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Ventana Research has just released its 2013 Value Index for Agent Desktop Management, in which we evaluate the competency and maturity of vendors and products that support the management of the AD_VentanaResearchValueIndex_2013desktop systems that agents use to handle customer interactions. Our firm has researched this software category for many years, and our benchmark research into customer service and the agent desktop shows the impact the agent desktop has on agent satisfaction and efficiency and the business outcome of such interactions. Because of its increasing importance, we have taken agent desktop management out of our Customer Experience Value Index and created a separate category for it.

I am excited to provide research and education on this critical software. It is essential in every contact center and industry, but its importance is often not recognized by businesses or other analyst firms. Our research on organizations using this software not only uncovered best practices and trends but also highlighted what businesses can do to improve competencies across their workforce and processes. The new Value Index for Agent Desktop Management assesses vendors and their products and whether they meet companies’ needs, based on what participants in our agent desktop benchmark research told us was important to them.

The Ventana Research methodology utilizes a request for proposal and assessment based approach looking more closely at the software than just a vendor’s vision or ability to sell software. Each Value Index takes six months to complete; unlike other analyst firms, we look at the product details that have the most importance in terms of successful use and benefits. We evaluate agent desktop vendors on seven categories that are essential for achieving expected benefits: usability, reliability, manageability, adaptability and capability of the products, as well as the customer assurance areas of validation and TCO and ROI. We assign weight to each category according to its priority to buyers, and total the results to 100 percent for scoring purposes. In the process, we identify best and worst practices to further refine how we assess technology vendors in each category. For instance, this year we placed a heavier emphasis on usability, a factor that organizations in our 2013 benchmark research indicated is becoming more important to the value of software used. You can read the details on our methodology and process in the 2013 Agent Desktop Management Value Index market report.

Our Value Index analysis for agent desktop management looks at a range of needs across industries and across companies and contact centers of all sizes. The Value Index examines requirements by job role, including management, contact center managers, supervisors and agents, and IT groups that support contact center systems. We also examine whether a system provides in-depth capabilities and features such as easy-to-use interfaces to optimize desktop use; workflow alerts and triggers to align operations; access to multiple channels of communication; the ability to find customer information easily so agents can provide personalized responses and complete after-call tasks; agent access to training information and dashboards; optimization of back-office processes; data capture and analysis; integration with communication systems and other business applications; analysis of interaction handling performance; and administrative capabilities to help create agent-specific desktops and manage use of the software.

Our analysis this year rates eight vendors Hot, which, as the highest value level, demonstrates product maturity. Upstream Works ranks at the top, followed by Cicero, OpenSpan, Jacada, salesforce.com, Cincom, AD_Weighted_OverallAltitude Software and KANA. Upstream Works retains the top position it achieved last year, while Altitude Software significantly improves its position and KANA enters as a Hot vendor. NICE Systems enters as a Warm vendor with a product that focuses more on optimizing agent performance and less on supporting multiple communication channels and integration with other systems. Genesys remains a Warm vendor, as its product focuses on telephony and  lacks sophisticated integration capabilities. SmartPoint and RiverStar dropped out of the analysis, declining to participate.

In line with the increasing importance of the agent desktop and its impact on the agent and overall customer experiences, the agent desktop management market has become highly competitive. Much has changed since companies such as Jacada and Genesys released their early systems, which focused on telephony and, in the case of Jacada, hid all systems from the user behind a replacement user interface. Today’s most advanced systems allow companies to choose the style of interface they want, support more channels of communication, guide users on the next best action, offer point-and-click capabilities to support ease of integration with other systems, and support more advanced analysis and presentation of performance information. All of the Hot vendors have released updated versions of their products in an effort to keep up with these requirements. As we note in the report, Upstream Works has released a new product, based on Cisco’s new offering, that changes the user interface and mode of operation, and Enghouse Interactive has entered the market with a system that focuses on optimizing access to multiple communication channels. The agent desktop management category thus is maturing rapidly, with new vendors entering the market and new capabilities to support emerging requirements, such as social customer service and mobility. This Value Index offers a guide to which vendors are in the market and their products’ maturity levels, providing a good starting point as companies evaluate how to improve customer interaction performance.

