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I recently joined more than 1,000 users, partners, consultants and other analysts at the first global G-Force 2015 conference, held in Miami. Sponsor Genesys put together an agenda that not only educated but entertained the attendees. For an example of the latter, Sekou Andrews, a poet, actor, musician and voice-over artist, preceded the main keynotes with a wonderful sketch that put customer experience into the context of marriage and reminded us to treat customers as he does his wife, remembering that the customer is always right!

On a more serious note, President and CEO Paul Segre kicked the event off with an overview of the company. He emphasized that Genesys focuses on one thing, which he called an “omnichannel engagement center,” sells one product, the Genesys Customer Experience Platform (which I have written about) and enables one primary goal, next-generation customer experience. Segre also made the distinction that the company provides what he referred to as a “system of engagement” (to manage customer interactions), not a system of record (to manage transactional customer data such as orders, service cases and invoices), though its platform integrates with systems of record such as CRM and ERP. Of course, doing all of this is not simple. A deeper dive shows that the platform supports multiples channels of communication, rules-based routing across all channels, and inbound and outbound communications. It alsoVR2014_TechInnovation_AwardWinner includes agent-assisted service and some self-service capabilities such as IVR; workforce optimization to manage the people side of handling customer interactions; back-office workload management (managing the flow of tasks across business groups and users); and multiple analytics capabilities. All of these capabilities are tightly integrated to support data sharing, processes that flow across systems and ease of administration, through a modern user interface. The totality of these capabilities earned the platform our 2014 Technology Innovation Award.

The capabilities are offered in a variety of bundles, some of which are based on-premises and others in the cloud. Overall the Genesys CX Platform helps companies of all sizes support the technical and people aspects of handling customer interactions. Its analytics produces a comprehensive view of customer, employee and business performance so that companies can assess how well they are meeting customer expectations and business objectives and where improvements are needed.

The various conference sessions outlined upcoming developments in all the component products, and several emphasizedvr_NGCE_Research_06_changes_to_improve_engagement making more of them available in the cloud. These advances will be supplemented by acquisitions and partnerships, two of which were highlighted. The first is a new partnership with Microsoft for its Skype for Business product. Enabling customers and organizations to seamlessly engage through video, voice and instant messages while transferring between these channels without interruption, this partnership will add some emerging communication channels of customer choice to the CX Platform. It also extends the possibilities for collaboration, which our benchmark research on next-generation customer engagement shows is a top priority for companies as they seek to ensure consistency and speed of response in handling interactions.

The second featured partnership is with IBM’s Watson division. As I wrote earlier this year, IBM Watson Engagement Manager will be integrated into the Genesys CX Platform to provide cognitive capabilities for both assisted and self-service. In particular it will enhance the Genesys agent desktop by making responses more personalized and relevant; it also enables an omnichannel customer experience in an environment where most companies still operate multiple, disconnected channels of engagement.

Merijn te Booij, EVP of product and solution strategy for Genesys, did two sessions showing how Genesys is focused on technology development that reflects market demands. In a lighthearted segment he showed how consumer experiences are being disrupted by technologies such as voice-activated commands to change room lighting and electronic alerts if beer supplies are running low in the fridge; as well as amusing this was a timely reminder that customer experience is changing at an unprecedented pace. More seriously te Booij outlined 14 macro trends he predicts will impact CX by the year 2020. Among them are potentially 25 billion devices enabled for the Internet of Things; chat overtaking voice as the most popular channel; artificial intelligence and cognitive computing enabling far-reaching innovations; wearable devices and sensors shifting the CX paradigm from being largely reactive to being more proactive and based on data collected from devices; and video and augmented reality playing a bigger part in visualization of information. As an illustration of the rate of change, some of his other trends seem to me to be here already: seamless connection between assisted and self-service; speech and text analytics supporting real-time analysis; metrics such as NPS and CX being delivered in the cloud; and data management and analytics underpinning all CX activities.

I have written several times that CX excellence is now the true differentiator in customer service but that it is not easy to achieve. It requires a combination of systems to manage channels of engagement, employee-based tasks and transactional data. In my view, above everything else, excellent customer experience requires advanced analytics so companies can monitor and assess performance from customer, employee and business perspectives and take action to improve. G-Force 2015 showed that Genesys and its partners are addressing all of the four dimensions of CX: management of communications channels, employee management, integration with transactional systems, and analytics. I recommend that companies evaluate how Genesys can help them keep up with and even anticipate their customers’ expectations.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Call Centre & Customer Management Expo has been running for several years now. The event provides an opportunity for contact center and customer service managers in Europe to catch up with all the latest and greatest going on in the market. At this year’s event earlier this week, as usual, I found the normal mix of presentations, vendor exhibition stands and other side events. The vendor show included a mix of core contact center vendors (interaction management, CRM, WFO, customer experience management, customer and contact center analytics), supporting vendors such as headphone suppliers and post code software, contact center media players and associated professional bodies. My primary interest is in the core multi-channel contact center market and vendors, and having attended for more years than I can remember, I look for emerging trends on what vendors are present and what they have to offer.

