Richard Snow's Analyst Perspectives

Jacada is Back with a Smarter Agent Desktop

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 29, 2011 9:54:52 AM

Jacada was one of the first vendors to provide a unified desktop for contact centers. It simplified the agent’s desktop by replacing several application views with a single view that better followed customer conversations. It also interfaced between those applications so agents didn’t have to worry about which fields to update, where to find data or how many applications they had to use. The unified desktop also enabled agents to address customer issues more efficiently.  

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Topics: Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Voice of the Customer, Jacada, Customer Service, 360-degree view of the Customer, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM

inContact and Siemens Enterprise Communications Working the Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 22, 2011 9:26:32 AM

While the contact center business is not the most dynamic market, it is undergoing more changes than I have ever seen. One of the biggest changes is coming about because of cloud computing. This trend was led by salesforce.com, and the impact is now being felt in the contact center market as more vendors start to provide a “contact center in the cloud.” I recently wrote about inContact , one of the first vendors to provide a full contact center in the cloud. Recently inContact announced an important partnership – and it’s not an obvious match. 

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience Management, Customer Feedback Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, InContact, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, 360-degree view of the Customer, Agent Performance Management, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management, Siemens Enterprise Communications

Interactive Intelligence Unveils Process Automation for Customer Service

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 14, 2011 11:52:07 AM

Providing good customer service has never been easy, but today it’s more challenging than ever, because of three factors. First is the growing overlap between marketing, sales and customer service. This is driven by customers’ increased expectations about the quality of customer service, the consistency of responses they receive during interactions and privacy legislation that limits companies’ collection and use of customer information and unsolicited contact. These circumstances put pressure on companies to take maximum advantage of all inbound interactions. Second, technology has changed customers’ communication habits, forcing companies to interact with them through multiple channels (including social media); this gets complicated when internally different lines of business hold responsibility for some of the channels. And third, companies can’t afford poor-quality products, services and customer experiences because customer complaints are likely to be broadcast over social media, potentially with devastating effects. To meet these challenges, companies have to start thinking differently; a good place to start is with the processes associated with customer-facing activities. 

In my experience most contact center and customer support staff don’t think in terms of process, they think about tasks – taking an order, resolving a complaint, responding to a request for information and many others that make up their jobs. Each of these tasks is actually a collection of processes, and they fit within bigger processes that often transcend business unit boundaries – for example, taking an order in a contact center is likely a result of a marketing campaign, which may have been followed up by a sales person before finishing in the contact center. Due to organizational and cultural issues, most companies struggle with managing processes that cross these business unit boundaries. A relatively new product from Interactive Intelligence (ININ) can help address these issues. 

Its Interaction Process Automation (IPA) product allows companies to map (or model) their processes, design forms to drive the process, initiate processes, monitor progress throughout the process and report on how well the process worked. It includes a variety of capabilities. The modeling tools provide users with drag-and-drop capabilities to model processes (that is, produce process maps that include actions, tasks and decision points ), even those that transcend business unit boundaries. The form designer tool provides the same type of drag-and-drop capabilities that allow users to create forms, either from presupplied templates or from scratch. Behind the forms are integration capabilities that allow users to extract and display data from existing applications or capture data that can be used to update one or more applications. 

Another component allows users to initiate processes or steps within a process in several ways. A process can be initiated manually by a user, automatically by an event (for example, a notification that the customer accessed the self-service portal), or by a trigger within an application (for example, when a balance falls below a defined threshold). Within a multichannel customer service environment, this trigger-by-event capability can be especially useful as it can ensure that actions or events on one channel trigger a follow-up process on a different channel. For example, if the customer tries but fails to complete a purchase on the company’s website, an outbound contact center agent could be alerted to call the customer back to try and complete the purchase. ININ markets this feature as Communications-Based Process Automation because tight integration with its core CIC platform enables users to trigger processes in response to communication-based events. 

A fourth component monitors the completion of tasks within a process, enabling users to track progress through a complete end-to-end process. And finally IPA comes with a suite of analysis and reporting tools that allow companies to see how well their processes are working. 

As I implied, this process-based orientation might seem alien to people in contact centers, who may not buy into “consultant speak” about communications-enabled business process. However, my research shows that contact centers face many challenges, such as reducing average handling times, improving first-contact-resolution rates, and meeting an ever increasing number of customer-related metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT), net promoter score (NPS) and customer effort score (CES), and they need to address them somehow. Any solution depends on having the right information available at every interaction point and making the process as efficient and effective as possible. Although some vendors of more general process automation products claim to play in this space, IPA is one of very few products that address specific issues related to handling customer interactions. Managing diverse set of interactions was found to be quite complex in my benchmark research on contact center technology that find the number of them and varying types to be a challenge. As such, as companies seek to improve their customer-related activities, I recommend that they evaluate what IPA offers. 

Do you face challenges managing processes that cross business unit boundaries? Are you seeking to improve the way you handle customer interactions? If so please tell us more and come and collaborate with me. 

