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I have written a couple of pieces this year about the exciting news that a few vendors are now able to provide companies with a call center they can access in the Internet cloud – Will Cloud Computing Finally Bring Innovation to the Contact Center? and Is a “Contact Center in the Cloud” a Reality? There is currently a lot of hype around any kind of cloud-based computing, and the same is true of the contact center. From my perspective, people should be clear about what this phrase really means. Anyone that has been involved in building an on-premises contact center knows it typically involves integrating complex call-management systems (such as PBX, ACD and IVR) and several computer systems including call routing, call recording, workforce management, CRM, agent quality monitoring and performance management, reporting and analytics. The idea is that calls or other types of interactions are delivered to the company’s call center location and then the combination of these technologies determines the best agent to handle the interaction and delivers it to that person. The contact center in the cloud shifts some or all of these systems to a third party, and the company accesses them over the Internet. The difference is that instead of going to the company’s location, an interaction is directly delivered to the best person to handle it, regardless of whether that person is in another location, in a contact center, in another line of business, working at home or even out of the office using a mobile phone. In addition, users are in control in the sense that rather than depending on in-house IT, they can access the service from anywhere with an Internet connection and get new features and functions without waiting for IT to upgrade.

LiveOps is a leading vendor in this market. Its contact center in the cloud includes inbound and outbound call management, interactions through e-mail, chat, IVR, call routing and CTI, and on the back end workforce management and performance management, reporting and analysis. All of these have been developed by LiveOps and so are tightly integrated and share a common user interface and central administration. Like its competitors, LiveOps has addressed typical user concerns so the service is physically and electronically secure, is highly scalable and boasts nearly zero downtime, including for system maintenance.

The latest version of the LiveOps service enables business users to create their own call-routing scenarios, using an intuitive interface. The system then drives new routing algorithms so that call flows match business requirements. It also has enhanced reporting and analysis, both historic and real time, which can be customized to individual requirements.

My experience shows that companies’ biggest concerns about cloud-based solutions are security, resilience and performance. The LiveOps technology address these issues through another service it calls a workforce cloud – essentially an outsourced interaction-handling service. LiveOps employs more than 2,000 agents that handle the customer’s interactions, using the cloud-based contact center. The service is thus secure, and able to handle large volumes of calls and employ enough agents to take them. These agents are all based at home, further proving that a cloud-based product is most effective at supporting a highly distributed service.

All this said, I add that my most recent research into agent performance management shows that most companies still prefer on-premises solutions. But this is changing, especially in areas such as CRM where salesforce.com is leading the way in proving that cloud-based services are cost-effective, secure and resilient and provide companies with the means to innovate in how they run their business. As the blogs I mentioned earlier point out, the contact center market in the past has not been very innovative, and companies have been reluctant to move to the cloud. This service from LiveOps could change the game, and companies looking to create a new center or replace their existing facilities should consider it. Have you considered moving your contact center to the cloud?

Let me know your thoughts or come and collaborate with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Regards,

Richard Snow – VP & Global Research Director

Among the important findings of our latest benchmark research on contact center analytics were these two: 88 percent of companies said they can use analytics to improve the performance of the contact center (41% said they could make significant improvement), and the main issue holding them back from doing that is an excessive reliance on spreadsheets (90% indicated they use spreadsheets on a regular or universal basis).

Many companies are challenged to find an alternative to spreadsheets that supports their business requirements. Beneath the marketing hype the actual problem is to access all the data needed to produce the required analysis. Enkata is one of a few vendors that address this issue. It has a suite of products focused on contact center agent performance, including quality monitoring, managing performance against defined metrics, and managing coaching. To those it added products to help manage first-call resolution, understand customer issues and discover the root causes of why customers are contacting the company.

Now, not content with the success of these products, Enkata has become active in contact center performance management, upgrading some products and introducing new ones. Over the last nine months it has made five major product announcements. The first announcement was on the release of Activity Tracker, took it into the previously uncharted waters of unstructured data. It allows companies to learn what agents do at their desktops as they try to resolve customer interactions, such as the applications they access and the data they capture. Knowing this can lead to improvements to interaction-handling and agent training and coaching. The second new product, Automated Contact Reasoning, moves away from the agent to help companies understand how customers react to operational events such as a new marketing campaign and identify emerging trends by customer segment, such as how often different segments call the center. The third announcement is a major upgrade, Coach 3.0, an on-demand version of the coaching product that allows companies to manage, track and measure coaching activities through workflow of steps. The next announcement is Customer Segment Analytics that is part of Enkata Discoverer 8.0 that provides powerful analytics for root cause analysis can now group together customers bases on their responses to enable comparative analysis through impact level analytics.  The latest announcement is Cross Channel Analytics allows companies to track customers as they try to resolve their issues across multiple touch point such as Web-based self-service and calls to the contact center. It builds on Enkata’s experience in accessing different sources and types of data and bringing them together to provide new insights on customer experience.

These new developments add further weight to the rating Enkata achieved in our recent Agent Performance Management Value Index, which compares vendors that provide solutions to support Agent Performance Management. It was rated a “Warm” vendor, which is admirable for a vendor with a suite of products mostly focused on agent-related analytics and performance management without functions such as call recording and agent workforce management. Companies looking to improve the performance of their contact center through better use of analytics and metrics would do well to include Enkata on the list of vendors they evaluate especially since they are easily made available through its cloud computing based software as a service approach.

As our research shows, companies recognize that they need to improve their use of analytics, and deploying specialist systems rather than continuing to rely on spreadsheets is a step in that direction. This can be a way not only to improve operational efficiency but to improve customer satisfaction, first-contact-resolution rates and agent performance through better training and coaching. These are all things that the latest developments from Enkata address. How do you rate the metrics you use to assess contact center and agent performance? Do your executives and managers recognize the need to change and contribute to an improved customer experience?

Let me know your thoughts or come and collaborate with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Regards,

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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