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Transera is an established contact center in the cloud vendor with in-depth interaction routing capabilities. During a recent briefing I learned that it has now supplemented these capabilities by launching a new product that it calls Adaptive Customer Engagement. Although it’s not entirely obvious from the name, the product uses big data analytics to analyze past customer interactions, profile customers, then use these insights to optimize current and future customer-facing activities such as handling a live customer interaction, planning a marketing campaign or focusing agent training and coaching. The objective is to proactively influence these activities so the outcomes are better both from the customer’s and company’s perspectives.

As I have expressed previously, any information-driven activity improves the more data you can include in the analysis. The foundation for adaptive customer management is four types of data:

  • Interactions – data collected about past interactions regardless of which channel they occurred through, including phone calls, email, chat sessions and social media
  • Agent – data about who handled what interactions
  • Customer – data about the customers that initiated the interactions. This can be drawn from both internal data sources such as CRM systems or a customer data warehouse, or external sources such as the Internet or third-party organizations
  • Business – typically financial data extracted from ERP and finance systems.

Using a variety of data integration tools, all these forms of data are deposited into a common data store, or what Transera calls a Customer Interaction Repository. This repository is based on open source big data tools, so information can be stored and accessed easily, and additional data sources can be added with relative ease. Using internally developed algorithms and tools, the software is able to link data from one source to another; for example, using an email address, phone number, account number and Twitter handle, the system is able to identify phone calls, email and tweets made by the same customer, as well as linking each with other profile information such as marketing campaigns, financial status, products purchased and location. Having established links between all this data, the system then uses big data analytics capabilities to essentially “slice and dice” the data in any way users require. During my demonstration I could see how easy it is for business users to run standard reports or analysis, or where required to use drag and drop capabilities to build individually tailored reports and analysis. These reports can be customer-related – what customers have done what; agent-focused – which agents have performed the best; or other business function-related – what marketing campaigns, through what channels, achieved the best outcomes.

Transera has built three application suites to surface information. Its Command Center Application allows users visibility into operation performance, employing dashboards and sending alerts when thresholds are reached. Business Intelligence Console provides users visibility into business-related reports and analysis, including comparisons between actual and target metrics. The final application, Customer Interaction Advisor, allows companies to make a real impact on the customer experience. It includes the capability to extract information in real time from a live interaction, such as from an inbound call. It can then use this information to extract information from the interaction repository to drive real-time decisions on how the interaction is handled. For example, by linking with the Transera (or other vendor) routing software a call can be routed to the employee most likely to deliver the best outcome from the interaction (a new sale, an up-sell to an existing customer, quickest resolution of a query or compliant). The person handling the interaction is also able to see the full customer information, once more enabling the best outcome.

As consumers interact through more channels, my contact center in the cloud research vr_inin_types_of_interactions_in_contact_centershows overall interaction volumes, and thus volumes of data, are increasing dramatically with inbound calls still leading in 96 percent of organizations. My colleagues Mark Smith and Tony Costentino recently completed benchmark research and have written blog posts about the impact big data is having on analytics and the issues this is creating for companies. These new capabilities from Transera address some of the issues companies have with big customer data. Companies can use the software to improve operational efficiency and the customer experience.

Interaction management is a practice many organizations may not have yet come to terms with, but as companies strive to improve customer-related activities and the customer experience, it is something they should urgently consider, and I believe Adaptive Customer Engagement from Transera is a service companies should also give serious consideration to.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Cisco is without doubt best known as a supplier of networking systems. Its products have been used by companies large and small to build local and wide area networks. It has played in the contact center space as a provider of network and call management systems that sit between public networks and contact center agents to manage the delivery of interactions to the right extensions and provide agents with softphones so they can manage inbound and outbound calls. These systems were designed to operate in a multi-supplier environment so companies could build contact centers that made use of existing ACD and PBX systems. Cisco’s go-to-market strategy has been primarily indirect, and it has therefore built up a vast ecosystems of partners that sell, deliver and support its systems.

At a recent analyst event in London, Cisco senior executives made no bones about the fact that the company wants to build on this position and become the No. 1 supplier of contact center systems – which in my view is easier said than done. Although contact centers rely heavily on networks, they also require a much larger variety of systems if they are going to work efficiently and make companies more effective at handling customer interactions. I break the systems into three major categories:

  • Communication systems that must manage every form and type of customer interaction, whether it is a phone call, email, fax, text message, paper-based, instant message, video call or social media.
  • Business applications that are required to manage the workforce handling interactions – often called workforce optimization – or applications that manage customer-related transactions such as CRM, ERP, knowledge management, desktop management and business-specific systems.
  • Analytics, which are now required to access and analyze more types and forms of data than ever before, including structured data, voice recordings, text-based data (including social media), video, event, process and big data.

