Contact Center Trends

A Shortcut to Satisfaction in the Age of Customer Data

Gillian Heltai

By Gillian Heltai

0 min read


At their advent, CRMs, support tools and marketing automation software all offered one fantastic promise – critical data on your customers that was centralized, searchable and available to everyone in your organization. This came with the implied promise that this knowledge would solve all manner of problems, from shortening sales cycles to ensuring that marketing dollars would be targeted to achieve the optimal return.

Since then, the software landscape has changed – companies of all sizes today are awash with data. More than ever, even small and medium businesses have an enormous amount of information about their customers. Today’s problem, then, is what to do with all that data.

The contact center is a prime example of a place where data can make a difference. In many cases, businesses that properly leverage the information they already have, can not only improve the satisfaction of their customers by sparing them the ritual of proving their identity (“Can I have the last four of your social? And your mother’s maiden name?”), but they can also simultaneously reduce costs by giving agents the context they need to identify and resolve issues more quickly.

There are two types of customer data that can make a difference to the support experience: data about the caller and context about the call itself. Consider these in the context of an average call at a contact center that is not taking advantage of any of their existing data. First, the agent will determine who the caller is. Depending on the type of business, this may be as simple as asking for a first name or as complicated as going through a series of security questions.

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Once the identification step is complete, the agent must determine why the customer is calling – that is, what is the problem they need addressed. Only once the agent has that information can they begin to actually provide value to the customer by starting the solve the problem at hand.

Any business that can cut out those identification steps can enable an agent to immediately add value, which benefits everyone. Consider the example of a very small business – my dog boarder. The first time I called in, I was simply greeted with “Hello?” Compare this to the last time I called in, when I was greeted with “Hey Alex! Is Cooper excited to come stay with us this weekend?” In the latter case, she has skipped the first two steps (she knows it’s Alex calling, and she’s used what she knows about me as a customer to correctly guess that I’m calling about my dog’s upcoming stay). That means we can get right to my question – whether she’s able to drop him off at my house at the end of his stay. She’s happy because she can get back to the business of taking care of dogs, and I’m happy because I feel a personal connection to her and her business.

There’s no magic in that example. She can identify me immediately because I’m stored in her cell phone, which doubles as her business phone, and she can guess why I’m calling because she has a small enough number of customers that she’s able to stay on top of all her upcoming reservations.

In a large contact center, none of this is quite so easy, since agents are usually speaking to callers they’ve never spoken to before and probably won’t speak to again. Nonetheless, the same experience is possible by leveraging data that most businesses already have. Consider a large retail company – they certainly know the names and phone numbers of their customers, along with every purchase and return each customer has made. Similarly, a hotel chain knows who is staying at what property and when. Speaking from experience, I can say that an enterprise SaaS business knows its customers and which of its products each is using.

The question, then, is not whether companies today have the data they need to empower agents and provide a seamless service experience, but how to select the right data and make sure that it is provided to the right person at the right time.

This is where software integration comes in. Information sitting in inaccessible silos has orders of magnitude less value than information that is shared across systems. Just because customer data lives in Salesforce, Zoho or a proprietary internal system doesn’t mean that it should only be accessed there. Rather, there should be a constant flow of data from system to system to ensure that wherever it is needed, it is available.

Connecting a CRM to a contact center solves the first problem we discussed earlier – identifying who the caller is. This is a huge boon to every call center; taking 15 seconds of identification off of each call represents a huge cost savings in an enormous call center. Even for a small business, greeting customers by name helps to build the kind of personal relationships that keep customers coming back.

"If we can eliminate the caller identification step, why not also eliminate the time spent understanding the context of that particular call?"

Gillian Heltai, Vice President of Client Services at Talkdesk

If we can eliminate the caller identification step, why not also eliminate the time spent understanding the context of that particular call? My dog boarder, in her entirely unsophisticated operation, was able to do this, so a company with reams of data certainly ought to be able to do the same.

The key here is working in real time. The person calling in doesn’t change from one call to the next, but the reason she’s calling in does. This means that in order to provide her with the best experience, we need to use the data we have not only about her as a person, but also about her interactions with the business she’s calling.

Take the example of a hotel chain again – they have sophisticated reservation management systems that know exactly when and where any customer is staying. If I have a reservation at a particular hotel in New York and I call in the day the booking is scheduled to start, it’s very likely that I have a question or need to make a change to that reservation. A simple support organization might direct my call to the first available agent in a large call center, but a truly advanced one will use the information they have to route my call to the front desk of the hotel at which I’m staying, where the desk staff can greet me by asking if they should still expect to see me that day.

A Shortcut to Satisfaction in the Age of Customer Data

There are countless other examples of this. An e-commerce company can detect that I’ve called a few minutes after placing an order online and rightly determine that I’m calling to make a change to that order. Using that information, they can open up the order on the screen of the agent who answers the call automatically. A car dealership can see that I purchased my car almost exactly a year ago, determine that I’m likely calling to schedule my one year service and route my call straight to the service desk. I could go on, but the underlying principle remains the same – just by taking advantage of the data they already have, companies today can reduce costs and improve the customer experience.

At Talkdesk, we’re providing this functionality with our Talkdesk Context Mobile. It can be easily integrated into an iOS app, where it provides a simple form for callers to provide some information about their issue, and then request that the first available agent call them. Once the customer has filled out the callback form, the SDK can reach out to other systems to gather more data, whether it’s about an order I just placed or a boarding reservation for my dog.

When the agent gets the callback request, all of this information is available to him before he is connected with the customer, so he knows not only who he is speaking with, but also what they are calling about. From there, he can get the issue resolved as quickly as possible, leaving the customer happy and the agent available to help the next caller.

We’re not just passionate about our customers – we’re passionate about their customers. We believe that by tapping the technology already in place at businesses large and small, we can improve the contact center experience for everyone. Next time you think about your business, we hope you’ll consider the data you have and how you can use it to have better calls and happier customers.


Gillian Heltai

Gillian Heltai

Vice President, Client Services