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When I last wrote about Panviva I likened its product SupportPoint to a smart agent desktop – a system that helps contact center agents access the information they need to handle customer interactions, guides them through the process of handling interactions and offers advice on what to say next (for example, which product to upsell). Several trends have emerged since then. Two of our recent benchmark research vr_NGCE_Research_05_who_handles_customer_interactionsprojects, next-generation customer engagement and next-generation customer analytics, confirm that handling interactions is now an enterprise issue – every business unit except IT now handles interactions. This change creates challenges. More kinds of employees need access to information relevant to the type of interactions they handle. Yet each business unit typically has its own processes and systems to support the way it handles interactions. A third issue is that more employees handle interactions away from their desks and need access to information on mobile devices. The situation is further complicated because, as our research projects also show, customers now interact with organizations through more channels, and companies must provide easy access to those channels.

All together these issues make it hard for companies to provide consistent information and experiences no matter who customers interact with or which channel they use. Our benchmark research into agent desktop systems shows that the desktops most employees use hinder them in handling interactions: 65 percent of organizations said it increases average handling times, 49 percent said it degrades the customer experience, 39 percent said it results in data entry errors and 31 percent said it negatively impacts agent satisfaction. Despite this, the research shows only 29 percent of companies provide agents with a smart desktop.

Panviva SupportPoint provides capabilities similar to a smart desktop but in a different way to most other desktop products I cover. I outlined many of its key functional capabilities in my previous perspective. Panviva continues to refine and add capabilities, but the key fact is that it doesn’t disrupt current practices by replacing existing systems: Users create “smart scripts” that work along with their existing systems to guide users in carrying out their tasks, and data is automatically pushed and pulled between systems so ll users see the same information and all systems are updated simultaneously. To increase the adoption of its product, in July 2014 Panviva made a bold move by withdrawing its on-premises version of the product and moving to cloud-only deployment. This changes not only delivers the usual benefits of cloud systems such as lower upfront and ongoing costs but also makes the system more easily accessible to distributed sites and users, and to mobile workers.

At about the same time as it moved to the cloud, Panviva created what it calls a customer experience team, which is much the same as a professional services team. The team helps customer companies set up and operate the product and demonstrates how to use its innovative features. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that many companies struggle to manage the customer experience: Only 14 percent reach the highest Innovative level for this area, and even fewer (8%) are Innovative in process management. Panviva’s customer experience teams shows users how to improve processes by using the system, and more efficient processes typically help employees become more effective in their work.

During a recent update, I learned that the combination of added capabilities, being cloud-based, having more partners and deploying the customer experience team is paying off forVR2014_Leadership_AwardWinner the company. Executives said that Panviva’s customer base has grown  13 percent; the new customers are cloud-based. One of its customers, Health Alliance Medical Plans, won our 2014 Leadership Award for contact and call center management by demonstrating how by using Panviva in conjunction with saleforce.com it has achieved improved business success. This example of success confirms findings of our agent desktop research, which shows that organizations that adopt such systems enable more employees to handle interactions (which 57% said), improve collaboration across business units (49%) and reduce average handling times (48%).

I recently wrote that a smart desktop can help organizations overcome issues in providing superior customer experiences, particularly as relates to providing consistent, personalized experiences, regardless of which business unit the customer deals with. Cloud-based systems facilitate organizations making it easier for a wider, more distributed set of employees to access the system, meaning SupportPoint can be used to improve back-office tasks such as completing a customer insurance claim. It includes reporting and analysis tools so managers can assess how well processes are working, decide which paths produce the best outcomes and spot potential improvements.

Early business process management systems typically allowed users to visualize processes, but being static, they relied on manual effort to spot improvements. Newer systems include capabilities to capture events (data) which allows users to monitor how processes flow, including timings, and this analysis can be used to spot improvements. SupportPoint supports both these capabilities and goes beyond them. Processes can be visualized as smart scripts which proactively guide users through a process, potential changing the flow depending on data entered or retrieved from systems.  So look beyond the branding as I believe it can be used very effectively to improve handing on customer interactions, and thus the customer experience. To that end, I recommend companies working to improve the customer experience evaluate how Panviva can help them achieve both operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Advertising and marketers tell us we now live in a “digital economy.” That implies the economy is based on and depends on digital technologies. It certainly is true that many consumers, especially younger ones, have changed the ways they interact with each other and businesses; they are now more likely to use digital channels of communication, particularly email, websites, text messaging, instant messaging and social media. In this digital world, where customers can search globally for products and services and change suppliers instantly, it is critical for companies to focus on the customer experience.

