Customer insight, big data and the bigger skills gap – Interview with Vivek Jetley of EXL

Today’s interview is with Vivek Jetley, Senior Vice President and co-Head of Analytics and Head of Corporate Strategy at EXL, a business process solutions company that integrates operations management services, decision analytics and technology platforms to help their clients deliver immediate results and long-term business impact. Vivek joins me today to talk about how companies need to create customer service teams that are cross-functional and multi-disciplinary, the convergence of customer service, sales and marketing and the challenges of implementing a big data strategy.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Using customer reviews to drive service improvement, WoM and growth – Interview with Jan Jensen of Trustpilot – and is number one-hundred and ten in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Highlights of my interview with Vivek:

  • Companies today need to create customer service teams that are cross-functional and multi-disciplinary given the demands of the modern business environment.
  • Customers are demanding that companies have a single, unified of them including all of their data, preferences and transaction history.
  • When companies have a customer’s data split across a number of databases and functions then firms are not able to extract the full value from the data.
  • Leading companies are creating customer insight teams that are combining all of a customers data into one place so that that can uncover insights and deliver value to both the business and customer.
  • The creation of such teams deliver very quick and dramatic returns/outcomes.
  • Where that team would sit in an organisation, in EXL’s experience, tends to vary by industry.
  • For example, in insurance companies those teams would normally sit within customer service or with the claims department i.e. those departments that have the highest level of interaction with customers.
  • Whereas in a bank, the insights team would normally sit within Risk or with the customer interaction team.
  • As a general rule, EXL sees that these teams are most successful when they are situated within departments that have the largest amount of customer interaction or have the most to ‘lose’ when things go wrong.
  • Some EXL clients are seeing a 100X return on the cost of the team cost over 3 years. However, most are seeing a 7-8X return over the the first year.
  • This manifests itself in higher revenue, satisfaction, retention and reduced costs etc.
  • Vivek believes that we are seeing a convergence of customer service, sales and marketing teams as firms need to have people that can understand the customer, manage and analyse the data and then act on it.
  • One the biggest challenges for firms following this type of approach is the ‘data’ skills gap that they face i.e. many firms find it difficult to source people with the right sort and combination of data collection, analysis and business skills.
  • This problem is exacerbated when you move away from the large urban centres like New York, LA, London etc.
  • The skills gap tends to fall into 2-3 broad buckets:
  1. The data scientists – people who can do advanced analytical and statistical work. Vivek has seen some research that he has extrapolated and estimates that the skills gap for data scientists in the US and UK is around 3-400,000 people.
  2. The bigger gap lies with the managers – those with right amount of training and understanding that can take, interpret and decide how to use the product of the data scientist’s work. Vivek estimates that this gap is 3-4 times that of the gap for data scientists.
  3. The next gap lies with people that have consumer behaviour and process understanding, or are from a Six-Sigma type of background, who can help manage the implementation of data insights into the various customer channels. Vivek estimates this gap to be in the region of another 2-300,000.
  • There is another issue that firms face and that is where to start with all of this. Do you need leaders who understand these issues first or do you need the data scientists first?
  • Leading firms tend to start with a small team first, possibly combined with an off-shore outsourcing partner, and iterate and grow from there as that allows them to manage risk and their understanding as they grow and prove the worth of the insights team.
  • One of the key questions that firm have to grapple with when starting done this road is: who should own this? Where should it sit in the organisation?
  • It tends to take an executive in the C-suite to champion this to establish where it sits in an organisation.
  • The second challenge, particularly with firms that don’t use data extensively, is to simultaneously find a capable leader that understands the problem and develop a plan of how to establish a team at the same time.
  • Rather than jumping into the Big Data space, Vivek advocates that firms first ask if they are using the data that they currently have in their firms optimally, are they getting the most out of their data and are they generating business outcomes.

About Vivek (taken from his LinkedIn summary)

Vivek Jetley - EXLVivek Jetley is a Senior Vice President and co-Head of Analytics and Head of Corporate Startegy at EXL.

He is an analytics leader and management consultant with 14years of experience consulting to Financial Services, Insurance, Healthcare, Telecom and Media companies. Broad experience across Marketing, Risk Management, New Product Development, Loyalty, Re-engineering and financial management.

He now leads EXL’s fast growing analytics business with clients in the US, UK, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

You can connect with Vivek on LinkedIn here, check out what EXL does in greater detail at as well as saying Hi to them on Twitter @exl_service

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