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Marketing claims about a company’s innovation have become so common as to be almost meaningless, and this is true in the software business. That’s a shame because it obscures cases in which a vendor really is innovative. For example, at a recent partner and analyst event hosted by Interactive Intelligence (ININ), its CMO told me that ININ has stopped using the phrase “deliberately innovative”  because claiming to be innovative isn’t helpful in getting across its messages.

My research into the maturity of customer relationship leads to me to three conclusions in which the need for innovation is apparent:

  • Companies now have to provide multiple communication channels through which their customer can interact.
  • Many business units within an organization handle inbound customer interactions.
  • From the customer’s perspective, one of the keys to a good experience is consistency, in the way interactions are handled and in the information provided at every touch point.

Meeting these three objectives requires synchronization of processes, information and actions across business units and communication channels, and to achieve that companies need support from integrated technologies. In short, companies have to innovate in the ways they handle customer interactions if they are going to differentiate themselves from the competition and provide excellent customer experiences that produce strong business results.

Interactive Intelligence attempts to supply systems to help in this effort. Its first product was a software-based PBX, which was innovative compared to the preparatory-based systems available at the time. Over time ININ has expanded its product portfolio to include an integrated suite for contact center operations, unified, multimedia communications, business process automation underpinned by intelligent task-routing, and tools to support integration with popular CRM systems and social media. It has also enhanced its reporting and analysis capabilities, including real-time word-spotting.

It has other new developments and enhancements, including integration with Microsoft’s unified communications platform Lync. ININ has a strategic partnership with Microsoft to develop tight integration between their products and mutually market the resulting offering. Although Microsoft claims to have sold a large number of Lync licences, as far as I can tell it is only a few innovative companies are using it and so far very few have integrated it into their contact centers; time will tell how big this market becomes.

ININ was also one of the first vendors in its market to take cloud computing seriously, and it now offers a variety of products, especially communications, deployable on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid architecture that I have already assessed. My research into adoption of a contact center in the cloud shows that this is a wise move. Organizations still have concerns (such as security and performance, which in my view are largely unfounded) about moving to the cloud, and ININ’s ability to offer this choice can address some of them. That said, the research shows that nearly half of companies believe that moving to the cloud can help improve the ways they interact with customers, so I expect more organizations to go down this route.

ININ CEO Don Brown closed this event with a speech promising even more new developments, which will take the company further toward offering products that support truly innovative customer experiences, across all touch points, including mobile devices. I will be watching out for these, so to keep up with developments, please collaborate with me on my analysis and research agenda.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

Verint is one of the major players in the contact center market, with two suites of products that support contact centers and voice of the customer analysis. The company’s website shows that these suites have been put together from a combination of in-house developments and acquisitions (Blue Pumpkin, Witness Systems, Mercom, Iontas, GMT and Vovici are among them). Although this strategy has allowed Verint to create comprehensive suites of products in both areas, it also created  issues with integration of the products and a lack of commonality in the user interface. These concerns were the main factors that kept Verint from being ranked as highly as it might have been in our last Value Index for Agent Performance Management (APM).

I was therefore intrigued when the general manager of Verint Systems recently assured me that these issues have gone away and the latest release is both fully integrated and has a new, unified user interface. A demonstration of the new release showed these claims to be true for those parts of the system I was able to see.

The new user interface turns accessing the systems upside down. It is not uncommon in newer systems for users to start with a dashboard and then navigate to screens that allow them to see the details behind the information, or to update the systems with new information. The latest version of the Verint systems starts this way; users see a dashboard of information that relates to their particular needs, including key performance metrics that are derived from multiple applications. Users can then click on a metric and drill down to the base data the metric was derived from, regardless of which application the source data resides in. To me this demonstrates a high degree of application integration. The approach is information-driven; that is, you start with the information you need for your role and then access the data through this one-click approach. The screens also have tabs so users can, if they want, go straight to the applications.

When Ventana Research produces a Value Index for a category of applications we  take into account not just product capabilities but also ease of use, scalability and performance. Our previous APM Value Index showed that ease of use is a high priority for companies, so this new approach is likely to go down well with users and could lead to more adoption. It puts into action an information-driven approach, which many pundits proclaim to be the way to ensure ongoing business success.

I also see a need for what I call closed-loop processes for handling interactions. My research into customer relationship maturity shows companies need to handle interactions through multiple communication channels and business units. Companies therefore need to have processes that cross these boundaries and are all connected to give the customer a consistent experience. Such closed processes need well-integrated systems, and from what I saw, the latest release from Verint supports this need.

How is your company supporting the diverse requirements needed to handle customer interactions? Please tell us more, and collaborate with me on agent performance management and Verint in its new offerings and my research agenda.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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