We take pride in our Value Index, and we believe it’s cool to be a Hot vendor. Unlike other analyst firms, we recognize the impact the agent desktop has on agent satisfaction and thus the customer experience. If you look at our research or talk to contact center managers, you will see that the agent desktop is becoming more complex as agents need to access more channels of communication and applications. Today’s desktop systems can therefore play a part in not only making processes easier and more efficient, but also ensuring that more agents follow best practices and achieve the best outcomes. To different degrees, our Hot vendors demonstrate capabilities that support these objectives, and each should be recognized for its efforts.

Congratulations to the vendors that stood up to our detailed assessment processes and granular analysis, which represent how organizations assess and select vendors. We’re proud of our objective and in-depth analysis, which we publish without review or editing by the technology vendors, unlike other analyst firms. While some vendors may object to the results, our independence provides the basis for the most trusted research in the industry. If you want further information, please download the executive summary and let us know if you need help selecting the right vendor for your agent desktop needs. We look forward to continuing to offer guidance to buyers in this critical application category, and to helping business and IT professionals who need to run the most efficient, results-oriented and profitable organizations.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

The products of Enkata have generally been designed for what Ventana Research terms performance management for customer service and call centers, including applications connected to agent performance management (quality monitoring, coaching, training and related analytics) and operational performance analytics based on transactional, structured data. Recently Enkata has taken a new direction with its branding (“changing the customer experience”) and has been filling out its portfolio of products to include analytics for unstructured data, so it now includes speech (courtesy of a partnership with Callminer), desktop, cross-channel and text analytics; the last supports  the analysis of customer surveys and social media posts.

With this broad range of analytics capabilities Enkata can capture data from almost any source and provide integrated analytics that draws on all of them. It has used these capabilities to widen its portfolio of prebuilt business applications, such as first-contact resolution, next-contact avoidance and contact reasoning (about why customers are calling). At the heart of many of these developments has been a partnership with Openspan, which has what I call a smart desktop product. It allows organizations to hide the complexity of their desktop systems behind a simpler user interface, extract and deliver data to applications without the user having to know the full interface, and post messages onto the desktop to aid users with the task in hand. This partnership allows Enkata to capture what users do at their desktops, analyze how they use systems, combine this information with insights derived from its other analytics applications and enable actions based on these combined insights. Those actions can include posting a message to the desktop, for example, to remind the user to ask a particular question, giving the user context-based information, such as product information to help a cross-sale or using the newly enhanced workflow engine to send a message to a third party to take action.

These types of capabilities enable the products to close the performance loop by analyzing what is happening, deciding what needs to be done and enabling the necessary actions. This is particularly true for customer experience management, where knowing what has happened is not enough; organizations need to take action so that customers finish the interactions feeling they have been treated well. This also applies to back-office functions such as claims processing, where the system can guide the user in following best practices. The software also helps with workforce optimization, because as the system analyzes how different users complete a task, it can help identify best practices, which can be enforced by changing the user interface and prompts, and by helping focus training.

In addition to developing these new capabilities and partnerships, Enkata has made two other changes that address two key areas Ventana Research has identified. Its products are available in the cloud, reflecting the increasing acceptance of this supply model. And it has moved into the big-data arena to support organizations that have growing volumes of data but still want results in seconds. Follow my colleague David Menninger if you want to learn more about this area of growing importance and check out his latest Big Data benchmark research.

Customer experience management is one of the most important issues organizations need to address to retain customers and sell them more business. My experience and research show that this is not easy, because it requires combining numerous types of analytics and the capabilities to take action, often in real time, for example during a call. The latest developments from Enkata seem to back up its claim to support the customer journey by enhancing the customer experience, so I recommend organizations see how Enkata can address this key business issue. Enkata has advanced significantly since my last analysis And worth taking a closer look.

Are you addressing the customer experience? If so, how? Please tell us your views and experience and collaborate with me.

Regards,

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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