Getting the Most Out of Your Customer Insights with AI

The phrase “Knowledge is power” is usually believed to have originated with 16th- and 17th-century English philosopher Francis Bacon, in his Meditationes Sacræ. Because many people recognize something profoundly right about this sentiment, it has become received wisdom in the centuries since.

Now, data isn’t exactly the same thing as knowledge, but it is tremendously powerful. Armed with enough of the right kind of data, contact center managers can make better decisions about how to deploy resources, resolve customer issues, and run their business.

As is usually the case, the data contact center managers are looking for will be unique to their field. This article will discuss these data, why they matter, and how AI can transform how you gather, analyze, and act on data.

Let’s get going!

What are Customer Insights in Contact Centers?

As a contact center, your primary focus is on helping people work through issues related to a software product or something similar. But you might find yourself wondering who these people are, what parts of the customer experience they’re stumbling over, which issues are being escalated to human agents and which are resolved by bots, etc.

If you knew these things, you would be able to notice patterns and start proactively fixing problems before they even arise. This is what customer insights is all about, and it can allow you to finetune your procedures, write clearer technical documentation, figure out the best place to use generative AI in your contact center, and much more.

What are the Major Types of Customer Insights?

Before we turn to a discussion of the specifics of customer insights, we’ll deal with the major kinds of customer insights there are. This will provide you with an overarching framework for thinking about this topic and where different approaches might fit in.

Speech and Text Data

Customer service and customer experience both tend to be language-heavy fields. When an agent works with a customer over the phone or via chat, a lot of natural language is generated, and that language can be analyzed. You might use a technique like sentiment analysis, for example, to gauge how frustrated customers are when they contact an agent. This will allow you to form a fuller picture of the people you’re helping, and discover ways of doing so more effectively.

Data on Customer Satisfaction

Contact centers exist to make customers happy as they try to use a product, and for this reason, it’s common practice to send out surveys when a customer interaction is done. When done correctly, the information contained in these surveys is incredibly valuable, and can let you know whether or not you’re improving over time, whether a specific approach to training or a new large language model is helping or hurting customer satisfaction, and more.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics is a huge field, but it mostly boils down to using machine learning or something similar to predict the future based on what’s happened in the past. You might try to forecast average handle time (AHT) based on the time of the year, on the premise that when an issue arises has something to do with how long it will take to get it resolved.

To do this effectively you would need a fair amount of AHT data, along with the corresponding data about when the complaints were raised, and then you could fit a linear regression model on these two data streams. If you find that AHT reliably climbs during certain periods, you can have more agents on hand when required.

Data on Agent Performance

Like employees in any other kind of business, agents perform at different levels. Junior agents will likely take much longer to work through a thorny customer issue than more senior ones, of course, and the same could be said for agents with an extensive technical background versus those without the knowledge this background confers. Or, the same agent might excel at certain kinds of tasks but perform much worse on others.

Regardless, by gathering these data on how agents are performing you, as the manager, can figure out where weaknesses lie across all your teams. With this information, you’ll be able to strategize about how to address those weaknesses with coaching, additional education, a refresh of the standard operating procedures, or what have you.

Channel Analytics

These days, there are usually multiple ways for a customer to get in touch with your contact center, and they all have different dynamics. Sending a long email isn’t the same thing as talking on the phone, and both are distinct from reaching out on social media or talking to a bot. If you have analytics on specific channels, how customers use them, and what their experience was like, you can make decisions about what channels to prioritize.

What’s more, customers will often have interacted with your brand in the past through one or more of these channels. If you’ve been tracking those interactions, you can incorporate this context to personalize responses when they reach out to resolve an issue in the future, which can help boost customer satisfaction.

What Specific Metrics are Tracked for Customer Insights?

Now that we have a handle on what kind of customer insights there are, let’s talk about specific metrics that come up in contact centers!

First Contact Resolution (FCR)

The first contact resolution is the fraction of issues a contact center is able to resolve on the first try, i.e. the first time the customer reaches out. It’s sometimes also known as Right First Time (RFT), for this reason. Note that first contact resolution can apply to any channel, whereas first call resolution applies only when the customer contacts you over the phone. They have the same acronym but refer to two different metrics.

