I recently discussed how NICE continues to invest in its core products while creating a full customer experience platform, combining its core offerings with products newly acquired from inContact and Nexidia. During two recent briefings, I learned that these investments continue at quite a pace; the company announced a new product to address the ever-increasing number of channels of engagement, and another so that smaller centers with less sophisticated requirements can take advantage of a specialized workforce management product.
The first product is NICE Quality Central. Our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud confirms what we all know: organizations are supporting more channels of engagement. Specifically, our research shows that the average number of supported channels has reached almost eight. Thus, organizations need quality management processes to assess how employees handle these additional channels in much the same way they currently assess call handling. The product consists of a set of tools that enable the capture of calls, text chats and email messages. In addition, it can capture information about back-office tasks such as claims processing and compliance auditing and connect the quality management of these with interaction handling, which gives organizations a wider, more holistic view of how agents handle interactions. The product also supports creating and customizing quality assessment forms, workflows that function across all types of interactions and automated identification of coaching needs as well as the option for supervisors to give personalized feedback, and reporting across a variety of metrics.
NICE Quality Central, available for deployment on-premises or cloud-based, can run stand-alone or integrated with third-party recording systems or other NICE products; for example, it can use speech and text analytics tools to automate categorization of interactions and identify where action is required. These capabilities, along with the multiple deployment options and the ability to run independently, provide opportunities for more organizations to apply quality management and thus better understand customer-related activities.
Similarly the second product, NICE Evolve WFM, makes workforce management easier to use and more affordable for smaller organizations. It is a purely cloud-based system sold on a subscription basis and thus more affordable than on-premises systems. The product is easy to set up, manage and use, making it a better option than spreadsheets, which our research shows many organizations still use. Despite being designed for organizations with less sophisticated requirements, NICE Evolve WFM has a rich set of capabilities and new ones it recently These include:
- Integration with several of the most common channel management systems, allowing it to capture a range of types of interactions.
- Using this historical data to forecast the numbers of skilled agents or other employees across the organization required to handle likely volumes and patterns of interactions. The company has embedded in the forecasting tools advanced algorithms that allow organizations to create schedules based on rules.
- The ability to enter the profiles of employees likely to handle interactions across sites and business groups so that schedules can better match both business requirements and individual preferences.
- Tools to assess how well employees are adhering to schedules, including the ability to do such assessments quickly so that managers can make short-term adjustments to meet changing circumstances, a practice commonly known as intraday management.
- A portal so that managers and employees can manage aspects of the work day themselves, helping to improve employee engagement.
- Reporting and analysis capabilities so managers can monitor and assess interaction-handling performance and make changes where needed.
Added together, these tools comprise a rather sophisticated set of capabilities. Based on my research and conversations with contact center managers, I believe Evolve WFM could meet the needs of most centers.
Both of these products, and several others, were being demonstrated at the recent NICE Interactions17 event. Barak Eilam, the company CEO, kicked off a special analysts day and the main event with forward-looking presentations communicating the message that the coming together of NICE, inContact and Nexidia is going very well and there are several new developments in the pipeline that will continue to enhance the integration of the three company’s products. He also laid out how the combined product portfolios and services will enable organizations to reinvent customer service at a much faster pace than was previously possible. In a subsequent keynote, he and Paul Jarman, the CEO of inContact, broke the news that a major new development later this year, a ground-up new product, will combine capabilities from NICE, inContact and Nexidia. This will create under the inContact brand a single platform to manage assisted and digital channels of engagement, intelligent interaction routing, workforce optimization, a smart desktop, a wide range of analytics capabilities, and integration with business applications such as CRM. I have written before that I see such a platform as the absolute requirement to support enterprise-wide multichannel customer engagement, so I will be tracking this very closely.
Creating and managing a contact center has never been easy, simply because interaction types and volumes can be unpredictable and employees’ circumstances change. The need to support more channels of engagement and distribute interaction handling across sites and business groups has added to this complexity. Moreover, our research shows that business objectives have also changed; although centers are to a large degree still driven to keep operating costs down, we see emphasis shifting to the quality of the customer experience. For this shift to be successful, organizations must have the right number of multiply skilled employees who are capable of satisfying customer expectations. NICE has been a leading provider of workforce optimization systems and these, plus the other developments I wrote about in my previous perspective, demonstrate its intent to stay ahead of the game. I believe that interaction handling has grown too complex for organizations of any size to continue to manage it using spreadsheets. I therefore recommend that any organization looking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of interaction handling – and along with it, customer service – assess how products from NICE can help those efforts.
VP & Research Director, Customer Engagement