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In my research of NICE Systems for several years I have remarked often that its biggest challenge is to integrate all the products that now make up its Customer Interaction Management suite. Through acquisitions, in-house development and partnerships, this suite has grown to include interaction recording, quality management, workforce management, incentive management, interaction analytics, performance management, real-time guidance, customer feedback management, mobile access and Web-based customer service. The company still offers each of these applications separately, but increasingly NICE bundles selected products into what it calls “solution suites” for uses such as workforce optimization. It also configures these suites to meet specific business needs such as voice of the customer and operational efficiency. These bundles require integration, common administration and management capabilities, as well as standardization of the user interface. My latest briefing by NICE executives showed the company moving in these directions but still having more to do to meet the expectations of a new generation of users. Successfully integrating applications to become business-related solutions is critical according to our benchmark research into next-generation workforce optimization, in which nearly half (48%) of participants said that integration is very important; analysis show that they want systems to be easier to use, to provide a better user experience, to be less error-prone and to connect processes such as customer feedback and workforce optimization. Version 6 of NICE Customer Interaction Management moves in this direction, with an integrated portal into performance management, workforce management and contact management, unified administration capabilities and enhancements to the user interface.

At the core of the suite are the applications most researchvr_NGWO2_06_use_of_agent_workforce_applications participants said are important for the next generation of workforce optimization. The three most often used remain call recording, quality management and workforce management, but we find that coaching is seen as the most likely area of investment (17% plan to invest in such systems in the next 12 to 24 months), and collaboration (currently used by 31% of participants), non-call data capture (29%) and compensation management (28%) all are becoming key systems, which NICE also includes in its interaction suite.

One area where NICE is focusing now is employee engagement. This is a subject much discussed by consultants and application vendors, based on the assumption that happy agents make happy customers. My benchmark research into the agent desktop and customer service lends weight to this impression by revealing that satisfied agents do deliver business benefits. The research shows that agents very satisfied in their jobs twice as often as satisfied agents improve the key customer-related metrics of customer satisfaction and net promoter scores, and first-contact-resolution rates; the main benefit is that customers receive a better experience. The research also shows the primary factors impacting agent satisfaction: having input on their work schedules, receiving assistance in resolving customer interactions, getting focused and timely training and coaching, working toward incentives that match individual performance and gaining insight into how well they are performing against their targets. NICE’s suite of integrated, broad-based products can address these needs, especially now that it includes gamification techniques to engage employees for better performance.

I’ve said before that I am not keen on the concept of gamification if it means that agents are playing games at work. Learning more about it, however, I admit that used in the right way gamification can enhance employee engagement. We all like being recognized (and rewarded), and the NICE gamification tools provide a fun way to encourage employees to do a good job and reward them when they do so. The basics are simple: Agree on targets (which could be meeting a performance metric, passing a training course or helping on a community project); attach a reward to meeting the targets (which could be cash, increased privileges in selecting work shifts or simply a gold star); show employees their progress toward the targets; and present the rewards for meeting them (whether in private or public recognition such as agent of the month). Behind the fun is a serious way of motivating employees to perform well.

NICE Systems has long been a leading vendor in workforce optimization. However, the means of handling customer interactions are vr_NGCE_Research_10_benefits_of_engagement_technologieschanging rapidly, with more channels of engagement and more employees across the enterprise getting involved. NICE advanced late in 2013 through acquisition of Causata to gain access to provide smarter customer interactions through real time customer engagement on the Internet. This advancement will help organizations fulfill on the benefits of customer engagement technologies as found in our research with the top two being improving customer services (62%) and increase customer satisfaction (46%). I am convinced that to match customer expectations companies need to be more connected: Achieving that includes better sharing of information, integrated systems, processes that cross business unit boundaries, and better metrics and analysis of performance. NICE is evolving with its market, developing systems and packaged solutions that support companies’ efforts to achieve these objectives. NICE is fulfilling on its milestones communicated in 2013 at their user conference that I already analyzed. I recommend that organizations undertaking such efforts evaluate what NICE has to offer.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Our recently released research into next-generation customer analytics shows that the most participants (52%) use spreadsheets as a customer analytics tool. I recently wrote that while these popular tools are adequate for some tasks, they are not suitable for analyzing large volumes and many types of customer data. So I think it is appropriate that one in four (26%) participants have adopted a dedicated customer analytics tool and a further 29 percent are planning to invest in such a tool in the next 24 months.

There are good reasons to use a capable tool for this critical areavr_Customer_Analytics_08_time_spent_in_customer_analytics of analytics. The research shows that the biggest issue for companies in producing customer analysis is data; users spend most of their time preparing (47%) or reviewing (43%) the data before they can perform any analysis. If companies don’t take action to correct this, the situation is only going to get worse. In my various research I have identified 23 sources of customer data; they include transactional data in business applications such as CRM, ERP and knowledge management, call recordings, text-based interaction data such as letters, forms, text messages, chat and Web scripts, event data such as agent desktop clicks as they try to resolve interactions, and social media posts. So not only do users have very large volumes of data to deal with, but the data comes in many different formats, several of which are unstructured. To produce as complete an analysis as possible, companies need systems that can handle almost all of these sources of data, that can automate the process of extracting the data from them, and that can standardize the data to ensure it is of the highest quality and all data relating to a single customer can be integrated. I believe that making the right product choice for customer analytics depends first on what and how much data it can process.

That said, the research reveals some other factors that impact the choice of customer analytics including real-time (21%), advanced vr_Customer_Analytics_06_most_important_customer_analytics(19%), statistics (14%), predictive (12%) and visual (10%) as first ranked priorities. Many customer-related tasks require information that is as up-to-date as possible; for example, a contact center agent needs to know what a customer attempted to do before calling the contact center so the response can be put in the context of previous interactions as well as the customer’s profile. Product evaluations thus should look for systems that not only process all forms of data but that can collect the data in real time or near real time and produce the analysis likewise. Another factor is that in dealing with customers, it is increasingly important to have predictive capabilities. To keep up organizations must move from relying on historical analysis to predicting likely future action; for example, an unusually high volume of complaints might lead to customer defections, and real-time capabilities could, for example, indicate when a negative post on social media is likely because of what the customer is saying during a phone call. I suspect that the majority of users who rely on spreadsheets do not have high expectations about the way the results are presented. But I believe that as engaging with customers becomes more complex, users will need information presented in more visual ways that help them quickly see areas that need addressing or present the data in more useful forms, such as showing the customer’s location on a map to help find the nearest service engineer to deal with an emergency.

Ventana Research tracks six technologies that are changing the vr_Customer_Analytics_07_new_technologies_for_customer_analyticsways users access and consume technology that our research finds important beyond analytics itself: big data (60%), cloud computing (44%), collaboration 62%), mobility (38%) and social media (35%). My research into next-generation customer engagement shows that companies expect analytics to have the greatest impact on the way they engage with customers in the future; more recognize that without a complete view of customers it is hard to develop a focused customer service strategy, enhance customer-related process, provide personalized responses to interactions or understand how their company is performing from the customer’s perspective. Each of the other five next-generation technologies is also having a direct impact on customer analytics. By whatever definition you use, customer data is “big” – it comes in large volumes and in multiple forms, has to be processed in real time and requires predictive capabilities. Increasingly more of it resides in the cloud and must be integrated with on-premises data, and many companies are looking to cloud-based services for customer analytics. Because many business units engage with customers they should share a single set of customer reports and analysis so that all actions and decisions are based on the same information. To do this, more companies are looking at collaborative capabilities that allow users to share customer information and work together on actions such as resolving customer issues. In addition many employees need access to customer data while away from their desks; nearly two-fifths (38%) of participants in the customer analytics research said that mobile access to their customer analytics systems is important. And finally, there is no doubt many consumers use social media, and more are doing so all the time; many of these users are also employees, and they want their work systems to be socially enabled. Add to this that companies need to understand what their customers are “saying” about them on social media, so at the very least a customer analytics system should be able to processes social media data feeds.

One of the latest buzz phrases is the Internet of things, which will serve the connected customer on more devices than ever. People now engage with companies increasingly electronically, often using smart mobile devices – they are more connected and can do things much faster than ever before, including look elsewhere if they are not satisfied with a company. Knowing your customers therefore has never been so important. Ventana Research recommends that you evaluate the options now available in customer analytics tools to help improve customer service and the outcomes of customer engagement.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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