Average Handle Time (AHT)

The average handle time is one of the more important metrics contact centers track, and it refers to the mean length of time an agent spends on a task. This is not the same thing as how long the agent spends talking to a customer, and instead encompasses any work that goes on afterward as well.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

The customer satisfaction score attempts to gauge how customers feel about your product and service. It’s common practice, to collect this information from many customers, then averaging them to get a broader picture of how your customers feel. The CSAT can give you a sense of whether customers are getting happier over time, whether certain products, issues, or agents make them happier than others, etc.

Call Abandon Rate (CAR)

The call abandon rate is the fraction of customers who end a call with an agent before their question has been answered. It can be affected by many things, including how long the customers have to wait on hold, whether they like the “hold” music you play, and similar sorts of factors. You should be aware that CAR doesn’t account for missed calls, lost calls, or dropped calls.


Data-driven contact centers track a lot of metrics, and these are just a sample. Nevertheless, they should convey a sense of what kinds of numbers a manager might want to examine.

How Can AI Help with Customer Insights?

And now, we come to the “main” event, a discussion of how artificial intelligence can help contact center managers gather and better utilize customer insights.

Natural Language Processing and Sentiment Analysis

An obvious place to begin is with natural language processing (NLP), which refers to a subfield in machine learning that uses various algorithms to parse (or generate) language.

There are many ways in which NLP can aid in finding customer insights. We’ve already mentioned sentiment analysis, which detects the overall emotional tenor of a piece of language. If you track sentiment over time, you’ll be able to see if you’re delivering more or less customer satisfaction.

You could even get slightly more sophisticated and pair sentiment analysis with something like named entity recognition, which extracts information about entities from language. This would allow you to e.g. know that a given customer is upset, and also that the name of a particular product kept coming up.

Classifying Different Kinds of Communication

For various reasons, contact centers keep transcripts and recordings of all the interactions they have with a customer. This means that they have access to a vast amount of textual information, but since it’s unstructured and messy it’s hard to know what to do with it.

Using any of several different ML-based classification techniques, a contact center manager could begin to tame this complexity. Suppose, for example, she wanted to have a high-level overview of why people are reaching out for support. With a good classification pipeline, she could start automating the processing of sorting communications into different categories, like “help logging in” or “canceling a subscription”.

With enough of this kind of information, she could start to spot trends and make decisions on that basis.

Statistical Analysis and A/B Testing

Finally, we’ll turn to statistical analysis. Above, we talked a lot about natural language processing and similar endeavors, but more than likely when people say “customer insights” they mean something like “statistical analysis”.

This is a huge field, so we’re going to illustrate its importance with an example focusing on churn. If you have a subscription-based business, you’ll have some customers who eventually leave, and this is known as “churn”. Churn analysis has sprung up to apply data science to understanding these customer decisions, in the hopes that you can resolve any underlying issues and positively impact the bottom line.

What kinds of questions would be addressed by churn analysis? Things like what kinds of customers are canceling (i.e. are they young or old, do they belong to a particular demographic, etc.), figuring out their reasons for doing so, using that to predict which similar questions might be in danger of churning soon, and thinking analytically about how to reduce churn.

And how does AI help? There now exist any number of AI tools that substantially automate the process of gathering and cleaning the relevant data, applying standard tests, making simple charts, and making your job of extracting customer insights much easier.

What AI Tools Can Be Used for Customer Insights?

By now you’re probably eager to try using AI for customer insights, but before you do that, let’s spend some talking about what you’d look for in a customer insights tool.

Performant and Reliable

Ideally, you want something that you can depend upon and that won’t drive you crazy with performance issues. A good customer insights tool will have many optimizations under the hood that make crunching numbers easy, and shouldn’t require you to have a computer science degree to set up.

Straightforward Integration Process

Modern contact centers work across a wide variety of channels, including emails, chat, social media, phone calls, and even more. Whatever AI-powered customer insights platform you go with should be able to seamlessly integrate with all of them.

