Until recently, the contact center technology systems market was straightforward. Vendors typically provided on-premises systems that fell into four broad categories: telephony management, workforce optimization, business applications (most noticeably CRM) and analytics. The advent of more digital channels of engagement – the cloud, mobile devices, and artificial intelligence – has muddied the waters somewhat, making it harder to compare vendors. The cloud has had one of the most dramatic impacts; while some vendors still provide on-premises systems, more are providing services through a private or a public cloud or a hybrid model that combines on-premises and cloud-based systems; some providing services based on other vendors’ systems. More new vendors have entered the customer engagement market, and some established vendors have taken higher profiles in it.
One established vendor is Content Guru, a U.K.-based company that is part of the Redwood Technologies Group. Managing director Sean Taylor recently told me that the company was founded (in 2005) to take advantage of the emerging trend to provide communication technologies off premises, what we now know as the cloud. Today, the company is achieving considerable success providing a contact center as a service, which in this case means customer engagement services in the cloud using systems developed in-house. They are based on a product called storm, which the company calls “the world’s largest Communications Integration cloud platform.” Taylor explained that storm is an IoT platform that allows any internet-enabled device to send messages to and receive messages from any other such device. At the heart of the platform are several tools that support a variety of capabilities.
The product divides into three layers. The first provides what can be described broadly as interfaces that support multiple types of users and systems. For example, there are interfaces for contact center agents and supervisors, and others that allow users to set up services for customers, access management information, and administer and operate the software as well as interfaces with billing systems so organizations can produce invoices. The second includes tools that support integration with not just internet-enabled devices but any type of system, using standard tools included with the product or through custom development. The third layer includes tools to support integration with any communication device, including voice, instant messaging, email, Web chat, social media and corporate websites, plus other systems that Content Guru provides to support customer engagement. Two of the most notable of these systems are historical and real-time reporting and workforce optimization, which the company supports through a new partnership with Verint. Together these systems comprise a customer engagement hub through which customers and employees can engage with each other and access systems and data to resolve interactions.
A demonstration of the systems showed me that the ability to interconnect multiple, diverse systems open up an opportunity to support innovative, complex customer-related processes. For example, in what is now called the subscription economy, organizations can create services based on usage (of, say, electricity) and then collect usage information for billing purposes as customers use those services. In addition, organizations can provide proactive customer service such as a message notifying customers through their devices of choice of an outage or a potential fault in electrical goods, that they have reached a billing threshold, or about bundles of related services such as gas usage). To support these services, storm includes a capabilities to design customer-related processes, workflows or customer journeyscollectively called service flows. Point-and-click capabilities allow users to define how they want to engage with customers and choose which information sources and channels of engagement are used, including data from any system involved in the implementation. The system can collect data on how such service flows operate, providing users with a real-world map of how customer engagement is working and identifying areas for improvement.
In the future, Content Guru intends to link storm with systems from AI providers so these service flows become able to “learn.” As I remarked earlier, customer engagement has become increasingly complex. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement reveals this complexity creating challenges for organizations, chiefly difficulty in integrating systems, channels managed as silos and customers receiving inconsistent responses. Content Guru helps organizations address these challenges and goes further by supporting more innovative processes that can be achieved only by connecting and integrating all the systems used to support customer engagement. It offers case studies of customers who have done just that, which can help organizations visualize and implement such processes. It also in 2017 is expanding its operations into the United States. I recommend that any organization seeking to improve customer engagement and take its business to the next level assess how Content Guru can help those efforts.
VP & Research Director, Customer Engagement