Some years ago, customer relationship management (CRM) was supposed to produce better customer relationships and therefore more business. But CRM mostly managed internal marketing, sales and customer service activities and didn’t address the company’s actual interactions with customers. Customer experience management targets those interactions and focuses on influencing customer behavior. In simple terms the customer experience includes interactions between companies and customers, the outcomes of those interactions and critically how customers feel about the interaction and their willingness to have further dealings with the company. To succeed in the digital economy businesses thus need to understand how to deal most effectively with customer interactions and the customer experience.

Some aspects of the digital economy are well known. More people get their news online than from newspapers, and they shop for products the same way. Digital transactions are replacing many that used to be done by postal mail or in person. People increasingly use mobile devices instead of deskbound computers for activities ranging from email to social media, and mobile apps are invented to cover seemingly every conceivable thing. All of these changes impact the way customers do business, and they are ever less patient with old-fashioned, inefficient business practices.

Faced with the ubiquity of digital communications, companies vr_NGCE_Research_12_all_current_channels_for_customer_engagementcan’t just update their contact centers – they have to reassess their marketing, sales and service processes as well. And to be efficient they have to connect all these functions and all the channels of interaction. Our recent benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement reveals the breadth of these issues. As many as 17 channels of interaction are in play, and companies on average support seven. In addition research participants told us they expect the volumes of interactions to grow in all channels. Not surprisingly the smallest rates of growth are for postal mail (3%) and retail outlets (4%), and the highest rates of growth are for social media (30%) and Web-based self-service (25%). Regardless of growth rates organizations have to support ever more channels of interactions, and none is about to disappear.

vr_NGCE_Research_05_who_handles_customer_interactionsThe research also shows change in who handles customer interactions. The top five functions are predictable, led by contact center agents, but significant percentages of mobile workers (in 34% of companies), finance departments (30%), home-based workers (25%) and even HR departments (23%) are involved in handling interactions; the only business unit not interacting with customers is IT. The research also shows that this pattern is changing: 12 percent of companies said they expect in the next 12 months to add customer service outside the contact center and mobile workers, 11 percent expect to add home-based agents, and 10 percent expect to add marketing and other business units. This diversity of roles interacting with customers demonstrates that handling interactions and thus managing the customer experience are enterprise issues. To address them as such, companies face three big issues: integrating systems, managing multiple interaction channels so they appear as one, and providing consistent information regardless of who handles the interaction or the channel of interaction.

Not long ago I discussed some of the technologies organizations should evaluate as they work to provide customers with easy-to-use, personalized, in-context and consistent experiences, but technology alone cannot do that. I recommend six steps toward achieving optimal customer experiences in this digital economy:

  • Stop thinking of interactions as isolated, one-off encounters. Instead think of the customer journey as people moving from being prospects, through sales to becoming customers who need support through an extended range of interaction channels.
  • Customers don’t think in terms of marketing, sales and service departments, so connect these and other business units in a seamless, consistent experience. This applies wherever people are in the customer journey and within each interaction. Processes should flow across organizational boundaries, and for this to happen everyone must share the same data.
  • Rethink the usability of all channels of interaction, and redesign them with the customer and the interaction in mind. This applies to every channel: call flows, IVR menus, self-service Web pages, mobile apps, social forums, voice-activated mobile apps, virtual agents and any others that may develop going forward.
  • As people use more digital channels, it becomes harder to differentiate among companies. Thus content is the key, so think carefully about the design of your website, the attractiveness of email marketing approaches and other text-based interactions, and of course social content.
  • Employees are key, so prepare and treat them well. The best plans can go badly wrong if employees who execute them are poorly trained, unhappy or unmotivated.
  • Rethink the metrics you use to monitor and assess the success of customer-related activities. Our research shows that many companies still focus on internal operational metrics like average handling times and not enough on business-related metrics such as customer lifetime value.

I don’t think organizations can complete any of these steps if they don’t know their customers and their thoughts about the company. In all but the smallest companies, advanced analytics systems can produce a single, comprehensive view of customers that includes maps showing the customer journey and the outcomes of interactions. Our recent research regularly shows that most executives understand the importance of the customer experience in the digital era. Getting it right is harder than many appreciate, so I wish you well in your endeavors and look forward to hearing your views on this critical topic.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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