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I recently wrote how the recent U.K.-based Call Centre Expo showed that companies have shifted priorities for deployment systems from on-premises infrastructures to cloud-based systems and that as a consequence vendors had shifted focus from workforce optimization to cloud-based multichannel interaction management. Confirming this trend, as salesforce.com Dreamforce event at least 10 such vendors will be showing their products. A few of them I saw at Call Centre Expo: GenesysInteractive IntelligenceLiveOpsNewVoiceMedia and Vocalcom. But as an illustration of how rapidly this market has grown, Dreamforce also will host 8×8Corvisa CloudFive9inContact and ShoreTel. Between the two events there are 18 vendors offering such products, and many others will not promote and demonstrate products at the event.

vr_NGCE_Research_12_all_current_channels_for_customer_engagementWhat has brought about this dramatic change of landscape? Our customer engagement benchmark research finds that first and foremost, in response to customer demand, companies have to support more and more communication channels. Our recently completed research on next-generation customer engagement management shows that on average companies now support about seven channels, but there are 17 in use by at least some of them. The new research also shows that complicating issues companies have in operating multiple channels is a lack of consistency across channels because the channels are managed as silos. The key step toward achieving consistency is to integrate all the channels, which is costly and time-consuming unless a company purchases an integrated product that can manage all the channels it has to support.

Cloud deployment can help here. While vendors that supply on-premises systems struggle to fully integrate multiple channels, all these new vendors provide such capabilities, and all operate in the cloud. Be aware, however, that not all provide exactly the same capabilities, so potential buyers need to make sure that a product meets their particular needs. Providing cloud-based versions of products can help smaller companies especially because it reduces the required capital outlay, another consideration for potential buyers.

As for why these vendors will be at Dreamforce, a contact center system needs to include more than infrastructure and typically includes some form of CRM, other business applications and increasingly analytics. This is where Service Cloud comes in: It provides core CRM capabilities, plus mobile and social media capabilities. Each of the vendors mentioned above has integrated its solution to Service Cloud in some way, but my briefings indicate that these integrations are subtly different; here again potential buyers should find the one that meets their needs best, looking for a combination that enables them to provide seamless, consistent experiences at multiple touch points.

In today’s competitive business environment it is critical for vr_NGCE_Research_04_providing_multiple_channels_for_interactioncompanies to get customer engagement right. We just released our research on the topic that finds the complexity and lack of investment to be significant challenges for organizations to provide what the research finds as customer choice as the larger benefit realized in 60 percent of organizations. Certainly they aren’t supporting multiple channels for the fun of it. Consumers have changed and become intensely demanding. They engage through more and different channels than in the past, have higher expectations, and want answers fast and in personalized form, consistent across channels and relevant to their needs. From a technology perspective this means channel management must be integrated. In addition companies have to find ways to collaborate across business boundaries and find new measures to monitor and assess their customer-focused activities. More evidence that supports these insights is in our soon-to-be-published benchmark research on next-generation customer experience, and I look forward to sharing it with you. And for those of you at Dreamforce, have fun. I wish I could be there.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director – Customer Engagement

Today companies handle an increasing number of customer interactions and they do this through a greater number and variety of communication channels, and by using more employees that are dispersed throughout the organization. Managing the pool of agents in a contact center has always proved a complex task and this is made more complex as interactions are now handled by most lines of business (marketing, sales, customer service, finance, HR, home workers and mobile workers). To do this many companies have deployed what collectively is called workforce optimization (WFO) systems: interaction recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, training and coaching, compensation management and reporting/analytics. My benchmark research into Next Generation WFO set out to discover what people, process, information and systems companies are using, the benefits they have gained, future plans to change and what barriers are holding back those changes.

Overall the benchmark shows a mixed level of maturity in those Untitledcompanies that responded to our survey. Overall our maturity model shows 47% of companies at the lowest Tactical level, 23% t the next Advanced level, 17% at the Strategic level and 13% at our highest Innovative level. Closer examination shows that companies are least mature in the use of Information (54% at the Tactical level) and Technology (50% Tactical), with People (34%) and Process (30%) both significantly less immature. This is reflected in the number of companies at the Innovative level with People at 19%, Technology 15%, Process 14% and Information least innovative with only 6% at the Innovative level. Overall the maturity models shows us that companies are not yet taking full advantage of the latest WFO systems to revise their performance metrics, and make even more improvements to their processes and people.

vr_NGWO2_03_key_agent_metrics_usedThe lack of maturity in the use of information is highlighted in the metrics companies use to monitor and assess agent, contact center and interaction handling performance. The benchmark shows that four of the top five most popular metrics relate to operation efficiency: average length of a call, number of calls handled, quality scores and average time to complete after call work. While these metrics are important because they have a direct impact on costs, it is disappointing to see it is only the fifth most popular metric that relates to customers and the outcome of interactions: customer satisfaction. The results also raise questions over the level of hype surrounding newer metrics such as net promoter and customer effort scores which are 9th and 12th in the list of seventeen we included in the survey. Overall I conclude that despite claims to the contrary, the majority of companies are still focused on operational efficiency and reducing the operational costs of handling interactions and are less concerned about the outcome of interactions and the possible consequences.

This conflict is highlighted further by examining two other key vr_NGWO2_01_drivers_for_improving_agent_performancequestions: drivers for improving agent performance and companies’ priorities for improving interaction handling. The top drivers are mostly customer-focused and relate to improving outcomes, while the priorities are more about improving operational efficiency and reducing the cost of handling interactions. The two top drivers are to improve the customer experience (86%) and customer satisfaction (72%), while the third, increase first contact resolution rates (44%) relates to operational efficiency and outcomes as any improvement will reduce operational costs (less call backs) and make customers happier as everyone have come to expect their issues addressed at the first attempt. Balancing these requirements is likely to be a struggle for most companies because on average companies are seeking to improve on average in almost six areas and the conflicts continue with other drivers ranging from increasing agent utilization (6th out of 14), increasing sales (10th), and satisfying regulatory requirements (13th).

However the real conflict arises when you compare these drivers with companies’ priorities. Based on first choices, three of the top vr_NGWO2_02_reasons_to_improve_interaction_handlingfour all relate to efficiency and reducing the cost of interacting with customers: direct customers to self-service to avoid the cost of handling call by a live agent (27%), optimizing agent utilization (15%) so agents spend more of their time handling interactions, improve agent training (9%) so it is less generic and more focused on individual agent needs. Agent satisfaction rates joint forth but it is only the fifth highest priority that in any way realities to customers: route calls to best agent, which if achieved is likely to improve the opportunity to resolve the interaction at the first attempt and thus result in the desired outcome. Given the low level of maturity relating to information, it is pleasing to see that improving the production of metrics and utilizing more agent-related both feature in the list of priorities.

In one role or another I have been involved in the contact center industry for over 25 years and it would be easy to say the results of this benchmark show that things haven’t changed a great deal in that time, and indeed there is a great deal of truth in this. However analysis of what systems companies plan to deploy gives me hope that at long last companies realize the customer experience is of paramount importance, and insights from other consumer research that show one bad experience can drive a customer away are at last having an impact. One significant change is the importance being placed on using new forms of analytics that allow companies to improve the process of producing reports, analysis and dashboards based on more sources of data, and as a consequence make it easier to produce more customer and outcome-focused metrics. This will show where companies need to take action and more companies adopting next generation WFO systems that support improved processes and join up interaction-related activities.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director – Customer

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