When you call Home Depot's customer service number, an electronic prompt tells you the call may be recorded for quality assurance.
But those recordings, which amount to roughly 6.5 million each year for the home improvement giant, can do more than just maintain happy customers. They contain a wealth of information about the people who shop at Home Depot — their critiques, their wants and their expectations from the company.
The ability to harness that information has made Home Depot millions.
Home Depot doesn't do it alone. The company hired the American arm of the global data analysis corporation NICE Systems, which recently moved from Rutherford to Paramus. Using NICE's suite of programs — which collected and scrutinized information locked in those phone conversations — the company was able to improve sales effectiveness, customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.
Home Depot said those improvements increased its revenue by $10.8 million — in four months.
Barak Eilam, president of NICE Americas, is reluctant to talk about specific clients, in the interest of privacy, but the Home Depot example has been fully documented by the company and written up into a case study highlighting the power of big data.
"The interaction that you, as a consumer, have with this enterprise is becoming very critical to the success of their business," said Eilam, who moved from Israel, where the parent company is based, to Closter four years ago. "By analyzing those interactions, we have the ability to provide those businesses a lot of insight."
That insight is valuable, Eilam said. NICE Systems pulls in about $1 billion in revenue every year. And multiple analysts rank NICE first among its competition.
NICE has been in business for more than 25 years, with divisions specializing in security and financial crime — but the bulk of its work lies in analyzing customer interactions for companies.
Over the years, as they worked with their clients, NICE began to realize how valuable those interactions could be. Technology eventually caught up, making such advanced data analysis possible.
Now, NICE holds about 125 patents for the systems they have developed, with more pending. And it's no longer just about recorded phone calls. The company's programming can correlate the information from a phone interaction with what is happening on Facebook and Twitter and the emails sent to an organization, Eilam said.
But with that capability comes a different challenge for NICE: capturing and analyzing the data as fast as it is coming in.
In the past, Eilam said, if a customer had a bad experience with an airline, for example, that customer would vent to friends and neighbors, maybe even their coworkers — possibly 20 people in total.
Now, angry customers air their grievances on Facebook and Twitter, where friends and followers can number in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands.
"Think about the power you have. You put something on Twitter, good or bad, and it gets to thousands of people in seconds," Eilam said. "That's, I think, the biggest challenge: How do we do it fast enough? It is complex, but I think we are moving in the right direction."
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