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TelStrat is a company with a long history. Founded in 1993 it initially resold products of Nortel, Cisco and other telecom equipment vendors. The first product it developed and brought to market was a call recording system deployed on the customer’s premises.  It expanded its portfolio over the years, and today its product suite Engage offers all the key pieces of workforce optimization: call recording, desktop capture, quality management, workforce management and speech, text and desktop analytics. TelStrat built this portfolio through a combination of in-house development and partnering with other vendors. It has achieved considerable business success, having more than 3,300 installations in 55 countries, most of which are delivered through a global ecosystem of some 330 channel partners. Engage is available in three models: Unity is an on-premises, single-server version that supports up to 250 users; Enterprise is an on-premises, multiple-server version that supports unlimited numbers of users at multiple sites; and Cloud is a hosted product that supports unlimited numbers of users and is available through a perpetual license or subscription. The company attributes its recent success to the Cloud version, which it supports through multiple data centers in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. This and its longstanding team of call center experts and partners prepares TelStrat to help organizations of all sizes improve contact center agent performance.

In whatever configuration Engage includes five products. Engage Record can capture all calls, including those outside the contact center. It can record calls from a variety of PBX systems, is highly scalable, has watermarking for security purposes and includes 256-bit AES encryption. It can be configured to record all calls or capture calls based on defined rules or on demand. Record includes an advanced capability called Conversation Save that supports multiple options to store very large volumes of call recordings and includes disaster recovery. Advanced search capabilities enable users to find and listen to specific call recordings, and it includes flexible reporting that can be customized to individual requirements. There is also an option for authorized users to listen to live calls and make notes about what they hear. Overall Record provides comprehensive recording capabilities that should match most organizations’ requirements.

Engage Capture complements Engage Record by creating video records of how agents use their desktop systems to handle interactions. The videos are linked to the relevant section of the call recording so quality managers can see what agents were doing as they listen to the call recording. This added perspective of agent performance helps quality managers assess, score and recommend follow-up actions such as coaching or e-learning.

A third module, Engage Quality provides a full suite of agent quality management capabilities. Users can create evaluation forms for specific call types, select and complete agent evaluations and trigger actions based on the outcomes. It also has capabilities to create coaching and e-learning materials, which can include selections of embedded call recordings so agents can hear what they said and understand where they need to improve, schedule coaching and e-learning sessions, and monitor the outcome of those sessions. Its reporting capabilities can point out sessions agents should take, note the sessions they actually took and assess impact of taking the sessions on their subsequent performance. In total these capabilities support the end-to-end quality management process, from assessing performance to driving change.

In the fourth area, workforce management, rather than develop its own products, depending on the model selected, Engage Manage is built on either the Pipkins or the Teleopti product. TelStrat is a development partner of each of them and embeds their products in the Engage suite, develops tight integration capabilities and customizes them to suit its customers. It also provides end-to-end customer support, which means from a customer perspective that workforce management seamlessly integrates with the other TelStrat products.

TelStrat has taken a similar approach for its other product, Engage Analyze, which combines in-house products and third-party systems, notably from CallMiner for speech analytics. The speech analytics component can analyze call recordings using phonetic indexing to index calls, find words and phrases, and display maps of common words used within calls. An advanced version uses a dictionary to understand languages, the context within which words are used and the emotional state of the speaker. Using it in conjunction with capabilities that convert speech to text, users can analyze every word in every call, text message, chat session or social media interaction. The desktop analytics component can be used to insert controls into call recordings; it can, for example, pause and resume recording based on desktop event, censor sensitive data, pinpoint recordings from desktop data, and tag call-related activities with the recoded session. TelStrat also supports interfaces with common CRM systems so call recordings can be tagged or supplemented with other customer data. An advanced version of the desktop analytics enables users to analyze desktop activity and visualize processes through timelines and heat maps.

