Updated February 2022
The average employee in the enterprise sends or receives 126 emails each day. In the enterprise, up to 40% of an employee's day is spent just in Outlook.
Imagine being able to mine the useful information in even a handful of these emails, discovering unknown processes, data points and automation opportunities. This is what Communications Mining enables, at speed and at scale.
Couple this with customer communications across email, online chat, and even voice, and suddenly vast amounts of previously unstructured and untouched data becomes structured and accessible. This is Communications Mining.
The glue that holds our processes and procedures together is the communications we send internally between employees, and externally between our customers and employees.
Communications is the beating heart of all services and business operations. It ranges from emails and tickets, to instant messages, online chats, notes in our CRM/ERP systems, as well as the telephone conversations we have. In short, it's everywhere we converse in natural language.
The Communications Mining Process
Mining unstructured communications for data, insights and automation represents the next frontier for digital and business transformation. Businesses have spent decades documenting and refining the 'how' of their processes, mapping out every step as they seek the symptoms of inefficiency. Yet only now are they starting to consider the 'why'. Leaders are beginning to ask what is driving their processes, what is causing failure demand and starting their most resource-intensive workflows.
That’s where Communications Mining starts to bring large and incremental value to the enterprise. Using natural language processing (NLP) to turn messages into data, it shows you what people are saying, how frequently they are saying it and in what context. When these newly mined communication insights are coupled with process understanding, a whole new avenue of intelligent automation presents itself.
Firstly, common themes and semantic intents can be grouped together to provide a holistic view across any communication channel (including Voice when speech-to-text translation is used). This is a first for the enterprise. Historically, siloed insight capabilities would have looked at channel-specific communications - almost entirely focused on customer communications, and nearly always from the Voice channel.
Secondly, making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning takes the heavy lifting out of manually categorizing of all these communications. AI can process vast amounts of information, providing untold value in the volume and quality of analytics. What would have taken human employees months or even years, Communications Mining achieves in days. Training can be real-time and should be underpinned by a critical approach in machine learning known as “Active learning”.
Active Learning leverages human expertise and machine efficiency in training, creating a dynamic feedback loop between man and machine. As a new message enters the business, the machine learning model instantly begins making predictions across both historical and new incoming communications. The agent can simply label new concepts on the fly and continue with their day job, The system is constantly learning, re-training and 're:inferring' in the background. Training the AI to categorize in the same way as your best agent, means your machines are doing the heavy lifting while your people focus on their most important work. You can focus in on the improvements you need to make in your operations rather than drowning in unstructured data.
Finally, using the same analytical capability, you can prove your improvements have actually worked and are driving positive ROI - by using the same data that highlighted your improvement areas in the first place. You should see an instant reduction in these queries/requests entering the business if you have made the correct change, or see data to support the funnelling of these requests into your automations. The key here is having data to prove the value you've created.
A history of Communications Mining
Of course, Communications Mining by itself is only part of the solution to business-wide digital transformation. It covers the communications-based aspects of an organisation and its processes. However, while it produces actionable insights it isn't an automation tool in itself like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or a chat bot.
Communications Mining is also not the only analytical tool you may need in your organization. Both Process Mining and Task Mining are complementary tools that will assist with your understanding of process order and efficiency.
When Communications Mining, Task Mining, and Process Mining are linked with the right methodologies and automation technologies, the concept of hyperautomation becomes a reality. This is the scaling and expansion of automation across the enterprise. Previously, only structured processes - mediated through core IT systems where all data is machine-readable - were feasible for automation. Yet now we are seeing intelligent automation leaders combine Communications Mining with other AI and automation tools to automate from end-to-end the most complex and wasteful communications processes.
Why Communications Mining is important
Communications Mining is important because the traditional methods of process analysis generally fail to capture intent - that is, the reason for any workflows that need to be completed.
This is a crucial element that's traditionally missing from most transformation programs. They will, therefore, fail to accurately capture any changes (positive or negative) made post-transformation, either through sentiment shifts, volume fluctuations or reduced customer/agent effort.
When looking to understand if your organization has a requirement for Communications Mining, ask yourself these 5 things:
- Do we currently analyze communications across our business as a means to improve processes for our employees and customers?
- Do we understand at a data level who received, actioned (and when) the requests and reasons for these communications?
- Do we truly understand what our customers are asking of us?
- Do we have a current understanding of all those undocumented processes that happen via emails across the organization currently?
- Have we directly fed our automation capabilities with structured outputs from unstructured data sources such as emails?
It's very likely that you answered 'no' to at least 3 of the above questions, so it's extremely likely Communications Mining will add value to your organization. This will be the case whether it's through creating new customer insights, process awareness and improvement opportunities through automation discovery.
Who is responsible for Communications Mining?
One of the challenges of Communications Mining has been the question of internal ownership. Should it sit in Customer Experience, Data & Analytics, Marketing, Automation, Process Improvement, Operations or some other department in the enterprise?
Ultimately, Communications Mining isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The growing trend is for Communications Mining to sit closely beside Customer Experience, Process Improvement and Automation. However, much will depend on your organization and who benefits most from the value that Communications Mining. This should decide as to where Communications Mining is best deployed. Diverse functions from Business Services to Customer Services and IT Support all have value to gain from Communications Mining.
The Outcomes and Business Value of Communications Mining
So what should you expect to achieve through Communications Mining? There are a number of indicators and metrics being used by its users to showcase the value of Communications Mining:
- Categorize the query types into buckets of Process Improvement, Automation or Elimination. This is your potential opportunity for contact removal and greater efficiency. One adopter found an opportunity for efficiency in over 40% of emails received - improving a process, adding additional content in their digital self-serve, or delivering a new level of email automation. As a result, they achieved a 25% reduction in manned effort across their email function.
- Analyze all data points associated with your communications - not just what was said, but when, by whom, and even the sentiment of the response. The insights associated with this meta data can be invaluable when looking at your internal staffing (for example, are any staff members taking more responses to resolve a query?), resource profiles (when are queries being received, what are the response times and are our staff shift patterns optimal?). Various users have reported benefits in their ability to spot staff training and quality assurance needs, leading to better outcomes for customers and employees in the future.
- Similar to the outputs of Process Mining, the data associated with the path your processes take will lead to far more variation than you ever expected. This data-driven approach over the top of your communications will tell you far more about your work than you are likely to achieve through manual reviews. It is difficult to put a value on the unknown, but understanding undocumented, unknown and un-official processes has created incremental value far exceeding expectations.
Email Mining: Streamlining the email communication process
As an example, consider the benefits Communications Mining can bring to the email communication process. For the most part, businesses are processing emails the same way they have for over 20 years. Employees spend much of their day in Outlook, reading inbound emails, manually deleting those which don't concern them, routing emails to their colleagues for resolution. From triage to manual deletion, email triggers many workflows that waste valuable time and create unnecessary stress for your people. Indeed, almost a quarter (22%) of workers want to quit their current job due to rising email volumes.
But consider the value offered by Communications Mining. Instead of employees manually reading every email that lands in their inbox, Communications Mining becomes the first port of call, automatically interpreting each email as it comes in. When easily integrated with an automation tool like RPA, the solution also takes the next best action automatically, whether it is auto-triage, deletion or responding to a frequently asked question or transactional request. Communications Mining not only frees employees from mundane repetitive work, it's the foundation of better, faster customer service.
The Future of Communications Mining
Communications Mining is going to be very important to the data-driven enterprise. Understanding what is happening, outside as well as inside your business processes, will create new invaluable insight and create another gateway to process transformation. Communications Mining enables change and process improvement to begin where it should - with customers and employees, through the conversations they have.