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Since I last wrote about Upstream Works it has expanded its focus on contact center agent efficiency and effectiveness to include omnichannel customer experience. Each of its core products has undergone a number of developments. Its main product now is Upstream Works for Finesse, which it classifies as a smart agent desktop. This is a desktop application that enables users of contact center systems to access the information and systems they need to resolve interactions, as well as prompting the user with next best steps to complete the interaction efficiently and effectively. Upstream Works has a close working agreement with Cisco so the product is only available for users of the Cisco Finesse product.

Upstream Works for Finesse achieves these objectives through a number of capabilities. It provides an intuitive user interface that is the same no matter the type of interaction or the channel of engagement. The user’s workspace can be tailored to the type of interaction and be set up to navigate from one system to another depending on the interaction flow. The product provides various ways to connect with any type of system, whether it’s a business application or a technology system managing a specific communication channel. It can extract data from one system and deliver it to any other system integrated into the desktop, making it possible to access all customer information and connect multiple communication systems.

Combining systems enables users to connect different customer identifiers with a single customer, which in turns supports the production of customer journey maps. Some of this mapping is automated by connecting data across systems, while some requires manual input. The ability to extract data from multiple systems enables interactions to be personalized and placed in the context of previous interactions; for example, suppose that a customer began by searching the home page, engaged in a chat session and made a phone call, and then the customer and agent shared some Web pages. Upstream Works for Finesse thus improves the agent experience; providing information to personalize the interaction and provide consistent responses and information improves the customer experience. Overall interaction handling becomes more efficient and effective, thus helping to meet operational targets and produce desired business outcomes.

These capabilities are underpinned by a single set of management and reporting tools. The management tools include capabilities for all aspects of a contact center, from managing agents, teams, tasks and skills to setting up routing rules for all types of interactions. Its integration capabilities and internal data mart support reporting and analysis of all aspects of interactions handling, and its predictive analytics supports prompting of agents with information or the next best action.

A smart desktop is one of the six technologies I identified that organizations need in order to provide customers with easy-to-use, personalized, in-context and consistent experiences. This is especially true for companiesvr_NGCE_15_supporting_multiple_channels that support multiple channels of engagement. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that the three issues organizations most often struggle with in this regard are integration of systems (49%), channels managed as silos (47%) and inconsistency of responses (33%). To overcome each of these a smart agent desktop is a pragmatic option. It doesn’t integrate systems per se but enables access to all systems and can pull and push data to as many systems as required. It also supports a common set of rules to route interactions and a common user interface to handle any type of interaction, and it has built-in rules and capabilities to present the same information regardless of the channel or the user.

I therefore recommend to all Cisco users who want to improve agent performance and customer experience that they evaluate how Upstream Works for Finesse can help those efforts.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director, Customer

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I recently wrote that companies are struggling to provide omnichannel customer experiences and digital customer service is now seen as a business differentiator. To address these issues, organizations need to  change how they use people and processes, and deploy innovative technologies that can support new initiatives. To provide an enterprise-wide solution, contact center systems fall into four categories: communications, business applications, analytics and self-service. Our benchmark research into next-generation contact center systems in the cloud shows which types of systems companies have deployed, which they plan to deploy in the next 24 months and whether they prefer them to be on-premises or cloud-based.

Overall the research shows a preference for on-premises systems, with fewer than half (44%) of participants prefer to deploy systems on their own premises. However significant numbers are moving to the cloud with more than one-fourth (28%) using a private cloud, somewhat fewer (22%) using a public cloud and one-fifth (19%) using a hybrid combination of on-premises and cloud-based systems. Noting that 22 percent expressed no preference, we conclude that while cloud-based systems are considered a serious option, organizations are influenced by the number of on-premises systems they have in place and choose the deployment option for new systems based on factors such as capabilities, usability and cost, specific to each purchase. More detailed analysis shows variations across the four categories.

Communications Systems

The contact center market is mature, and vr_NGCCC_09_preferred_deployment_of_communication_systemsthe foundation of many centers is telephony systems such as call routing, ACD and IP-based telephony. However, the research shows that as customers demand other channels of engagement, companies plan to deploy more digital channels such as instant messaging, unified communication, text messaging, video and visual IVR. For these channels we find a shift away from on-premises systems, with companies preferring to deploy systems such as instant messaging, video and social media as cloud-based services. The findings lead us to conclude that most companies will continue to use on-premises systems already in place until they reach the end of life when they are likely to be replaced by cloud-based systems; in the short term these will be supplemented with new cloud-based systems.

vr_NGCCC_10_preferred_deployment_of_business_applicationsBusiness Applications

The research shows that companies have deployed an array of business applications; the most common are call recording, business-specific applications and CRM, and the least common are workflow, social media integration and agent desktop systems. It also shows an intent to purchase systems to support specific business needs; the most commonly planned systems are workflow, social media integration and e-learning. The results show no clear pattern in which deployment options companies use. With the exception of internal business applications and CRM, there is a fairly even split between on-premises and cloud-based. We conclude that companies buy business applications on a case-by-case basis, which creates a bias toward on-premises systems because vendors in domains other than CRM have been slow in moving to the cloud.


Overall, organizations said that among the vr_NGCCC_11_preferred_deployment_of_analytics_systemsfour categories of systems analytics will have the greatest impact on customer experience, as companies seek comprehensive views of the customer and the ability to map customer journeys. However, the research shows that few companies are close to achieving either goal. The adoption of analytics is still relatively immature, primarily being systems that can analyze structured data: real-time contact center, agent and overall contact center performance analytics. It also reveals intentions to improve this situation, with overall levels of planned investments being higher than in the three other categories; the top priorities are social media, Web, speech and cross-channel analytics. In terms of deployment options, the results show that early adopters have tended toward on-premises systems, but the trend is to deploy more advanced systems capable of processing unstructured data in the cloud. Companies that don’t know their customers struggle to provide service that meets customer expectations. Cloud-based analytics systems provide opportunity for organizations of all sizes to gain more value from the totality of their customer-related data.

vr_NGCCC_12_preferred_deployment_of_self-service_systemsSelf-Service Systems

For customer self-service the research shows a pattern of adoption similar to that for communications systems. Most companies have deployed conventional self-service systems such as Web-based FAQs, online customer service and touch-tone IVR on-premises. The adoption of digital systems is less common; few companies have deployed mobile customer-service apps, virtual voice-activated agents or visual IVR. As stated earlier this will change: About one-third of companies plan to deploy social media forums, stand-alone mobile apps, social customer service and mobile apps connected to the contact center. Once more the research shows that as companies adopt advanced digital systems they are equally or more likely to deploy them in the cloud.

Overall the research finds many companies, especially very large ones, running on-premises, telephony-focused centers, predominantly supported by CRM systems. Because of consumer demand these companies are adding advanced digital channels but not always in an integrated manner, and it is increasingly likely they will do this using cloud-based systems. The cloud is also opening up the opportunity for smaller companies, or groups within larger companies, to create multichannel contact centers. In general, most companies have some way to go before they can provide omnichannel experiences – engagement across multiple channels that are managed using the same rules and data sources so that customers receive personalized, consistent responses on any channel. The research also shows more companies moving to cloud-based vendors that provide fully integrated systems. I expect this trend to continue and so recommend that companies wanting to transition to omnichannel engagement assess how cloud-based contact center vendors can help those efforts.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director, Customer

Follow Me on Twitter and Connect with me on LinkedIn

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