You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2014.

InContact has cloud-based products that cover multichannel communications infrastructure (sometimes referred to as a “contact center in the cloud”) and workforce optimization. The channel management products were developed by inContact and through a partnership with Verint. InContact has been working to make Verint’s workforce optimization products available in the cloud while integrating the two sets of products. I met Kristyn Emenecker, inContact’s VP of workforce optimization, at the recent ICMI Contact Center Expo to find out how the recent announcement that it has acquired Uptivity, which also provides workforce optimization products in the cloud, will impact that partnership and the future direction for the products.

vr_CCC_actions_to_improve_customer_interaction_updatedShe explained that one reason for the acquisition was that many contact centers around the world have relatively few seats and that Verint’s product is best suited to larger centers with several hundred or thousands of seats, but Uptivity’s is a better fit for smaller centers. My contact center benchmark research projects confirm the prevalence of smaller centers. For example, in my recent research into next-generation workforce optimization more than two-thirds of participating organizations’ contact centers have fewer than 250 seats. My research also shows that smaller centers invest in contact center systems only half as often  as larger ones, relying instead on their agents’ initiative to deliver good experiences and leaving managers to use spreadsheets as their main analysis and reporting tool.

Another one of my research projects, into the contact center in the cloud, finds that to improve interaction-handling many companies are planning to invest in contact center applications such as workforce optimization in the cloud and, to a lesser extent, communication technologies in the cloud. More detailed examination of the results shows that smaller centers are more likely to make these investments if cloud-based systems are available. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by inContact, hence its focus on cloud-based systems and the investment in Uptivity.

vr_NGWO2_06_use_of_agent_workforce_applicationsI have covered Uptivity (formally known as CallCopy) for several years and recently wrote that it had added analytics and gamification to its workforce optimization suite. That suite consists of call recording, quality management, workforce management, coaching and training, and performance management, which aligns with the top five systems companies in my next-generation workforce optimization research most commonly said they use. In addition inContact has products that support compliance, desktop analytics, desktop recording, speech analytics and survey management. These are widely used products that enable companies to understand customer sentiment during and after interactions and to manage the people who are charged with improving those experiences. In combination these applications provide an integrated set of products that allow companies to manage their contact centers better. My research shows that most companies want products that meet these fundamental needs and they want them integrated so they are easy to use and manage. Availability in the cloud also enables companies, especially those with smaller centers, to manage costs and requires fewer skilled resources to operate.

vr_NGCE_Research_01_impetus_for_improving_engagementMy research into next-generation customer engagement shows that customer experience management requires a combination of integrated multichannel interaction management, business applications and analytics. Integrated multichannel interaction management provides customers with a choice of channels but ensures that the experience is the same on whichever channel the customer uses. Our research finds the benefits to be clear on improving the customer experience which is top benefit in almost three quarters (74%) of organizations. Workforce optimization addresses the people side of interaction-handling, and analytics provides an understanding of what is going on, which helps companies optimize the use of agents and channels. Kristyn explained that after the Uptivity acquisition, inContact has two options to meet these needs, which are similar but aimed at different sizes of centers. When I asked, where the boundary is between them, she said that there is no hard and fast rule based on the number of seats and that consultation with individual customers will determine which is more suited to their needs. Furthermore, customers need not upgrade from one option to the other if a center grows beyond a certain size. In the short term this situation is complicated further because although inContact has a roadmap to produce a fully integrated, cloud-based based option based on the Uptivity product, the final version won’t be ready soon. For companies considering inContact,  I recommend they be very specific about which product and which version of it they select to meet their needs. I also expect some tension between inContact and Verint until they agree how to handle these situations.

In my experience acquisitions always create issues. They impact current and future customers in product support and roadmaps. Product functionality often overlaps, and integration can be problematic between two what are probably very different products sets. The acquiring company has to integrate two workforces, and in cases like this, the purchase can impact existing partnerships. I was assured that inContact is aware of and working on all of these issues, but it will be some time before the situation begins to resolve and customers can assess the level of success.