Regards 

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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Topics: Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Voice of the Customer Interactive Intelligence

Attensity Makes Text Analytics Smarter

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 14, 2011 11:20:47 AM

My research into customer analytics shows three important things: Text analytics are at the early adopter stage; companies still use spreadsheets as their main tool for analysis; and to move companies away from spreadsheets vendors must offer tools that are as easy to use as spreadsheets. That’s no easy task, given the huge volume and varied types of text data companies are generating and the complexity of analyzing unstructured text. However, the research also indicates that this challenge will be met, and a new software release from text analytics vendor Attensity is the type of product that can help companies overcome these challenges.  

As with so many things today, the driver is social media. Companies at the very least want to monitor what consumers are “saying” about them on social media, and what consumers are saying produces a lot of unstructured text. Whether tproducts are called text analytics or social media analytics, companies are beginning to deploy systems that allow them to tap into social media and produce analyses of what consumers are saying about their brands, products and services. As they do this, companies are realizing they have a wealth of other sources of text data – email, forms, surveys, Web scripts and others – that can be analyzed to form a bigger picture of their customers, which is now popularly called the Voice of the Customer. 

This need for text analytics plays to the strengths of Attensity. The company recently announced Analyze 6.0 , built on the existing Attensity Data Grid and its powerful natural language processing engine, which can deliver insights, discover trends and analyze sentiment from text-based customer interactions. 

Major enhancements in this new version make the product easier to use. A new exploration environment gives users the ability to create new types of analysis using drag-and-drop techniques. Users can select the data they want to analyze, filter it by several different types of parameters (such as names, products or scores), design a dashboard that meets their individual requirements either from scratch or using one of the provided templates, and then drop the required reports into the dashboard. Users can select from a set of standard reports or build reports to individual requirements. The software provides extensive visualization tools: Information may be displayed as tables; as bar, pie and line charts; as category trees (such as types of complaints within the category Complaints); and as gauges and something Attensity calls word clouds, which display the key words in a document with color-coding and variable font size. Word clouds allow users to get a quick overview of the content of selected documents, which in turn helps them create or refine categories of interactions based on frequently used words. As one user told me, it allows them “to see what they need to know so they can create the correct analysis rules.” Last but not least, new capabilities allow users to share or distribute reports and analysis in multiple forms using one-click access to email. 

The software also supports a number of functional enhancements, starting with new metrics about percentage totals by category or subcategory. The new “hotspotting” feature, which goes beyond normal trend analysis, allows users to see any significant change between the current analysis and a historical trend. For example, some words or phrases may have just started to be used, or a phrase that once occurred 10% of the time now appears 25% of the time. This guides users to look for a significant event that might have brought about the change. The final major functional enhancement allows users to use social media information to enhance their profiles of customers, tracking for example what other products a customer has (and maybe is complaining about). As well, more technical enhancements improve data security and system administration. 

In this major release, Attensity has recognized that different generations of people use new sets of words, phrases and acronyms, and that different industries have their own sets of terms. It has enhanced the application’s word-spotting capabilities to recognize text and social media slang and put it into the context of other content. Attensity also announced a banking industry version that recognizes many specific banking phrases and idioms. This version also includes additional multichannel analysis and enhanced workflow capabilities, which for example allow interactions to be delivered to the person best equipped to deal with them. 

All of these enhancements add up to a major advance in how Attensity Analyze can be used to derive insight from many forms of text-based data. It addresses key issues for users by making the software simpler to use and includes features that go beyond what spreadsheets can provide.  

Recently I wrote that it is time for companies to change the way they handle customer interactions. Gaining insight into what customers like or dislike using text analytics is a good place to start. Has your company recognized the benefits text analytics can deliver? Please come and tell us your thoughts. 

Regards 

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Attensity, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, 360-degree view of the Customer, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Text Analytics

InContact Enhances Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 8, 2011 11:50:32 AM

I have been writing quite a lot lately about the contact center in the cloud. Now it seems that more vendors are moving in this direction. One of them, inContact has evolved from a telecommunications carrier into a software vendor and now has a suite of products for a contact center in the cloud. It includes many of the necessary communications management capabilities (such as ACD, IVR, CTI and autodial) as well as key workforce optimization applications such as interaction recording, quality monitoring, workforce management and e-learning. Recently inContact announced three new features that add even more capabilities. 

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Customer Feedback Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, InContact, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, 360-degree view of the Customer, Agent Performance Management, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Desktop Analytics, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management, Workforce Performance Management (WPM)

Clarabridge Expands to Europe and Deepens Text Analytics

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 1, 2011 11:08:22 AM

In March U.S.-based text analytics vendor Clarabridge opened an office in the U.K. and recently celebrated it at the British Library in London. Sid Banerjee, the company’s founder and CEO, brought over key members of his team along with representatives of three U.S. clients. He explained that the new office would enable the company to support international clients better and allow expansion into European countries. The three clients then gave detailed presentations on how they use the Clarabridge product to understand their customers better and to use the insights gained to improve business performance.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Clarabridge, Business Analytics, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, 360-degree view of the Customer, Business Intelligence (BI), Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Desktop Analytics, Information Management (IM), Text Analytics