I recently wrote about NICE Systems’ acquisition of Causata to enhance its analytics capabilities and expand from workforce optimization into customer experience management. NICE recently released Customer Engagement Analytics, which is designed to analyze customer interaction data to help companies improve the customer experience at every touch point. NICE calls this optimizing the customer journey.

vr_NGCE_Research_05_who_handles_customer_interactionsThere are two aspects to the customer journey. The first is often called the customer lifetime cycle and includes moving prospects and customers through marketing, sales, service, retention and up-sales. The second is what is now called customer service: It addresses how potential and actual customers engage with the company to resolve issues. This includes such activities as learning about a product, buying it and using it, making a query about a bill, making a payment, reporting a fault and having it resolved. Both aspects involve customer engagement, which includes the touch points people use to engage with a company and the company’s response to their inquiries.

My benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that this is complex, involving multiple communication channels and nearly every business unit. Understanding and refining how it all works together is the key to success, and customer engagement analytics is designed to give companies that understanding and guide their actions.

The concept of customer engagement analytics is straightforward. Companies should begin by capturing all interaction data, then sequence events to understand the customer journey and visualize the outputs so management can understand what happened. Next, analyze why the interaction began and why it took the path it did, and identify what can be changed either to remove the need for the interaction (for example, by improving product documentation) or to ease the customer’s way through it. To assist this process companies should use, in real time, analytics to personalize responses (for example, to notify the agent of what to do next and the information to provide to the person). Advanced analytics can learn from each analysis to improve predictions of future customer behavior and determine steps to prevent, mitigate or reduce issues.

To deliver these capabilities, NICE Customer Engagement Analytics has many key components. First, a connectivity layer supports the capture of interaction data from multiple communication channels, in real time or batch mode. In addition a series of APIs support the transfer of data from business applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) and customer data warehouses. Then there is what NICE calls a cross-channel interaction hub, which consists of real-time, recent applications and big data, plus aggregations and business intelligence (BI). NICE also offers a component , which in my mind is key. Multiple channels create multiple customer identifiers such as the customer’s name, address, email address, phone number(s) and Twitter handle. Multiple business systems also contain multiple identifiers such as account numbers, record numbers, names and addresses. The entity manager ties all these together so that the company can identify the people who make interactions  and map the complete customer journey. A component that has cross channel logic, which supports segmentation, categorization, path and pattern analysis, and filtering across all the data. A series of analytics modules analyze structured data as well as voice, text and event data. All of these fit inside an infrastructure that does system management and administration with workflow triggers and a rules engine, a set of APIs and a data model.

This is a lot of software, a combination of in-house developed capabilities, acquisitions and third-party products like IBM Cognos, which is available through NICE’s longstanding partnership with IBM. To simplify things NICE is adopting its normal practice of offering preconfigured versions of the product to meet defined business goals such as optimizing call volumes, the customer journey and interactive voice recognition (IVR). Along with canned reports and analysis, as I saw in a demonstration, point-and-click capabilities enable users to build new templates based on canned models or build their own.

My benchmark research into customer relationship maturity shows that a major differentiator for more than 90 percent of companies that described themselves as customer-centric was the use of customer journey maps that plan how to engage with customers over the full customer life cycle and across all communication channels. NICE Customer Engagement Analytics allows them to move from planning to monitoring, basing actions on actual customer journeys. I believe this is essential to meeting expectations of customers, agents and businesses regarding customer engagement. I recommend companies evaluate this software and how it can help with those efforts.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Recently NewVoiceMedia announced that it has raised $50 million to fund its growth. The company was founded in 2000 in the U.K., initially offering call management and routing as cloud-based systems. Until then, most companies built their contact centers using on-premises private branch exchange (PBX) or automated call distributor (ACD) call management systems, with on-premises call routing and business applications such as customer relationship management (CRM). Some companies offered off-premises business application services, and salesforce.com had just begun to push its CRM in the cloud offering.

My first direct contact with NewVoiceMedia was at the London Call Center Expo in 2011. There, to my astonishment, five minutes after stepping into its booth, I had been set up as an agent on its contact center in the cloud and was receiving support calls on my mobile phone. This was something that had taken days, if not weeks, on centers I had helped to build. Earlier this year, it went one step further, and using the latest versions of its products, it now can create a complete multichannel contact center in a matter of hours.

This new funding allows it to accelerate the company’s international expansion, develop its portfolio of true cloud solutions and strengthen its infrastructure, sales, marketing and professional services capability in North America, Asia Pacific and EMEA. All of these are important for the company to continue its financial success and compete in what is now a highly competitive market. At this year’s Contact Center Expo in San Diego, there were 16 vendors demonstrating contact center in the cloud services, and  several more were not at the show. Not all of them offer the same services, but all position themselves as offering contact centers in the cloud.

NewVoiceMedia now offers two products, ContactWorld for Sales and Marketing and ContactWorld for Service. These support similar capabilities that have been extended from the original call management and routing to include call recording, click-to-dial, pop-up screens, outbound caller identification, dynamic routing based on caller ID or CRM data, ContactWorld Connect and reporting. ContactWorld for Service also includes post-call customer surveys and has been expanded to handle multiple channels of communication. From day one, NewVoiceMedia has had a close relationship with salesforce.com so it not surprising to see that some of the latest funding came from salesforce.com. The two companies continue to work closely together to provide tight integration between the two products, including Salesforce1 mobile integration, and joint sales efforts, which going forward are likely to help it win more sales.

vr_CCC_actions_to_improve_customer_interaction_updatedOur benchmark research on next-generation customer engagement shows that two of the biggest problems companies face in providing consistent multichannel customer engagement are that communication channels are managed separately (by 47% of companies) and there is little coordination between business units (in 33%).Our research on the contact center in the cloud also shows that a large percentage of companies plan to address these issues by adopting applications in the cloud (63%) and communications technology in the cloud (44%). There is no doubt in my mind that consumers will keep changing their communication habits, so more companies will need to ensure they provide superior multichannel customer engagement. This will expand across the enterprise, and more business units will need integrated management of multiple types of interaction. This demand is beyond the capability of on-premises centers and bodes well for companies that offer cloud-based services. The latest round of funding should help NewVoiceMedia invest in new product capabilities that meet market expectations and expand its global presence. If you want to examine contact center in the cloud applications, take a look at NewVoiceMedia.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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