The Key to Analytics for the Masses

When organizations discuss how to drive value from big data, they often focus on improving the customer experience through big data analytics. But they face a challenge here: Many of the employees who actually interact with customers are not sophisticated consumers of analytics.

Cashiers, call center agents and front line sales people rarely have analytics backgrounds or skills. And these same employees usually have little desire to dive into analytics.

So what’s an organization to do?

Change Is Needed, But Not Where You Might Think 

One common suggestion is to educate and train a broader cross section of employees to understand and make use of analytics in their day-to-day jobs. I believe this is a mistake.

As already mentioned, many employees lack the proper education, skills and interest to successfully generate and interpret analytics on their own. A call center agent should focus on handling calls and a cashier should focus on processing a transaction as quickly as possible -- not on generating and interpreting analysis.

But all is not lost. While organizations often mistakenly think that analytics training is the way to go, what's really needed is for employees to change their behaviors to take advantage of analytics. Changing behavior does not require an understanding of analytics. It simply requires them to take action while taking analytics into account.

What Analytics-Driven Behavior Looks Like

Let’s consider a call center agent. Call agents’ jobs often involve trying to cross-sell or up-sell a customer while the customer is on the line. Many call center software packages provide agents with scripts to follow and a list of suggested offers.

This is where analytics come into play. An organization absolutely should have highly sophisticated and powerful analytics determining what offers to provide to each customer. But the call center agent doesn’t need to understand the details of the analytics behind the recommendation, they just have to deliver the offer. 

Now imagine a delivery driver attempting to meet a tight schedule to keep customers happy. It is a terrific idea to optimize the driver’s route so that he or she can get the deliveries completed on time. But again, the driver doesn’t need to know about the various optimization algorithms at work. The driver simply needs to follow the suggested route and to use judgment when deviations are necessary, such as when an accident blocks a recommended route. 

In each of the prior examples, analytics' value comes from getting front line employees to change their behavior so they can deliver a better customer experience. In the rare cases when employees are actually interested in and able to understand the analytics at play, educate them. Also consider if you should move such employees to a different, higher level job where they can put their analytics interests to work. After all, who knows better what front line employees experience when dealing with customers than someone who’s been there?

Shift your organization’s focus away from a broad program to educate the masses on analytics. Instead, deliver analytics results to employees in a way that lets them use those results without needing to understand the gory details behind the scenes. This will make your journey feel much less intimidating and will increase the chance of success. 

And as luck would have it, you don’t have to educate your customers on all the cool analytics you’re doing either. They’ll be happy simply by virtue of receiving a better experience from your organization.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  Tawheed Manzoor