Simple to Use

Finally, your preferred solution should be relatively easy to use. Quiq Insights, for example, makes it a breeze to create customizable funnels, do advanced filtering, see the surrounding context for different conversations, and much more.

Getting the Most Out of AI-Powered Customer Insights

Data is extremely important to the success or failure of modern businesses, and it’s getting more important all the time. Contact centers have long been forward-looking and eager to adopt new technologies, and the same must be true in our brave new data-powered world.

If you’d like a demo of Quiq Insights, reach out to see how we can help you streamline your operation while boosting customer satisfaction!

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What is Sentiment Analysis? – Ultimate Guide

A person only reaches out to a contact center when they’re having an issue. They can’t get a product to work the way they need it to, for example, or they’ve been locked out of their account.

The chances are high that they’re frustrated, angry, or otherwise in an emotionally-fraught state, and this is something contact center agents must understand and contend with.

The term “sentiment analysis” refers to the field of machine learning which focuses on developing algorithmic ways of detecting emotions in natural-language text, such as the messages exchanged between a customer and a contact center agent.

Making it easier to detect, classify, and prioritize messages on the basis of their sentiment is just one of many ways that technology is revolutionizing contact centers, and it’s the subject we’ll be addressing today.

Let’s get started!

What is Sentiment Analysis?

Sentiment analysis involves using various approaches to natural language processing to identify the overall “sentiment” of a piece of text.

Take these three examples:

  1. “This restaurant is amazing. The wait staff were friendly, the food was top-notch, and we had a magnificent view of the famous New York skyline. Highly recommended.”
  2. “Root canals are never fun, but it certainly doesn’t help when you have to deal with a dentist as unprofessional and rude as Dr. Thomas.”
  3. “Toronto’s forecast for today is a high of 75 and a low of 61 degrees.”

Humans excel at detecting emotions, and it’s probably not hard for you to see that the first example is positive, the second is negative, and the third is neutral (depending on how you like your weather.)

There’s a greater challenge, however, in getting machines to make accurate classifications of this kind of data. How exactly that’s accomplished is the subject of the next section, but before we get to that, let’s talk about a few flavors of sentiment analysis.

What Types of Sentiment Analysis Are There?

It’s worth understanding the different approaches to sentiment analysis if you’re considering using it in your contact center.

Above, we provided an example of positive, negative, and neutral text. What we’re doing there is detecting the polarity of the text, and as you may have guessed, it’s possible to make much more fine-grained delineations of textual data.

Rather than simply detecting whether text is positive or negative, for example, we might instead use these categories: very positive, positive, neutral, negative, and very negative.

This would give us a better understanding of the message we’re looking at, and how it should be handled.

Instead of classifying text by its polarity, we might also use sentiment analysis to detect the emotions being communicated – rather than classifying a sentence as being “positive” or “negative”, in other words, we’d identify emotions like “anger” or “joy” contained in our textual data.

This is called “emotion detection” (appropriately enough), and it can be handled with long short-term memory (LSTM) or convolutional neural network (CNN) models.

Another, more granular approach to sentiment analysis is known as aspect-based sentiment analysis. It involves two basic steps: identifying “aspects” of a piece of text, then identifying the sentiment attached to each aspect.

Take the sentence “I love the zoo, but I hate the lines and the monkeys make fun of me.” It’s hard to assign an overall sentiment to the sentence – it’s generally positive, but there’s kind of a lot going on.

If we break out the “zoo”, “lines”, and “monkeys” aspects, however, we can see that there’s the positive sentiment attached to the zoo, and negative sentiment attached to the lines and the abusive monkeys.

Why is Sentiment Analysis Important?

It’s easy to see how aspect-based sentiment analysis would inform marketing efforts. With a good enough model, you’d be able to see precisely which parts of your offering your clients appreciate, and which parts they don’t. This would give you valuable information in crafting a strategy going forward.

This is true of sentiment analysis more broadly, and of emotion detection too.
You need to know what people are thinking, saying, and feeling about you and your company if you’re going to meet their needs well enough to make a profit.

Once upon a time, the only way to get these data was with focus groups and surveys. Those are still utilized, of course. But in the social media era, people are also not shy about sharing their opinions online, in forums, and similar outlets.

