Market Report

Meaningful data

Comms Business talks to the market about what data and analytics are in demand, and how to develop compelling analytics offerings.

In today’s world, data is generated at an unbelievable rate. Every click or action is creating new data. To make sense of this sea of data, analytics and insights are coming into the spotlight.

Ed Savory, head of sales, Pragma, explained, “The wealth of data available to businesses is reshaping how channel companies operate. Data analytics has great potential for companies to improve their business performance, by gaining a deeper understanding of their operations, alongside valuable insight into their customers’ experience.

“Data and analytics are being used to power day-to-day operations as well as influencing business strategies. It’s natural that businesses want to be more efficient and improve customer experience. Previously, they would need a more laborious, hands-on approach to get the necessary level of understanding. This is no longer the case.

“What we’re seeing now is data and analytical tools being used in a whole host of ways, including the monitoring of market trends, analysing sales and trends, identifying and understanding business patterns, and streamlining operations.”

Wayne Gratton, VP branding and marketing services, Infinigate, added, “Data analytics are increasingly being used in the channel to gain insights into customer needs, to tune services and support and gain competitive advantage. Access to data analytics, once the province of rich companies, has been democratised by a lower barrier to entry, with costs falling from thousands to hundred of pounds.

“Data analytics can offer insights into your customers buying patterns, helping you tune your offering. You can also look at your existing sales data to uncover sales patterns, segmenting your customers by potential, target audience, types of product and tune your offering and services to optimise your support.”

For Tom Constant, head of data and analytics, FullFibre, the use of data and analytics in the channel reflects what is happening more broadly in all businesses.

He said, “Data and analytics underpins every area of business, and this is no different for channel companies. The more data we have about our business as a whole, the more we can understand about how we operate, and gain insights that we just hadn’t been able to access before.”

Constant explained how the company is using data internally. He said, “We use machine learning to optimise our high-level design, predictive models to gauge customer propensity to purchase, automated data pipelines to track competitor builds and we produce hourly analytics to report on our key performance metrics.

“This is making a huge difference to our business. The automated reporting we generate saves on average 12 hours of work per month per report, and our automated high-level design algorithm saves around £70,000 in design costs per area of auto-design.”

The channel has a rich heritage in recommending and delivering call and contact centre solutions for many types of organisations. And data and analytics is hugely important for this market. Everton Stuart, managing director and founder of Vidicode UK, discussed his perspective.

He said, “Analysis of recorded calls and call traffic statistics help gain valuable insights into customer experiences. By analysing this data, call centres, market research companies and sales operations can identify pain points and critical training requirements, improve service quality, and enhance customer satisfaction.”

Steve Tutt, commercial manager, Kakapo Systems, added, “The biggest change we are seeing is mapping analytics to actual customer experience because contact centre stats in isolation do not tell the full story. Performance metrics [should be] driven by direct customer feedback rather than reactive stats that simply measure calls answered or calls abandoned without any relevance to how customers felt about the interaction.”

Hilary Oliver, chief marketing and experience officer, Tollring, agreed that using data effectively can unlock better customer experiences.

She said, “Understanding customer experience by capturing and analysing data throughout their journey of interactions is a key focus for many channel partners and their customers because every lost interaction has the potential to negatively impact revenues. Furthermore, as we are all aware, acquiring a new customer can cost 5 to 25 times more than retaining an existing one.

“Using analytics, an organisation can make informed business decisions by tracking customer journeys from their initial outreach in the queue, via multiple interactions, through to resolution of the query.

“Now, where hybrid working is commonplace, more than ever, it is critical for every business to understand if enough resource is available to successfully answer calls, how long it takes to resolve queries, and how calls are being handled.”

Oliver added that connecting the dots between internal and external communications can be of critical importance.

She explained, “Whilst delivering good customer experience relies on strong external communications, it is just as important to know how internal teams and departments communicate and work together. Especially important for managers of hybrid teams, analytics helps to monitor activity to support their well-being.”

She gave an example of Microsoft Teams users, with Teams analytics offering the ability to monitor staff well-being and management styles to provide additional support to employees. She added, “Every business of every size and type should have access to their business communications and collaboration analytics to fully understand both internal activity and external customer interactions.”

Minimum requirements

With many organisations now having access to data and analytics, expectations are shifting around what is now considered a bare minimum and what remains optional nice-to-haves. Savory, head of sales, Pragma, pointed out what falls into each area for him.

He said, “As the data market has grown, there are now some common tools being used in the channel. Some of these are already indispensable. Historic call reporting is a key tool, and by historic we don’t just mean data from last month, last week or even yesterday.

“It’s a fair expectation for data to be available as soon as something’s happened. For instance, capturing missed calls and numbers instantly is essential to enable quick call backs and lower the risk of missing an opportunity.

“In terms of reporting, scheduling automated reports would also be a minimum expectation. Having the ability to schedule reports allows data to be viewed and acted on in real time, eliminating the timely process of manually creating reports.”

Savory also said that access to data across any device, from anywhere, is also now a core requirement. He explained, “This is particularly relevant with the popularity of hybrid working. Owners and employees expect to be able to access business critical data from wherever they’re working via a web browser or app.”

Mike Wilkinson, chief product and marketing officer, Akixi, added, “The critical features business expect to see in their calling analytics service include: measuring call volume, call duration, wait times, and other relevant call statistics; reporting and dashboards to track key metrics and trends; real-time monitoring for analysing live calls for immediate insights and quality control; and call recording.”

Vidicode UK’s Stuart explained his view that call recording is now essential. He said, “Our partners can offer screen recording, pause recording, and extended storage of calls at no extra cost to their customers.