In our benchmark research into next-generation workforce optimization, more than three-quarters (78%) of organizations said it is vr_NGWO2_06_use_of_agent_workforce_applicationsvery important to improve agent performance so that customer interactions are handled as efficiently and effectively as possible. To this end the majority have deployed one or more of the core workforce optimization products: the three most common are call recording (78%), quality monitoring (70%) and workforce management (59%); these options are especially common in large companies. I believe that companies of all sizes can also benefit by deploying such systems, and choosing cloud-based products such as those available from TelStrat makes this technically easier and more affordable than doing so in-house. Companies that have deployed such systems have on average realized five benefits, chief among them improved agent coaching (66%) and improved customer satisfaction (52%). However, our research also shows that companies are likely to achieve even greater benefits by using an integrated suite of workforce optimization products; nearly half (48%) of participants said it is very important that these products are fully integrated. This not only makes them easier to manage but allows organizations to connect processes they have been disconnected; for example, they can use speech analytics to uncover coaching needs and raise alerts and workflow items to schedule the required coaching. The cloud-based services from TelStrat help organizations achieve this and similar objectives, so I recommend that organizations seeking to improve their end-to-end agent performance management processes evaluate how its suite can help.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

 

Oracle has built one of the world’s largest software portfolios through a combination of developing products in-house and acquisitions. In the last few years it has put great effort into transitioning from providing its applications as on-premises products tovr_NGCE_Research_01_impetus_for_improving_engagementmaking them available in the cloud. It also has worked to add customer experience capabilities to its range of business applications. Improving the customer experience is a top priority as our next generation customer engagement research found in almost three quarters (74%) of organization. In doing so it has developed a common user interface across the applications to address modern user expectations and has built a platform to support common capabilities in all its products. Recently I had the opportunity to study the strides Oracle has made in these areas as well as to identify some issues that still need to be resolved.

With cloud computing achieving broad popularity, organizations today can choose from three approaches: private, public and hybrid clouds. The growing reliance on the cloud has made it necessary to focus on integrating cloud systems with each other and with on-premises systems. Oracle has developed a broad-based, pragmatic approach; it offers SaaS (applications as a service), PaaS (platform), IaaS (infrastructure) and DaaS (data). SaaS includes a range of business applications. PaaS contains tools to support application development, data management, operations management, analytics, integration, collaboration and mobility. IaaS provides hardware for processing and storage in the cloud so companies can run applications and develop software without owning on-premises hardware. And DaaS enables users to connect their own and external data for a complete view to help in making decisions and taking actions. Together these products allow organizations to develop, administer, manage and operate business applications all in the cloud rather than on their own premises. Deployment in the cloud greatly reduces the challenges of maintaining an in-house IT department, allowing companies to focus on how best to use applications to support their business.

Oracle’s approach also provides a foundation on which companies can address the goal of providing superior customer experiences, which as I recently wrote is no easy task. The Oracle CX Customer Experience Solutions reflect this complexity, being comprised of not one but many packages that provide choice for customers. The underlying platform, CX Foundation, provides common tools to enable mobility, analytics (including predictive) and integration, and there are six separate CX applications for these area of focus: Marketing, Sales, Service, CPQ (configure, price, quote), Commerce (personalizing customer experience across multiple channels) and Social (monitoring and responding to social interactions). The complexity doesn’t stop there; each of these solutions is made up of several products, which in turn support hundreds of capabilities. After my examination of these offerings, here are four key points:

  • Together the solutions support the end-to-end business journey of the customer, which includes identifying, attracting and nurturing prospective customers; engaging with prospects to close business; and engaging with customers across multiple channels to provide personalized support through the customer’s choice of channel and time.
  • The integration across solutions enables processes that cross business groups, so that internal journeys flow smoothly from, for instance, marketing to sales to service and other business groups involved with customer-facing activities.
  • Oracle Service Cloud includes a key component of customer service, knowledge management. Whether a person is providing assisted service or a technology is delivering self-service, the outcome of the interaction depends heavily on the information provided to the customer. If it meets expectations, the person will be happy. If it is complete, he or she won’t have to engage again. The newest product, Oracle Knowledge Advanced, provides a complete set of tools to create, approve, manage and deliver various forms of information: forms, user guides, templates, preconfigured answers and others. The tools can deliver content to any device during any type of interaction. There are natural-language-based search capabilities so users can quickly find content relating to the subject they are dealing with, or content can be delivered automatically during an interaction based on data entered; for example, a user could type in a question on a mobile app, which would return the most relevant information back to the device, or responses could be generated automatically during a chat session.
  • Oracle’s new user interface, Oracle Alta UI, is user-friendly in a modern way, with visualization, point-and-click capabilities, alerts and messaging. It is also what most vendors now call “designed for mobile first” so that key features can be accessed on mobile devices.

