SAS and Sword Ciboodle transform the call center


Today I am happy to present a timely guest blog post from Toshi Tsuboi. Toshi is a SAS Customer Intelligence Product Manager, and is closely involved with the recently announced SAS and Sword Ciboodle partnership.

When Toshi came to me to discuss a guest post on this topic, I couldn’t say “Yes” fast enough. Having recently participated in a customer service call nightmare myself, I’m all too eager to see more of these solutions deployed in the market. (The example below, of an agent trying to upsell a service, when the existing service was not operating, happened to me, just this week.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Toshi Tsuboi...

When was the last time you looked forward to contacting a call center? That's a rhetorical question of course, but I can still hear you shouting "Never!" nonetheless.

Why? Because call centers make our skin crawl. They do mine anyway. Just thinking about the impersonal experience—being passed from person to person, repeating ourselves, hanging-up without having resolved the issue which prompted the call to begin with—can cause our bodies, through our autonomic nervous system, to respond physiologically in ways similar to other social stressors.

Reacting to the fight-or-flight response, my wife and I have actually employed various selection methods, including rock-paper-scissors, guess-which-hand, Morra, and drawing straws, to determine who has to call the company. "Ha-ha, you lose honey!" But in some cases we get lucky, and find ways to solve our issue with online self-service, email, or increasingly, Twitter.

However, while customers like my wife and me work to avoid the stress of the call center, is anyone asking how this behavior affects the business in question? Sure, the business avoids the "cost" associated with the service call that didn't happen, but are they missing out in the long run? Can this be a missed opportunity?

The call center is one of the few channels companies have to directly engage and interact with their customers. A person-to-person phone conversation offers real-time insight—into the customer's needs, frustration, sentiment, and desires—and ability to assuage concerns that email and Twitter can't match (at least for now).

When customers have concerns, they crave validation. They crave attention; to be treated as an individual; to be helped. Customers want, no need, call centers. We just need them to deliver an experience different than we're used to. But treating customers this way takes intelligence, in the form of actionable data, which has been difficult to come by…, until now.

SAS recently partnered with Sword Ciboodle to deliver a joint solution for contact center Customer Intelligence. Ciboodle One powered by SAS Real Time Decision Manager provides the call center with the capability to make high-quality, real-time decisions during each customer interaction.

Through a unified desktop, call center agents access complete customer profiles and can react to the conversation with personalized offers determined by real-time analytics. Customer and Agent interactions immediately gain context and relevancy, increasing the odds of a superior experience for both parties.

Let me try to explain the significance of this. Prior to the availability of real-time analytical decision making, organizations would pre-calculate important factors that help predict a customer’s future behavior. The calculation may go like this:

John purchased service-x and service-y. We need to sell John service-Z.

But, as you can imagine, customer situations can change faster than the pre-calculated model. Here's what can happen:

John places a call to the company, to report service-x is not working.

Agent tries to sell John service-z, as the model predicted.

You can imagine how likely, and happy, John will be to receive that offer. It's clear that pre-calculation is less than optimal, since many of the factors that went into the calculation become obsolete by the time they are used.

Using real-time analytics, the model can determine an offer more likely to enhance the interaction, because it is incorporating data being gathered from the customer interaction, as it happens. In this case, instead of "selling service-z," (the best offer predicted yesterday) the agent may offer a discount on service-x next month (the best offer predicted now). See the difference?

The information to treat your customers the best you can exists, organizations just need to leverage it correctly, by putting the right software in place.

Soon, "Ha-ha, you lose honey!" may be spoken by the one who gets to call the company. SAS Real-Time Decision Manager and Ciboodle One bring us one step closer to that future.


About Author

Justin Huntsman

Customer Intelligence Marketing Manager

I'm Justin Huntsman, a field marketer on the SAS Customer Intelligence team. I'm the editor of the SAS Customer Analytics blog, where my colleagues, friends and I discuss the challenges today’s marketers face in finding profitable growth opportunities, taking the best marketing actions, and maximizing cross-business impact.


  1. Vanguard Mutual Funds on

    Sounds Cool! I hope this is going to work well, as talking to call center executive is too annoying.

  2. Customer Intelligence on

    Very interesting post. Being able to gather customer trends and understand the customers' needs is vital for success. Thanks for the great post.

  3. I worked at a call center for 2 years and the technology we had was amazing. Technology increase our quality and quantity of calls. Just make sure you treat the customer right, because whoever talks to the customer represents the whole company in the customer's mind. Cool post!

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