These oceans of words from an invaluable resource if you know how to mine them. When done correctly, sentiment analysis offers just the right set of tools for doing this at scale.

Challenges with Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment analysis confers many advantages, but it is not without its challenges. Most of these issues boil down to handling subtleties or ambiguities in language.

Consider a sentence like “This is a remarkable product, but still not worth it at that price.” Calling a product “remarkable” is a glowing endorsement, tempered somewhat by the claim that its price is set too high. Most basic sentiment classifiers would probably call this “positive”, but as you can see, there are important nuances.

Another issue is sarcasm.

Suppose we showed you a sentence like “This movie was just great, I loved spending three hours of my Sunday afternoon following a story that could’ve been told in twenty minutes.”

A sentiment analysis algorithm is likely going to pick up on “great” and “loved” when calling this sentence positive.

But, as humans, we know that these are backhanded compliments meant to communicate precisely the opposite message.

Machine-learning systems will also tend to struggle with idioms that we all find easy to parse, such as “Setting up my home security system was a piece of cake.” This is positive because “piece of cake” means something like “couldn’t have been easier”, but an algorithm may or may not pick up on that.

Finally, we’ll mention the fact that much of the text in product reviews will contain useful information that doesn’t fit easily into a “sentiment” bucket. Take a sentence like “The new iPhone is smaller than the new Android.” This is just a bare statement of physical facts, and whether it counts as positive or negative depends a lot on what a given customer is looking for.

There are various ways of trying to ameliorate these issues, most of which are outside the scope of this article. For now, we’ll just note that sentiment analysis needs to be approached carefully if you want to glean an accurate picture of how people feel about your offering from their textual reviews. So long as you’re diligent about inspecting the data you show the system and are cautious in how you interpret the results, you’ll probably be fine.

Two people review data on a paper and computer to anticipate customer needs.

How Does Sentiment Analysis Work?

Now that we’ve laid out a definition of sentiment analysis, talked through a few examples, and made it clear why it’s so important, let’s discuss the nuts and bolts of how it works.

Sentiment analysis begins where all data science and machine learning projects begin: with data. Because sentiment analysis is based on textual data, you’ll need to utilize various techniques for preprocessing NLP data. Specifically, you’ll need to:

  • Tokenize the data by breaking sentences up into individual units an algorithm can process;
  • Use either stemming or lemmatization to turn words into their root form, i.e. by turning “ran” into “run”;
  • Filter out stop words like “the” or “as”, because they don’t add much to the text data.

Once that’s done, there are two basic approaches to sentiment analysis. The first is known as “rule-based” analysis. It involves taking your preprocessed textual data and comparing it against a pre-defined lexicon of words that have been tagged for sentiment.

If the word “happy” appears in your text it’ll be labeled “positive”, for example, and if the word “difficult” appears in your text it’ll be labeled “negative.”

(Rules-based sentiment analysis is more nuanced than what we’ve indicated here, but this is the basic idea.)

The second approach is based on machine learning. A sentiment analysis algorithm will be shown many examples of labeled sentiment data, from which it will learn a pattern that can be applied to new data the algorithm has never seen before.

Of course, there are tradeoffs to both approaches. The rules-based approach is relatively straightforward, but is unlikely to be able to handle the sorts of subtleties that a really good machine-learning system can parse.

Though machine learning is more powerful, however, it’ll only be as good as the training data it has been given; what’s more, if you’ve built some monstrous deep neural network, it might fail in mysterious ways or otherwise be hard to understand.

Supercharge Your Contact Center with Generative AI

Like used car salesmen or college history teachers, contact center managers need to understand the ways in which technology will change their business.

Machine learning is one such profoundly-impactful technology, and it can be used to automatically sort incoming messages by sentiment or priority and generally make your agents more effective.

Realizing this potential could be as difficult as hiring a team of expensive engineers and doing everything in-house, or as easy as getting in touch with us to see how we can integrate the Quiq conversational AI platform into your company.

If you want to get started quickly without spending a fortune, you won’t find a better option than Quiq.

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