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Contact centers face a number of challenges beyond simply answering customer calls. Among them are improving  customer satisfaction, increasing the number of calls resolved at the first attempt and ensuring agents comply with  regulations. But chief among these, my research into contact center analytics shows, is the mandate to reduce the average length of time it takes to complete calls.

Doing all of these things requires information. My research also shows that companies are just beginning to realize that one of the most substantial sources of data that can be used to derive this information is the calls themselves, which they can record. However, accessing this data and analyzing its content has until quite recently been possible only through the application of an enormous amount of manual effort, in the form of supervisors or analysts listening to recorded calls and reporting on their content.

This began to change when vendors such as Nexidia emerged with products that automate the entire process. Nexidia’s suite of products, Enterprise Speech Intelligence (ESI), allows companies to capture information about calls, analyze their content and report on what both agent and customer said. Its search facilities allow companies to pick out calls containing defined words or phrases and thus focus as needed on customer sentiment, agent performance, trends and the root causes of calls.

ESI’s proven abilities have allowed the company to achieve record performance this year and raise additional funding that will allow it to continue investing in the product as well as expand into other focus areas and geographies. This growth is likely to accelerate even more now that it has announced a major partnership with Cisco.

As well as being a major supplier of telecommunications equipment and software, Cisco has a major presence in the contact center market. Its products are used by a large number of companies that have chosen to build their centers on the voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) or are using a mixed traditional and VoIP environment. These include a multi-channel ACD and systems for call routing, computer-telephony integration and multi-channel contact management. The new partnership between the two vendors means that using an integrated offering, companies can now capture and analyze calls as they are happening; Nexidia’s tool taps into the voice stream in real time and delivers the content for analysis, enabling a company to identify what is being said as it is being said.

This opens up all sorts of promising new possibilities. Call center management could identify as it’s happening an agent saying the wrong thing or missing an opportunity to close the call or make an up-sale. It could listen to customers’ negative comments as they’re made, making it possible for a supervisor or senior account manager to intervene. The possibilities are unlimited, determined by the rules built into Nexidia.

For this all to happen, though, someone must be alerted about the situation and take appropriate action. As those that follow me regularly know, I am a great advocate of the smart desktop as critical for customer experience management, which provides the ideal tool to alert agents, supervisors or others. Somewhat to my surprise, I have discovered that Cisco recently released such a product, Cisco Finesse. This provides a desktop that integrates traditional contact center functions into a single thin client. It allows companies to build a customizable environment that gives agents access to multiple systems and sources of information and provides a place where alerts can be surfaced. The integration with Nexidia thus completes the chain, allowing companies to alert users based on real-time analysis of the call flow. The calls can of course also be recorded, enabling them if they wish to use all the normal functions of ESI to gain insights from them.

This opens up all sorts of possibilities for companies to innovate in how they handle customer interactions, which means they have another promising tool to use to provide customers with better experiences. Doing so has of course become an even higher priority in today’s challenging economic circumstances. Are you ready for this level of innovation?

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

Regards,

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

One of the problems in the contact center and IT worlds is that terms mean different things to different people. Take “contact center” for example. The meaning was clear when it was just the call center because people knew it was a place that centralized the handling of customer phone calls. It became the virtual call center when calls were distributed over multiple sites. Then it became the contact center because some companies started to ask agents (a term that is interchanged with customer service representative, customer service agent and the like) to handle forms of interaction other than calls – e-mail, letters, chat and others. Now “center” has lost relevance as interactions are handled by the “best” person in an organization, whether in a formal center or working at home; indeed the agent may be in-company or working for a third party that provides outsourced interaction-handling services. This situation makes the term “contact center analytics” imprecise because what is really required is interaction-handling analytics.

Verint is one vendor that has caught up with the terminology, and that is reflected in a newly released product called Customer Interaction Analytics (CIA). CIA allows companies to monitor and analyze customer interactions across multiple communication channels (or touch points) such as chat, e-mail, phone and social media. It is part of the company’s Impact360 workforce optimization suite that I assessed earlier this year and supports companies as they try to produce a complete picture of their customers, which is variously called the 360-degree customer view or the voice of the customer

To achieve this Verint has partnered with Clarabridge to incorporate its text mining and analytics that I assessed recently. This well-established product can import text from multiple sources such as e-mail, letter, forms, surveys, chat scripts and social media and pick out words, phrases, trends and customer sentiments from the content. Verint has built a tool called Customer Data Joiner which can integrate this information with other information produced by Verint’s data and speech analytics products. It uses a common key – for example, a customer account number – to bring together all the information about a customer and produce a complete view of that customer’s interactions. One of the key benefits is that companies can now see customer sentiment as it is being expressed across multiple channels, for example, by spotting social media comments about bad customer experiences when calling the contact center. This information allows companies to do some rudimentary “cause and effect” analysis so that issues being raised on one channel can be used to improve performance in other areas. In one example I heard this type of analysis enabled a company to take $4 million it was about to spend in one area and redirect the investment to another area where its customers had serious issues. The first release of CIA includes this core analysis, and future developments will extend functionality into other areas.

I have written several times about contact center analytics and the needs of companies to better understand how their centers are performing and how well they are handling customer interactions. However, my most recent benchmark research into contact center analytics showed that adoption rates of specialist analytics products are still low and the majority of companies continue to use spreadsheets to produce their contact center reports and analysis. While spreadsheets have their place in every organization, they are really not up to the job of producing complex analysis, particularly when it involves unstructured data such as voice recordings and text. Regarding change, one message from the research is that for companies to adopt these more specialized products, they must be easy to use and show a clear return on investment. From what I have seen, CIA is relatively easy to use, and the sentiment analysis will allow companies to take preventive actions to improve the customer experience before negative comments can do lasting damage. Is your company looking to improve the handling of customer interactions and make every customer interaction a positive one? If so, I recommend you look at CIA to see how it can help in your efforts.

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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