Customer calls prove rich data resource for USAA

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USAA is deploying tech that can glean important information from call center conversations, using the data points that result to inform interactions in other channels.

The hope is that the company can better understand each individual customer, rather than lumping them together in segments, and provide personalized help during what the company calls "moments of truth."

"What's a moment of truth? It's usually something that elicits some sort of emotional pain," said Eric Smith, chief data and analytics officer at USAA. "For many people, buying their first home is a moment of truth. They don't understand the process, it's complex, it's long running, there are always the questions, 'Do I have the right paperwork, am I going to qualify?' So being able to guide and help through that process is key."

Another such moment could be an insurance claim filed after a natural disaster, a lost job, a death in the family, he said.

"Being there for the members, helping them understand what the process is for a claim, or if they have an auto accident, that's a significant event for them," Smith said. "The only way you're able to serve in those moments of truth is when you know enough about the individual to create an experience that's individualized to them and understand what's going to be critical to them to understand."

USAA has long had a unique attitude toward its customer service reps. Unlike many large companies, it encourages reps to stay on the phone with customers. Executives refer to reps as the company's "pride and joy," rather than lowly minions destined to one day be replaced by chatbots.

But the new effort would put even more emphasis on interactions with customer service representatives.

USAA already collects data about digital interactions in a system it calls C3I. But though about 95% of member interactions are digital, USAA's call centers take about 100 million calls a year. And while USAA records the calls, the recordings have traditionally been used for coaching and mentoring member service representatives.

"What we really wanted to do was harvest all the conversations that happen there because that's where we understand the emotional connections the [service representative] is making with the member and you start to develop a lot more understanding outside of just some digital breadcrumbs of what's going on with the member and what their needs might be," Smith said.

To harvest those conversations, USAA is doing real-time transcriptions, combined with sentiment and inflection analysis, to provide in-the-moment insights.

USAA staffers who work on designing customer experiences can list the calls, take notes and capture information on what changes they should make.

"There's an incredible amount of information we can tap into," Smith said. "The technologies we're using have the ability to do that at scale in real time using machine learning and it starts to develop some incredible intelligence out of the contact center."

By combining the call center call information with C3I and operational data, USAA gets a much clearer picture of what is going on with a customer. If a customer tries to wire money through the mobile app and runs into a problem, they can call, authenticate themselves and connect with a rep who can see what they were trying to do on the wires page and quickly help.

USAA is building what Smith calls a "comprehensive conversational framework" made up of information gleaned from the contact center and data gathered from digital interactions and combined with machine learning intelligence and AI to build a contextual understanding of what is happening throughout the entire transaction. This way, the bank could see every step of a mortgage conversation from initial interest through closing.

"That experience of being able to start in one channel and flowing that all the way through is critically important," Smith said.

If, for example, a customer has an insurance claim outstanding, that member can get an update on the status of that claim when she logs in from a mobile device. If she's outside her typical operating area, she'll be asked if she's traveling and would like travel notifications on her credit card. If a customer checks their investment balances or their checking account balance every day, that information will be presented upfront.

"These are all things were constantly experimenting with," Smith said.

Eventually, the work USAA is doing with Alexa and Google Home, where members can ask the smart speakers questions about their accounts, may be tied into this.

“Members are looking for an experience that's available when they need it and not an experience they have to go to,” Smith noted.

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Customer service Customer data Customer experience Customer-centricity USAA