The Graph Is Nice, but What Are You Hearing?

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I’ve been working with a client company and looking deeply into their customer calls to find patterns around why people call, how CSRs handle calls, and what issues customers are having with the company’s products and services.

I was sitting down recently with one of the directors here at the client and we were talking about handle times – how long it takes for a customer’s issue to be resolved over the phone. I talked about some of the analysis we had done on certain scenarios, and shared the statistics we had generated. He looked at them, nodded his head, and turned to me.

“What are you hearing?” he said. In other words, the graphs were fine and useful, but the proof points were in the actual customer dialogues.

Similarly, I did a small analysis on reps proposing to save customers money. In a conference call today, the senior customer service team looked at the graphs, and then the VP asked the leaders to listen to sample calls I’d identified where reps had used this phraseology.

In short: the summarized data lays out the story, but the raw customer stories make it real. Conversely, drawing conclusions from graphs and charts disconnected from the ground-level information is dangerous. [See this interesting Michael Schrage post on the dangers of innumeracy among businesspeople.]

You can’t just go completely the other way, either. That’s the “Undercover Boss” phenomenon – whatever the CEO personally experiences is automatically valid and actionable, regardless of what broader patterns are out there to be discovered. The best approach is a respectful balance of both – analytics and anecdotics. “Trust but validate,” perhaps.

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