“An optional speech analytics tool, with word search and transcription, enables users to find important calls rapidly using preset criteria. This can help to identify cross-selling, upselling in a sales environment or keywords in disputes or for compliance proof.

“For regular Microsoft Teams users, resellers can also offer the recording of calls, webcam and screen share activity in a secure environment, a vital factor for regulated companies that don’t want recordings stored on personal laptops. Various secure mobile phone call recording options are available [as well], [with] resellers [able to] set their own rates and cut roaming charges.”

Winning analytics offerings

Now we understand core functionalities and requirements, resellers and MSPs must now focus on moving the needle further. For Infinigate’s Gratton, winning analytics offerings make data accessible to employees across the customer’s business.

He said, “Good analytics are dashboard-driven, suitable for C-level stakeholders rather than just data experts. It is good to complement your own data with external data to widen your perspective and gain market insights.

“Interrogating data can offer insights, but those insights are only valuable if you set up trigger to react to them, instigating remedial action. It is important to set up prompts with recommended actions based on specific customer behaviour. If a customer has varied from a known pattern and not been in touch for an unusually long time, the reaction could be to simply get in touch to understand what has changed.”

Oliver, from Tollring, added, “To create a winning offering, MSPs need to focus on the benefits they deliver to their customers and focus on delivering a whole solution. The more useful and relevant the information to each customer, the more powerful.”

Similarly to Gratton, she emphasised the value of making data meaningful. “It is important to understand that analytics is not just about statistics but the insights it delivers. Presenting analytics in a way that easy to understand, and easy to access is critical.”

Wilkinson, from Akixi, discussed the importance of training and support, as well as customer understanding. He said, “Resellers can develop winning voice analytics offerings by understanding customer needs, partnering with reliable providers, customising solutions, providing comprehensive training and support, and delivering a compelling and unique customer experience.

“By tailoring offerings to customer requirements, offering differentiated features, and showcasing tangible benefits, resellers can position themselves as trusted providers in the market.”

Savory, from Pragma, agreed with the importance of tailored solutions. He said, “Resellers and MSPs need to offer products which can be tailored to suit a customer’s business and fit their needs. iPECS Analytics gives businesses complete visibility of all call traffic and call costs.

“It’s the ultimate tool for providing its users with a complete picture, gathering data from calls from start to end, and everything in between. If a user needs to see how long a call lasted, and the journey it took, then they have access to that information.

“It also helps to combine a quantitative and qualitative approach. We combine our analytics and call recording solutions on a single cloud platform. This means you can drill into KPIs and quality assurance in one place. These tools are mutually complementary, and it really helps to look at them in relation to each other.”

For Adrian Sunderland, CTO, Jola, real-time data makes the difference here, but this must be cost-effective. He said, “Jola supplies MSPs with mobile data solutions to monitor and control the usage of gas and electric systems in social housing.

“Usage is monitored to try and create efficiencies and move towards a carbon-neutral goal. The challenge their customers have is one of affordability. Hardware costs are high as is deployment countrywide with single network coverage issues.

“End-users expect always-on 24/7/365 internet connectivity and reliable hardware to be able to monitor usage in near real-time. They don’t want to be paying over the odds for data usage and would prefer to pay monthly for hardware.”

Coming up

When asked what trends he expects to dominate the analytics space in next year, Gratton, from Infinigate, emphasised the importance of bringing artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix.

He said, “Most companies are on some sort of journey with analytics – with different levels of advancement and the channel can complement customers’ existing insights. AI applications are gaining ground and becoming more widely available; they can help interrogate the data, using intuitive language. Eventually, AI will also proactively suggest a course of action.

“The cost of analytics has come down significantly, however, it still requires time and skill, both to develop analytics dashboards, related triggers, and to interpret the dashboards and determine what action needs to be taken. Of course, we couldn’t talk about the future of analytics without mentioning AI.”

Gratton said that AI is already being used to process and clean data. He added, “I believe this trend will continue, as automated chat capabilities become more sophisticated and as we gain access to proactive functionality to spot patterns and changes. This growing intelligence will allow us to process a larger data set and deeper analytics, revealing insights and action needed to optimise business performance.”

Constant, from FullFibre, said, “Everyone you ask about trends in analytics over the next 12 months is likely to say it’s going to be AI, and they’re not wrong. Before ChatGPT catapulted it into the public consciousness, we’ve been seeing the gradual trend of using artificial intelligence more and more in a business setting.”

He pointed out the reality that AI analysis of datasets has been embedded in tools like Excel and PowerBI for a while now. He concluded, “I think in a couple of years the idea that you need a data analyst to write some specialised SQL in order to answer a business question is going to seem medieval. Decision-makers are going to be far likelier to just ask a company specific AI chatbot, and that transition will dominate the analytics space in the coming years.”

Oliver, from Tollring, expects analytics to become more and more critical to internal and external business decisions. She added, “AI-driven and self-learning analytics are coming fast, with the potential to transform the power of data analytics. Although applications like ChatGPT have proven that these advances in technology still require human oversight to ensure accuracy and context.

“And whilst ChatGPT may provide generalised insight, adding new perspectives to data analysis, true business intelligence is empowered by data from an organisation’s own systems and applications. Ensuring relevance to a company’s unique objectives and activities will take data analytics to the next level.”

Sunderland, from Jola, expects analysis to move to the next level. He said, “In the upcoming year, businesses are expected to focus on several trends in the analytics space. Automated analytics is set to increase allowing businesses to quickly analyse data and to generate insights without manual analysis.

“Machine learning algorithms are predicted to be used more widely to help with decision-making. There will be a greater emphasis on data security. Real-time analytics will be a major focus and there will be a shift towards hybrid cloud analytics as businesses look to gain competitive advantage and retain security over their data.”

This market report appeared in our July 2023 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.