The business solutions and their comprehensive vr_NGCE_Research_06_changes_to_improve_engagementcapabilities to support marketing, sales and customer service are built on what Oracle refers to as the CX Foundation. From our research into next-generation customer engagement and next-generation customer analytics. The next generation customer engagement research found collaboration, portal, mobile and social media as critical engagement methods. I’ve identified five capabilities that are keys to providing superior customer experiences: integration, collaboration, mobility, social media and analytics. Success requires multiple systems to manage a range of communications channels, business applications to manage customer data and transactions (including demographics, marketing campaigns, sales, service requests and cases, finance and knowledge bases) and various forms of analytics (applied to data, speech, text and processes).

The integration features in CX Foundation provide these capabilities, not only between the Oracle offerings but to third-party systems. Our research underscores that customer engagement is an enterprise issue – almost every business group within an organization is engaging with customers. Collaboration, including the ability to share information between groups, is essential to provide consistent experiences and resolve as many interactions as possible at the first attempt. Because both customers and employees now want to carry out tasks while away from their desks, support for mobility is a must. The same can be said of social capabilities as consumers look to social media to find information, resolve issues or voice dissatisfaction. Also critical is the platform’s support for analytics, including predictive analytics. I have written on several occasions that companies can’t provide superior experiences without a complete view of their customers and analyses of the channels they use for various interactions in the form of customer journey maps. Oracle CX Foundation has three components that allow companies to produce such analysis: data management to bring together all customer data, analytics, and predictive capabilities for gaining insights into likely future customer behavior.

In its totality the Oracle CX portfolio delivers many of the required customer experience capabilities. However, I also find room for improvement. Customer experience is about managing interactions as they occur and in any channel (such as a phone call, a chat session or a visit to a website) and delivering a personalized, relevant, consistent experience during the interaction. Integration of data and systems and the ability to process all forms of interactions is therefore key and although the Oracle platform enables development of these capabilities, I think more could be done in design to facilitate integration with the common communication platforms. I also believe it is essential to have one system of customer record, or at least the ability to synchronize data across systems. Again the Oracle CX platform provides tools to develop these capabilities, but it would be better for the business applications to work from a common customer database.

I also believe that Oracle Knowledge Advanced should support all the Oracle apps, not just Service, because it is essential that prospects and customers be given the same information no matter where they are in the customer journey. Our research shows that customer journey maps – a visual representation of the channels customers use in various interactions – are becoming a key part of any CX program. However, producing them requires overcoming a key challenge. Customer data is stored by necessity in multiple systems, and each may have its own identifiers: Among them are names and addresses in CRM, telephone numbers in the telephone system, email addresses, account numbers in financial systems and social media identifiers. To produce a complete view of the customer and journey maps, it is necessary to link all identifiers of a single customer to that individual so that all data can be included in that view. Again the Oracle platform has some capabilities to support this need, but many rely on manual processes and should be automated.

Customer experience is one of the most important ways a company can differentiate itself from the competition. As it stands, the Oracle CX platform does a good job of managing the transactional side of customer experience. It also has the advantage of providing customized versions for different industries and a packaged version for midsize companies, and the platform capabilities allow companies to customize them to meet specific demands. These features can help companies manage what I call the back end of customer experience. Either through development or partnering I recommend that Oracle do more to support activities at the point of engagement and help in both employee-assisted and self-service interactions. Oracle is a lot more advanced than you might think in helping organizations provide the best possible customer experience across any channel and device.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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