS cloud, and using SDKs and APIs from a variety of sources. “What an amazing experience it has been, working with so many different vendors, from the largest and most traditional companies with the greatest market share to some really cool start-ups,” Tropeano explained. “We chose Tableau for the visualization layer, which turned out to be an excellent choice. Their tools are constantly evolving and allowing us to create customized reports in addition to our standard reports, which are simple to understand and share”
New features on the platform continue to grow and include using proprietary algorithms to combine data together from sources that aren’t natively integrated, providing detailed analysis of payroll cost by call type, the effect of knowledge base on agent quality, and outlier reports that surface hot spots and cold spots across the KPIs that are of strategic value to their customers.
“Because we work so closely with our clients, they also asked us to integrate with human resources data including payroll, performance improvement plans, and tenure, making workforce management a lot more accurate and efficient,” Tropeano said.
When analytics are not integrated throughout the customer experience, and without unified data, contact centers have limited ability to streamline scheduling, optimize coaching, and align agents’ call incentives with corporate initiatives.
“Contact center managers have a difficult time seeing a holistic view of contact center operations,” Tropeano said, “because of siloed systems, spreadsheets, and various custom reports. We solved for all of that, and we are continuing to invest in new features all the time, which is timed perfectly given the ongoing growth of so many new applications which often bring with them their own data sets.”
The company believes that data-driven decision making is the only way to satisfy everyone: customers, employees, management, and executives.
“Without data integrity and management, even the most strategic contact center initiatives can fail to live up to their potential value,” Tropeano said. “We’ve learned that when we unify data sources and present data in easy to digest ways, everyone wins.”
Eventus uses proprietary join algorithms, data normalization processes, and unique table schemas to load the data into their Unified Data Model. This model and data ingestion process allows their platform to retrieve IVR, ACD, CRM, WFM, QA, and HRIS data regardless of the source.
Last summer, while driving to the mountains in Colorado, my then ten-year old daughter announced, “I want to watch episode three, season two of Mako Mermaids.” This proclamation was not to me or my wife, but rather to her tablet – which delivered exactly what she requested in a matter of seconds. When I was a kid, I felt fortunate to play the license plate game (and I still haven’t seen one from North Dakota even today)!
While predictions abound this time of the year, I have only one – that change will be the only constant as we head into the third digital decade of the 21st century. And why not! If nothing changes, we stay the same. We don’t evolve or get better. We need new ideas. We need positive change. We need progress.