Our benchmark research into next-generation contact centers in the cloud confirms what many others are writing and talking about – that customer experience is now the business differentiator. This means that organizations need to get customer engagement right at every touch point, be it assisted by employees or digital. The same research shows that while organizations are supporting more channels of engagement, many are struggling to integrate systems and engagement channels; fewer than half of companies can offer omnichannel experiences. Making matters worse, many of their employees don’t have the full range of skills needed to handle all channels and types of interactions. To overcome these challenges, organizations need a systems architecture that integrates assisted and digital channels, workforce optimization and other business applications such as CRM and multidimensional analytics. Several vendors are working to provide such a suite, most focusing on in-system integration of channels, WFO and analytics, and integration with third-party CRM systems.
Ever since I became involved in the CRM and customer service markets, everyone – businesses, vendors, consultants and analysts – has been talking and writing about the “360-degree view of the customer”. Despite claims from several vendors, I haven’t seen any products that produce a full 360-degree view, and user organizations haven’t had the time or resources to develop the technology themselves. As our research into next-generation customer analytics shows, the main issue is data – organizations have far more of it than most realize. The research shows that organizations on average use eight data sources as input to analytics, but there are more than 20 potential sources of customer-related data and the situation is getting worse. Beyond the sheer volume of it, data now comes in several forms – structured, unstructured (such as call recordings and text), event data (for example, video that customers download) and process data.
In tracking Genesys for several years I have seen it grow through a series of product developments and acquisitions – from predominantly selling call routing and computer/telephony integration (CTI) software to providing a suite of products that manage inbound and outbound, assisted and digital channels of customer engagement. Continuing this expansion Genesys recently acquired Interactive Intelligence and Silver Lining. These new assets signal another round of transformation as the company builds support for what I call a customer experience hub – a combination of products to support all aspects of enterprise-wide customer engagement.
Topics: Mobile, Customer Analytics, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, Office of Finance, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Customer Service, Internet of Things, Contact Center, digital technology
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.
In tracking NICE for a decade I have seen the company grow, through a series of acquisitions and product developments, from a vendor largely of workforce management systems to one that offers a full suite of workforce optimization products. It is now advancing what I call a customer experience platform that builds on top of my last coverage of it advancing its efforts. This includes systems to manage assisted channels of engagement (primarily the telephone), digital channels of engagement, workforce optimization, advanced analytics and tight integration with business applications such as CRM. NICE is on the road to building such a platform using existing and newly developed products and those that it recently acquired from Nexidia and inContact. It will take time before a fully integrated platform is available, but the company has already taken steps toward this goal.
Until recently most organizations deployed systems on their own premises to build communications and contact center infrastructures, which often required them to integrate products from several vendors. In the past few years many vendors have moved their systems to the cloud, and others have begun as cloud-based suppliers. This trend has opened up the opportunity for more organizations to take advantage of modern communication systems and contact centers. Using the cloud for either, or both can save money and resources, reduce risk, and make available more integrated, multi-channel systems. While the adoption of such systems has undoubtedly increased and is likely to continue to do so, our benchmark research into next-generation contact centers in the cloud finds that many organizations still prefer to remain on premises, and adoption of cloud-based systems occurs on a case-by-case basis. In addition, many organizations look for vendors that support multiple models so they have the option of starting out using one model but transitioning later to another, including to a hybrid model in which some systems are on-premises and others are cloud-based..
Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Customer Analytics, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, Machine Learning, Wearable Computing, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Internet of Things, Contact Center, Digital Commerce
One of the first applications I learned about in the contact center market was customer relationship management (CRM). The core capabilities of a CRM system were to manage customer data, marketing campaigns, sales opportunities and service requests. Vendors also touted them as the source for a comprehensive “360 degree” view of the customer, which they could never actually deliver because they did not include customer financial data, interaction histories or customer sentiment in the form of feedback. In any case CRM applications became integral to contact centers as a source of information to answer customer queries, but in reality they did little to actually manage the customer relationship, which was a factor in why they gained a bad reputation. Over time, many vendors adopted a different approach and broke the CRM category into marketing, sales and service clouds, which although they include additional capabilities basically do the same thing, with one big drawback – customer data is managed in three different systems, reducing the availability of a single source of customer data even further.
In 2016 Ventana Research saw a significant shift in the customer engagement and contact center software markets. Our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud shows that for 70 percent of companies, customer experience is and will be an important way of competing; the largest growth in ways of competing is to introduce digital self-service, which will increase by 12 percent. To support those changes, organizations have introduced more channels of engagement, to the extent that our research shows the average has grown to eight channels. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that in nearly half (47%) of organizations these channels are managed as silos, which indicates that most organizations still operate multiple channels rather than supporting omnichannel engagement. The next-generation contact center research confirms that customer engagement is an enterprise-wide issue but one-third (33%) of companies struggle to provide consistent responses across touch points.
NICE is a longstanding provider of contact center systems. At the beginning of 2016 NICE acquired Nexidia, a provider of customer analytics, which raised questions about the future of the acquired company, its products and its customers. During a recent briefing SVP of product management Larry Skowronek discussed these issues. Nexidia now trades as “a NICE analytics company,” which is unusual because previous NICE acquisitions have been absorbed into the overall company and the brand effectively lost. This arrangement, Skowronek said, gives the company the benefit of retaining the Nexidia brand while taking advantage of the scale, financial strength and market presence of NICE. Several of Nexidia’s longstanding customers have remained customers and are benefiting from new developments and access to the wider NICE portfolio. The company also has a series of new wins, both as a result of direct efforts by its own staff and joint actions with NICE.
Over the last few years the telecommunications and call center industries have undergone radical changes. Telecommunications was mainly in the hands of national and regional telecom companies, which essentially owned all the cables in the ground. The call center market was dominated by a small number of vendors that provided on-premises systems to manage and route calls when they arrived at a company’s offices. The telecom model was in effect the first cloud-based service, though almost no one stopped to think about how a call made on one device arrived at another. The arrival of the internet and wireless technologies and the telecom companies’ willingness to lease capacity on their lines changed both models. Now almost any company can provide communication services, and the majority of contact center systems are cloud-based. In this evolution some organizations that previously were hidden behind the telecoms have emerged as suppliers of communications and contact center services.
Topics: Customer Analytics, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, Speech Analytics, Employee Engagement, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Text Analytics