SemTech Day 2: Creating value for Customer Care

After the shock caused by the two drops of rain that fell Monday night (in the San Francisco Bay area it almost never rains between the end of April to late October), SemTech’s nearly 1,000 participants gathered for the keynote speech that opened the conference.

As if to disprove the critics who still paint the world of semantic technologies as a very technical and niche  sector, when it comes to addressing business problems, the first speech was completely dedicated to one of the most important issues for companies across all industries—customer.

Bill Guinn, of Amdocs, delivered concrete examples of how a system of customer care, where semantic technologies are fully integrated with traditional CRM solutions, can create value. It started from the three areas in which we can construct a process of interaction with customers.

1. Customer Care:

  • Contact with customer care is typically summarized in an email or phone call from the customer. The statistics offer a bleak view of the customer experience, regardless of the sector (particularly evident in the problems of telephone and electricity companies, but also banks and government). Research indicates that 35% of people abandon attempts to make contact with the company because of too much time wasted in automatic response queues. In addition, 22% of people who do talk with someone are then transferred to another contact, losing precious time in the process. Then, there are the call center operators.
  • Call center operators receive phone calls or emails with limited background information, and therefore spend 28% of the time only collecting basic information about the customer. In 25% of cases you are unable to precisely identify the main reason for the customer’s problem, and are often passed along to another operator. When you consider that the average cost of handling a call is $7.50 for every phone call and a little more for email, it is clear that creating a smarter way may have significant ROI.
  • The creation of this type of intelligent management system for customer requests cannot be taken into consideration without  the functionality offered by semantic technologies. For example, you can begin by offering customers the chance to ask questions about the use of a product or service via the website or via SMS. Customers can ask detailed questions about special offers and promotions or the price, and obtain, thanks to the comprehension of words, precise and accurate responses instead of a long list of “possible” answers. In addition, automatic semantic analysis of all previous interactions with the customer can be immediately available to call centers operators, as well as other data that can be useful in creating an environment that minimizes the time necessary to have a detailed understanding of the customer’s request.

2. Revenue Generation. A second area where the intervention of semantic technologies can add value is linked to revenue generation, because it allows you to manage detailed information on customer preferences, starting from the opinions expressed on blogs, forums and social media. Understanding customer needs enables the chance to make targeted offers, and can influence ideas for promotions and product development. The analysis of customers’ links with the social network can multiply in proportion to the investment: targeted offers for a customer can also be extended to his contacts, who are likely to have similar tastes and needs.

3. Customer Churn. Another area where semantic technologies can deliver value is that of customer churn, or the process by which we choose one  product over another. The real-time analysis of the reasons why, which are most often expressed in written text as part of the company’s own communications, can help enable early attempts to keep the customer relationship alive (such as through special offers , discounts, etc.).
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In the second speech we heard about the application of semantic technologies in the world of online publishing, a timely topic given the continuing state of crisis in the sector. In recounting the experience carried out with the BBC, John O’Donovan’s Press Association, described  why the solution that many people traditionally use to address the poor performance of a site, that is, change the Content Management System, is the most expensive mistake an online publisher can make.

The value provided by the semantic comprehension of online content, especially when it comes to articles and news, has proven its significant and measurable ROI for some time now. O’Donovan showed that a semantic system that categorizes, creates metadata and, in a nutshell, gives a little order to content is of considerable value because it can determine:

  • Increasing the number of pages viewed and time spent on a site by users, for example by creating a dynamic list of related news. The correlation between texts is made possible by the analysis of semantic content in the moment of creation.
  • Improving the ranking of sites on search engines through content optimization to attract a greater number of unique visitors.
  • A better experience for readers, thanks to better managing content and making it more navigable. The advantages, in terms of content usage, are due to the dynamically created content linking people, organizations, etc., and automatically highlighted in the articles. This feature basically allows readers to filter content in an intelligent manner, based on their content (topics, people cited, events, etc.). and not only on the attributes of files (images, video, news).
  • Reduced costs of creating content resulting from the automatic generation of metadata. Content creators can now devote more time to higher value activities.

The experience of the BBC, as well as some Italian newspapers, such as Il Sole 24 Ore, shows that this is possible even with relatively small investments. It is difficult to understand because so far, only a limited number of publishers have implemented these innovative solutions and integrated semantic functionality into their systems. What is certain is that the opportunity must be seized now because tomorrow may be too late.

L.Scagliarini

Luca Scagliarini


Luca Scagliarini is the VP, Strategic and Business Development of Expert System, responsible for leading the company’s international expansion. He has held product marketing positions at Hewlett Packard in Italy and in the US. After leaving HP he joined SiteSmith, a managed services start up, where as Manager of the Services product line, he helped to build the company’s offering that contributed to an impressive first year growth of more than 100 customers and its ultimate sale to Metromedia Fiber Network. Before joining Expert System he was the VP Field Marketing Europe with think3, a leading provider of PLM solutions. Luca holds an Engineering Degree from the Politecnico di Milano (Italy) and an MBA from Santa Clara University (California, USA).

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