Few vendors offer the combination of channel management, workforce optimization and analytics that inContact has, so if it succeeds in handling the challenges, it should be in a strong position to support companies seeking to improve the customer experience. I will keep tracking developments, but in the meantime inContact is one of the vendors I recommend evaluating, while keeping the issues discussed here in mind.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director – Customer Engagement

I recently presented at the 2014 ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference and have a few insights I want to share. I was impressed by the two main keynote speeches. In the first Bill Rancic, an entrepreneur, author and TV personality, talked about “How to Succeed in Business and Life.” Bill is not in the contact center industry, but he reminded the audience that individuals and companies that succeed in life and business grab opportunities when they come along. He went on to say that consumers (which includes you and me) are changing the ways we conduct our lives and the ways we engage with each other and with businesses. As we all know, use of mobile devices has rocketed, as has use of the Internet and social media, and as a result people are less inclined to talk to each other directly, choosing instead to text, post comments to social media or use the increasing number of mobile applications available; when we do talk, it is now increasingly likely to include video. This change creates opportunity for companies; those that meet expectations about communicating in these ways can grab the attention of customers and generate more business. I couldn’t agree more, having written about these changes myself. Consumers have already made these changes, and companies need to act now to grab the opportunities.

In the second keynote, Matt Dixon spoke on “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty.” He is connected with the contact center industry and is best known for defying conventional wisdom in proclaiming that it is not necessary for companies to delight customers. At the time he said this, probably like many others, I was skeptical. After listening to his talk at the conference, I now get his point, and on reflection I agree with the insights from his research. The customer experience is about feelings, and people take actions because of the way they feel. When we buy a product that works as advertised, we are likely to go back to the same company for other products. Most of us are not inclined to proclaim how happy we feel about a successful experience – it is what we expect. We are more likely to express our feelings if something goes wrong, and to do so more intensely each time the company fails to fix the problem or makes it hard to engage. Eventually we may express our unhappiness by looking for an alternate supplier and/or expressing those feelings on social media. So I see two key messages here. First, meet customers’ basic needs, and all should be well. Second, if customers need to engage with you, make it easy, and that is a challenge in today’s multichannel world.

In the expo hall I counted more than 80 vendors showing products supposed to help make it easy. It was obvious which two vendors wanted to impress most. NewVoiceMedia and salesforce.com placed their booths to dominate the entrance to the expo hall and probably spent the most for those spots. NewVoiceMedia demonstrated its contact center infrastructure in the cloud, and salesforce focused on its Service Cloud. Perhaps not obvious was the partnership between the two: NewVoiceMedia demonstrated for the first time the integration of the two products to provide seamless multichannel customer interaction-handling.

vr_CCC_actions_to_improve_customer_interaction_updatedOverall I spotted some significant trends. Although they don’t all offer exactly the same capabilities, there were 16 vendors showing contact center in the cloud products and services, or more precisely multichannel communications infrastructure products that run in the cloud. The list includes 3CLogic8X8AvayaConnect FirstFive9GenesysinContactInteractive IntelligenceLiveOpsMitel, NewVoiceMedia, Presence TechnologyUSANVocalcomVoltDelta and Voxox. My research into the contact  center in the cloud found 44 percent of companies planning to deploy such systems to improve interaction-handling, and this turnout shows plenty of competition for their business. Going forward, companies should carefully examine these products and vendors to determine which best support their multichannel contact center requirements.

Another densely populated category was workforce optimization. I counted four vendors that specialize in such systems: Dolphin SoftwarePipkinsVerint and VPI. In addition four of the contact center in the cloud vendors provide integrated channel management and workforce optimization: Genesys, inContact, Interactive Intelligence and LiveOps, which partners with Verint. I expect that combining the two categories will be essential to support enterprise-wide customer experience management, because it allows customers to engage through the channel of their choice while helping companies plan to have the right number of skilled resources available to handle such interactions.

There was a lot of buzz throughout the conference about customer experience management, and ICMI was calling for a revolution in contact centers to provide better customer experiences. Achieving this goal is not easy as it involves connecting communication channels, business applications such as workforce optimization and customer feedback, and customer interaction analytics. The vendors in the expo hall showed that they have the technology; what is needed is a new way of thinking. My benchmark research into customer relationship management shows that very customer-focused companies use processes and technology such as customer journey maps that show customers’ use of channels, personas that show customers’ preferences in detail and customer analytics to deliver superior customer experiences. Other less mature companies should heed this message and grab the opportunity before it is too late.

I enjoyed the ICMI conference and San Diego is a cool city, but its expo center is not so cool – it was hard to find anywhere to eat or drink outside the main event, and the charges for Internet use were exorbitant. That said, it was a great event, with lots of attendees, lots of vendors in the expo hall – congratulations to Interactive Intelligence on being voted best stand at the conference – and lots of great speakers.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

RSS Richard Snow’s Analyst Perspectives at Ventana Research

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Twitter Updates

Stats

  • 68,568 hits
%d bloggers like this: