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April 5, 2013 in Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Operational Performance Management (OPM), Social Media | Tags: 360-degree view of the Customer, Astute, Call Center, Cloud Computing, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Customer Feedback Management, Customer Service, Interactive Intelligence, Mobile apps, Self-service, Social CRM, Social Media, Unified Communications, Voice of the Customer | by Richard Snow | Leave a comment
Like all analysts, I have a series of classifications to help group together vendors with similar capabilities. My challenge is to create categories that align with most users’ expectations so I don’t confuse readers when I define which category a vendor falls into. My “big five” are WFO or agent performance management (quality monitoring, workforce management, training and coaching, remuneration, and agent-related analytics); contact center infrastructure, including cloud-based systems (multichannel interaction management, routing, CTI, and rerecording); CRM (marketing, sales and customer service); customer experience management (agent desktop, self-service, customer feedback management, knowledge management); and contact center and customer analytics (transactional, speech, text, event, process, multichannel, predictive and big data). Occasionally a vendor comes along that defies these classifications. Astute Solutions is one such. It describes itself as providing “best-of-breed CRM Customer Service, Social CRM, Contact Center, IP Communications, Knowledge Management, Mobile, and Self-Service solutions specifically designed for enabling customer-centric business strategies” – quite a mouthful.
During a recently briefing I learned Astute provides a suite of integrated products that does indeed span all of my categories except WFO. Through a longstanding partnership with Interactive Intelligence it supports multichannel interaction management using Customer Interaction Center, a suite of products that manages interactions through multiple communication channels, and is available as a premises-based solution, or cloud-based, or a mix of the two. It provides the foundation for the other Astute products. ePowerCenter supports what most people would identify as customer service: case management, issue management and resolution, business process management, knowledge management and reporting. It also includes products that support other channels of customer engagement, including self-service. AutoResponse supports automating responses to emails, Liveperson supports live chat, FBChat support chat through Facebook, and SMS Chat supports chat through smart mobile devices.
Mobile CRM provides further support for engaging with customers through smart mobile devices. It allows employees to access CRN capabilities through a mobile app, and lets them view customer information, log and track issues, and create cases while out of the office. RealDialog Self-Service provides an intuitive way for customers to have questions answered through web-base self-service. It offers customers natural language-based interaction with a virtual agent to resolve issues without talking with a live agent.
The full suite of products includes three more products. Astute SRM supports social CRM (or customer service). It allows companies to monitor what customers say about them in social media, extract relevant posts, route them to the right location and person, and then engage with customers through their preferred channel of interaction. Astute Survey Analytics goes beyond analysis of completed surveys and allows companies to create surveys, deliver them through multiple channels, collect responses and analyze the results. Finally, Astute Insights allows companies to bring all this data together and produce reports and analysis of interactions, customer sentiment, trends for key metrics, and root causes of customer issues. These reports can be used to drive improvement programs for marketing, product development, website improvements and multichannel interaction-handling processes.
Astute’s wide-ranging set of capabilities supports most customer-facing activities. The majority, except notably CIC, have been developed by Astute and are tightly integrated, which in itself improves both the efficiency and effectiveness of customer-facing activities. With such a large range of capabilities, I cannot possibly do justice to them all, so I recommend organizations that are looking to improve assisted service, self-service or multi-channel customer engagement evaluate how Astute can support those initiatives.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director
March 18, 2013 in Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Social Media | Tags: 360-degree view of the Customer, Agent Performance Management, Call Center, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Customer Feedback Management, Customer Service, Desktop Analytics, IBM, Mobile apps, Self-service, Social CRM, Social Media, Speech Analytics, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Voice of the Customer, Workforce Force Optimization | by Richard Snow | Leave a comment
IBM recently announced its new Customer Experience Lab. During a briefing I learned that the lab is a response to what IBM discovered by interviewing more than a thousand CMOs, who are concerned about the explosion of data companies collect about their customers. This explosion is being driven by changing customer communication preferences and the way customers now interact with organizations, which I recently highlighted in my post about the 2.0 world. My research into the contact center in the cloud shows a similar trend; although traditional channels such as telephone calls and email are still the most popular, channels such as social media, instant messaging, text messaging and video are fast catching up.
IBM also saw that the world is changing and mobile and social not only impact the way customers interact with companies but also impact how organizations need to work internally; they must create more joined-up processes and systems and allow employees to collaborate more easily on tasks. The trend to source systems in the cloud has also changed internal IT operations and the way business users access systems and information. All these changes mean that companies need to look at new technologies that allow them to analyze big data more rapidly so users can be provided with up-to-date customer information, just as I said in my recent blog post about a new a generation of customer analytics and big data. The Ventana Research benchmark into business technology innovation also mirrors this trend and shows that analytics is seen as a high priority for companies, with collaboration, mobile, cloud and big data of equal, growing importance, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly social still at its infancy.
Against this background, IBM decided to launch its Customer Experience Lab, which is an undertaking that probably no other organization could make. It is bringing together more than 100 consultants and researchers from 12 of its existing labs to focus on the customer experience. The Customer Experience Lab will focus on three areas initially: customer insight, customer engagement and employee engagement. Customer insight will focus on how to create a single view of the customer using all the available sources of customer data, including structured, unstructured and event data. It will also look at how to use these insights to predict customer behavior so that companies can plan future activities. Customer engagement will focus on what I call proactively managing the customer experience at every touch point – that is, using these insights to personalize responses and put them into the context of the customer journey and desired business outcomes. Employee engagement will focus on empowering employees using tools such as collaboration, social and analytics so they deliver excellent experiences but also deliver targeted key performance metrics. All three of these tasks will work within the context of analytics, social, mobile, presence, location, machine learning and the cloud.
As you might expect, this is not an entirely philanthropic exercise, although IBM was quick to point out that its services would be “heavily subsidized.” The Customer Experience Lab will work with clients on a four-stage approach: discover, scope and solution, prototype and deliver. Discover will use existing IBM processes to workshop with clients what they are trying to achieve and prioritize future activities. Scope and solution will assess how a task can be achieved and build a business case and roadmap to the desired goal. Prototype will build a prototype, test the solution with early adopters and map out an implementation plan with costs. Deliver will create the solution, integrate it into any existing environment and test whether it delivers the expected results. All of these stages use a combination of resources in the lab, including hardware, software and IBM business consultants. This is not just a theoretical exercise; it is designed to deliver real-world solutions to meet real-world goals.
I applaud IBM’s efforts and was pleased to hear that the solutions might include third-party products. My research shows that customer experience management is an immature market, and there is a lot of confusion about what exactly it is. For a long time people have claimed that customer service is the only differentiator; I believe that in fact the customer experience is the true differentiator. Several consumer research reports I have seen show that bad experiences often lead to customers defecting, or posting less than positive comments on social media, and we have all heard stories about what effect that can have.
As I pointed out in my blog post about the 2.0 world, customers have changed, so companies must change to keep up. The early messages I heard about the Customer Experience Lab make me think it will help companies recognize how they need to innovate customer service and change the way they engage with customers. Eventually I hope its work will result in you and me finding it easier to engage with companies and achieve better outcomes.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director