3 ways that Hadoop can improve customer service

Like many technology professionals, I've grown up wrangling data with Python scripts, SQL databases and Excel. However, modern datasets make that process feel quaint.

Posted by Jeff Schnurr on December 26, 2014 · 4 min read

I’ve recently started to learn Hadoop.

Like many technology professionals, I’ve grown up wrangling data with Python scripts, SQL databases and Excel. However, modern datasets make that process feel quaint; it’s not just that the data is ‘big’, it’s increasingly unstructured and dispersed across many systems. It’s also loaded with potential - to not only understand your customer today, but to anticipate what they might do tomorrow.

Consider the data sources available in a modern contact center:

  • ACD feeds (queue performance, agent activity, handle times, etc)
  • Interaction content (chat transcripts, customer emails and transcribed voice calls)
  • QA records (interaction quality)
  • CRM records (contact information, activity history, service tickets, past sales)
  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys (comments, sentiment)
  • Knowledgebase (content utilization, effectiveness)
  • Web site (click-paths, shopping cart, engagement)
  • Social Media (comments, sentiment)
  • Product Reviews (at every point of sale)

… and more!

Imagine the value that is locked inside this data, as a whole:

  • Is my sales lead likely to have costly service requirements post-sale?
  • Which customers are most likely to post negative comments on social media?
  • Has an Amazon ‘top reviewer’ been in live chat with our sales team?
  • Which keywords or concepts in our support calls are the best predictor of customer satisfaction?
  • What agent behaviors drive customers to advocate our brand online?

Unlocking these answers can be challenging. The data is in many different places, and has poorly defined structure.

Hadoop doesn’t solve every aspect of this problem, but it brings some important capabilities to the table:

  1. Keep everything. Hadoop stores files in HDFS - The Hadoop Distributed File System. The benefit of that your files are stored across multiple systems, and you can add more as you grow - without slowing the system down. This encourages a “keep everything” mentality, where the raw source data is kept forever. You can consolidate and summarize it too, if you like - but never delete. That raw data could be useful for some future purpose, so keep it.
  2. Manage data flows. Getting a useful business output from complex datasets often requires an ‘assembly line’ of sorts, to ingest the original sources, scrub, transform and relate them to one another, and finally push the analyze-ready output to someone who can load it into Excel and do something useful with it. In Hadoop, components like Oozie and Falcon provide the framework necessary to build the assembly line, with all of the redundancy, fault-tolerance and parallel processing you would expect.
  3. Machine learning. The potential of big data is truly unleashed when past data can predict, or even influence, future events. Machine learning can help, with components like Mahout providing the tools to do so without complex and expensive development work. Use it to drive recommendation engines on your website, or intelligent routing of your sales leads and service interactions.

The ‘data lake’ metaphor resonates with me. Conceptually, Hadoop embraces the idea that your data is big, messy and always changing. The more we add to the lake, the more rich and valuable the entire ecosystem becomes.

I’ll provide updates as I learn more. For now, I’m excited by the potential - for the business, and for the customer. Service gets smarter when it’s powered by big data.