The clear winner this year was the customer interaction management space, with a mix of established, primarily on-premises  players such as AspectAvaya and Cisco and the rapidly emerging cloud-based vendors, of which there were more than ever – including Altitude,  Enghouse InteractiveInteractive IntelligenceGenesysmplsystemsNewVoiceMedia and Vocalcom. Each of these provides cloud-based systems that manage inbound and outbound interactions through different communications channels – telephone, email, chat, web, text and social media. Each of course has slightly different sets of capabilities and different strengths and weakness. However, they all support a growing trend that emerged from my recent research into the contact center in the cloud, in that companies must now support multimedia customer engagement (service), and the only practical and affordable way to do this is by using fully integrated, cloud-based interaction management systems as offered by these vendors. Indeed, after better, more focused training for employees who handle interaction, the next best action for nearly half of companies that responded to the research was to investigate using such services. That’s good news for these vendors and not so great for on-premises vendors that are struggling to come up with a cloud-based strategy.

The other technology category to stand out falls within what I term customer experience management; that is, systems that directly impact the customer experience at the point of engagement. The most common on show was the agent desktop – systems that support agents or other employees as they engage with customer to try and solve their issues. These desktops came in many guises. The two truest stand-alone desktop vendors were Kana with its newly acquired Ciboodle products and Oracle with its relatively newly acquired RightNow product. Both have systems that allow organizations to build a desktop that makes it easier for agents to access the systems and information they need to resolve customer issues, including the capability to guide agents on the next best action. Two of the cloud-based interaction management vendors, Altitude and mplsystems, also offer desktop systems that support similar capabilities; in particular they allow companies to surface multimedia interactions onto agents’ desktop. Last but not least was Salesforce.com with Service Cloud. The company doesn’t market Service Cloud as a desktop, but at its core is a desktop that allows companies to surface Salesforce.com information and interaction details (including social media) to agents or other employees handling interactions. Just as with the interaction management products, each of the customer experience management products includes slightly different capabilities and has different strengths and weaknesses. However, as my research into customer relationship maturity shows, managing the customer experience is vital to retaining customers and driving repeat business, so these systems and services are ones companies should take a careful look at.

These two sets of vendors so dominated the show that no other category really stood out for me in my analysis for those that lead customer service. There were very few core workforce optimization who help with managing agent performance vendors present – Calabrio and NICE Systems were the only ones I spotted. I also saw few analytics vendors; one I did see was Avaya, with its Aurix speech analytics product, and I found some interaction management vendors that have analytics embedded in their products and services. The lack of WFO vendors perhaps reflects my research into agent performance management, which shows that the WFO market is now quite mature and most companies have deployed their call recording, quality monitoring and workforce management products. The dearth of analytics vendors reflects my research into customer and contact center analytics, which shows this market is at the other end of the maturity model and is at yet quite immature.

Although I wasn’t surprised to see these two categories dominate, I was surprised not to see more vendors promoting mobile customer service apps. After a flurry of announcements early this year, I expected such applications to be more visible. Although vendors such as Aspect, Genesys and Interactive Intelligence were present, they weren’t featuring mobile apps as prominently as I expected.

In a slightly different space, Nuance Communications clarified what Nina really is – Siri for mobile apps. In the same way that Apple has built Siri into the iPhone, Nuance provides tools that allow companies to embed voice activation into their mobile apps, so for example a user could just say “pay this bill on this date using this credit card” without having to tap on a smart device’s screen.

After all the hype at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference, there wasn’t nearly as much at the show about the social enterprise. Overall I would say this was a more down-to-earth show with vendors showcasing how to support multi-channel customer engagement and how to improve the customer experience.

The final highlight for me was a tremendous customer experience. I have always used headsets from Sennheiser. A pair I recently bought went wrong, so as the company had a stand I thought I would ask if it was a known problem and where I could send them for repair. Instead, within minutes I walked away with a new pair. That’s a great customer experience, and a great way to get a positive acknowledgement on social media. If you missed the event, this will provide you some of the highlights, and if want more details, just let me know.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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