In my opinion: big data can address retailer customer service, says [24]7

Mike Hughes, managing director for European operations at intuitive consumer experience firm [24]7, explains why retail customer service needs to up its game and how it can use technology to do so 

Predictive interactions and contact centre solutions provider

Predictive interactions and contact centre solutions provider


Hughes: anticipate consumer behaviour via big data

Hughes: anticipate consumer behaviour via big data

Ask the average consumer what they think of retail customer service and there is a good chance it won’t be particularly positive.

Retailers are frequently unresponsive on Facebook and Twitter, have under-staffed and over-worked call centres and operate live chat facilities that rarely provide the information actually requested.

This all contributes to making consumers feel their quest for consistent good service will be never ending. In too many cases, the end result seems to be just more communication channels through which to disappoint customers.

The answer lies not in consumer technology, but in analysing the data gleaned from those channels, applying cutting edge data analysis techniques to better understand customer issues. When applied to areas such as customer loyalty and reduction of customer effort, the application of smart data analysis and intuitive communication models will reap greater rewards for retailers than simply building a new app with no thought as to where it fits on the customer journey.

Changing expectations

Part of the challenge is consumers’ expectations have changed, but retailers have not adapted to meet those expectations.

Computing and communications technologies have advanced to the extent customers now have the opportunity to reach out to retailers in a number of ways, 24 hours a day. The access is right at their fingertips, and consumers expect the same rapid and intuitive experience from the retailers they contact as can be found on the smart devices they use to communicate with.

The problem at the moment isn’t just not enough companies are opening up these new channels to become fully responsive but the new channels opened up just add to the confusion within a labyrinth of steps the customer needs to take in order to make a purchase or resolve an enquiry. 

There have been some examples of companies making good use of new channels – such as O2’s presentation of a human face to counter complaints about its recent outage – but there is little evidence retailers are making effective use of the data they gather in the long term to make the customer’s life easier.

An intuitive retail service will make customers' lives easier

An intuitive retail service will make customers’ lives easier

Retailers need to develop a seamless experience to ensure the customer is taken through the same simple steps regardless of whether they’re visiting a bricks and mortar store, engaging online, speaking to a representative on the telephone or a combination of these.

For many retailers yet to take the next step into delivering fully integrated customer service channels, the issue is it all sounds complex and costly.

The truth is most retailers already have all the data they need to deliver a modern and intuitive service which could make their customers’ lives easier. The issue lies in whether retailers take the opportunity to make use of the data they have. 

Delivering a predictive experience

[24]7 Customer has started working with a number of retailers to deliver a predictive experience for customers, which anticipates their requirements to smooth the path of their interaction. They can make sure customers do not have to repeat information they’ve already given in-store, for example, or put them in direct contact with the right specialist at a contact centre depending on their place in the customer journey. This is done by analysing the customer data and developing smart models which learn to adapt and intuit customer needs.

Using big data techniques to reduce customer effort will pay dividends in brand loyalty and reduced resources required for managing enquiries and complaints. However, the benefits can also extend into the development of a platform which can support cross-selling and upselling as the system learns to understand customer requirements and suggests relevant complementary items, calculates when a customer may wish to chat online or requires a phone call and offers the relevant service based on the customer’s profile, history and current activities. 

Ultimately, modelling the customer journey has benefits for the customer and the retailer. For example, if enough data is available on a customer the system can make a reasonable estimate as to their likely requirements, appropriate product options can be presented in a timely fashion, rather than bombarding each visitor with irrelevant marketing offers in the hope one will hit the mark.

To give another example, if a customer has already placed an order but not yet received the product, the most likely options are the customer will be tracking delivery or aiming to cancel the order. Placing options for technical help or more opportunities to buy at this point will do nothing but annoy and frustrate the customer and lead to lost sales and a poor reputation. These applications are common sense for most bricks and mortar retailers, who wouldn’t dream of trying to sell more to a customer who visits the complaints desk; the application of big data into an online environment ensures the same common sense can be found in an automated environment.

At [24]7 Customer we aren’t interested in revolutionising customer service today with our predictive experience solution and then resting with that new solution – our data analysis model allows us to develop a continually learning model which adapts incrementally as customer behaviour changes over time. Our company ethos is  – anticipate, simplify, learn – which highlights our focus on customer needs. The last element – learning – is not only causing a revolution in customer service today but also guarantees the future evolution of positive customer service channels which change with the needs and expectations of customers. 

Retailers who don’t keep pace with their customers may find the only revolution they experience is the dramatic loss of customers who turn elsewhere. Whether in-store or online, the smarter revolution of engagement lies within the grasp of all retailers – make use of the data they already have to make their customers’ lives easier and watch their sales rise.

About Mike Hughes

Mike Hughes is the managing director for European operations at [24]7 Customer. He has over 20 years of experience in customer management, change leadership and IT and is passionate about raising the standard of industry best practice using technology to create a smoother customer experience and lessen customer effort. [24]7 has the largest self-service network in the world with 2.5bn interactions and delivers solutions that provide intuitive consumer experiences. 

[24]7 contact details:

Tel: +44 208 274 1247



(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)