During the event, I discovered that Cisco has offerings in many of these areas, and that it continues to build out its portfolio and the way it packages some of these systems to make it more practical and affordable for a wider variety of companies to deploy them.

One of the featured products, Unified Contact Center Express (CCE), bundles many key systems into a single offering that can be used to support as many as 400 agents, whether they sit in a formal enterprise-wide contact center, or a location- or business-department-specific center, or a less formal collection of agents handling interactions anywhere across the organization. Capabilities include multichannel interaction management (voice, email, chat), IVR, interactionvr_CCC_actions_to_improve_customer_interaction routing and CTI, integration with presence that allows agents to find and collaborate with other agents to help in the resolution of interactions, a mobile supervisor capability that allows managers to administer the system from a smart mobile device and access key reports and analysis, and the latest desktop system from Cisco, Finesse. Optionally, companies can include quality monitoring, workforce management, social media and outbound IVR. The system is available on-premises or in the cloud. My research into the contact center in the cloud shows that companies are increasingly looking to cloud-based applications (63%) and multichannel communications technology (44%), so this will help  Cisco remain competitive in this growing market by making these capabilities more accessible and affordable to a wider range of organizations.

The pack also includes Cisco’s new reporting and analysis tool, Cisco Unified Intelligence Center (CIUC), a brand new Web 2.0 reporting tool that gives companies customized views of their information and dashboards showing key performance information. It supports companies developing their own reports and analysis, or companies can use Cisco partners to provided customized reports. Some of these reports are available on smart mobile devices, and thus support the growing requirement for managers to access reports and analysis while away from their desktops.

vr_db_impact_of_agents_accessing_multiple_systemsMy research into the agent desktop shows the impact the agent desktop has on agent satisfaction and thus agent performance with increased average handling time being the largest issue in 65 percent of organizations. I reviewed Finesse recently and found it to be an intuitive tool for agents to use. As partners such as Upstreamworks develop desktops that make interaction handling more efficient and effective, I believe Cisco and its partners will become more competitive.

Another major topic during the event was Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Service (HCS), another cloud-based service offered by partners that provides tools that allow individuals to collaborate as they try to resolve customer interactions. My research over the last couple of years shows that interactions are being handled more widely across the organization nowadays, which inevitably means that sometimes the first person handling an interaction is unable to resolve it to a customer’s satisfaction. The most mature companies have recognized that collaboration tools are the most effective way to resolve this issue, and HCS provides a cost-effective way for companies to support these capabilities.

At the end of the day, I had a chance to meet with one of Cisco’s partners, Logitech, which is well-known for its range of computer peripheral devices (mice, keyboards, webcams, video cameras and headsets). Some of these are used by agents in contact centers, and Logitech has been working with Cisco to integrate them with Cisco products. One product I saw was a new keyboard that includes keys that link with Cisco softphones, which allow agents to work without a phone but still retain the same experience on their keyboard. The keyboard is fully integrated with the Cisco software, so it gives agents the same capabilities using either soft keys or the keys on the keyboard. I also saw a new video camera whose quality “blew my mind”; from what I saw it would be a good tool to enable video calls or conferencing.

From my days working in contact centers, I have great sympathy with agents, as their workspaces are not particularly brilliant and their desktop typically doesn’t make life any easier. Developments like these from Logitech not only help with the overall workspace but also make agents’ tasks easier. I recommend companies investigate how they can improve agent satisfaction and performance.

Overall, the analyst event demonstrated that Cisco has the resources, desire and partners to develop competitive products that support interaction handling. To gain maximum advantage, Cisco must continue to develop its portfolio, but also continue to make it easier for potential customers to understand what it has to offer, how it works with its ecosystems of partners to make its products and services available, and the supply models it supports. Don’t be put off by the difficulty navigating Cisco’s website; the information is there if you keep searching for it.

As is always the case, not all partners are equal. Building a network is in many ways easier than creating technology architecture to support multichannel interaction handling, so make sure the partner you choose has the resources and skills to support your plans. As my research continues to show, the cloud is the way forward in this market. The steps Cisco has taken with CCE and HCS will certainly widen its appeal to companies of all sizes and make its products more affordable for a wider range of companies. As I said, becoming No. 1 is a lot harder than saying it. Cisco has the brand, coverage, resources and ecosystem of partners a company needs in order to succeed, so it is certainly a player to watch.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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