In the late 1990s, CRM systems were launched to help organizations become customer-centric, to manage customer relationships from end to end, through marketing to sales to customer service, and to provide a “360-degree view of the customer.” For a variety of reasons (overselling, lack of proper adoption, missing functionality), they never lived up to many companies’ expectations, and so CRM got a poor reputation. I recently wrote that customer experience management has undergone significant change in the last 18 months, taking over the role of helping organizations become customer-centric, and that CRM vendors have played a part in these changes. Some of the larger ones have, in my view, taken a backward step by breaking CRM into three components to support marketing, sales and customer service; this makes it harder to support the end-to-end customer life cycle.
During a recent briefing with NGData, I was initially put off by excessive “marketing speak.” The team began by describing its product, Lily Enterprise, as a “customer experience operating system.” Being used to having operating systems run entire computers, I wasn’t sure what this meant. This term was followed by a statement that NGData’s products help companies transition from being “B2C to C2B,” that is, to put the customer first, an idea that has been around for several years but in my experience few companies achieve. One of the biggest challenges in this regard is that most companies are organized into business groups, and each business group typically has its own processes, systems and metrics, a situation that makes it hard to have a single view of the customer and take actions based on the same customer view, and which lends itself to focusing on internal goals, not the customer. As an example, our research into next-generation customer engagement shows three key impediments to delivering exceptional customer experiences: systems that are not integrated (for 49% of organizations), communication channels managed as silos (47%) and customers receiving inconsistent responses at different touch points. The root cause of all these is data – customer data. Organizations have multiple systems that generate customer data, in multiple forms: for example, structured data in CRM and ERP systems, voice recordings, text data from multiple sources (letters, email, Web scripts, text messages, chat scripts and social media posts), video and event data such as a customer downloading a film. With so much data in so many formats, it is hard for companies to generate a single, “360 degree” view of the customer that can be shared across the whole organization.
Topics: Customer Analytics, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, Speech Analytics, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Text Analytics
Evaluagent is a U.K.-based company founded in 2012 that is carving out a niche in the workforce optimization market. Whereas most WFO vendors offer broad portfolios of products that focus on operational efficiency to reduce the cost of agents, Evaluagent’s narrower portfolio focuses on the people side of interaction handling, particularly agent engagement and satisfaction. The company’s founders had in-depth operational experience of contact centers, and they set out to improve the job experience for agents over what they had encountered, which included cramped working conditions, demanding performance targets, hard-to-use systems and, worst of all, customers often shouting down the phone at them.
Over the years, our benchmark research studies on contact center systems have shown that larger centers use dedicated contact center systems to support their operations nearly twice as often as centers that have fewer than 250 seats. Smaller centers typically lack budgets and technical skills to deploy and operate such systems. This situation is evident in the tools commonly used to support workforce management and analytics; smaller centers most often use spreadsheets. While spreadsheets have their place in limited ad hoc analysis for small groups, in an environment such as a contact center, they cause issues with regard to ingesting data from multiple sources and providing analysis in real time.
Ventana Research has published its Workforce Optimization 2016 Value Index. The Value Index provides a comprehensive evaluation of contact center workforce optimization vendors based on responses to our RFP-like questionnaire, which was constructed using insights gained from our recent benchmark research into workforce optimization and our knowledge of the market. In our definition workforce optimization systems include interaction recording, agent quality management, workforce management, agent compensation management, training and coaching, and interaction-handling analytics. The research shows that organizations have deployed many of these applications and by doing so have achieved efficiencies in handling interactions, improved outcomes of those interactions and improved both customer and employee satisfaction.
I recently wrote that companies are struggling to provide omnichannel customer experiences and digital customer service is now seen as a business differentiator. To address these issues, organizations need to change how they use people and processes, and deploy innovative technologies that can support new initiatives. To provide an enterprise-wide solution, contact center systems fall into four categories: communications, business applications, analytics and self-service. Our benchmark research into next-generation contact center systems in the cloud shows which types of systems companies have deployed, which they plan to deploy in the next 24 months and whether they prefer them to be on-premises or cloud-based.
In today’s intensely competitive markets, companies must strive to meet customer expectations during every interaction, and interactions occur through many channels. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement finds that customers use up to 17 channels of engagement. Some channels involve assisted service from employees of the company, and some use self-service technologies such as interactive voice response (IVR), websites, mobile apps and social media, also known as digital service. Although the use of self-service is increasing, the research finds that organizations still expect volumes of assisted interactions to grow, albeit more slowly. The research also shows that the employees customers interact with may work in almost any line of business, including marketing, sales, the contact center, finance and human resources. These challenges require organizations to focus on people, processes, information and technology to optimize the performance of the workforce.
In our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud more than two-thirds (69%) of organizations said they need to improve customer service, and market dynamics require them to do this is in new ways. Whereas today most (83%) compete on the services they offer, over the next two years 70 percent said they expect customer experience to be the top way they will compete, and nearly half (46%) said they expect to compete through self-service, digital channels. There is no doubt that consumers have changed the ways they prefer to communicate with each other and with companies. Mobile devices have become ubiquitous, and many consumers prefer to use chat-based technologies and mobile apps to engage. That is not to say that phone use is obsolete, as the research shows it and email are the most widely supported channels (each by 92% of companies), and while use of the corporate website (cited by 41%) is expected to show the greatest growth, more than one-fifth (22%) of participants said that the volume of inbound calls will show significant growth. Thus organizations must handle customer interactions across a variety of communication channels to maintain the business of all demographic groups.
NICE Systems was one of the first vendors I started to cover when I joined Ventana Research more than 11 years ago. Back then it was a pure-play vendor of workforce optimization (WFO) systems and was creating a portfolio of products by developing its own systems and acquiring niche vendors of call recording, quality management, workforce management, performance management and analytics. Over the years its portfolio has grown with new features, improved integration between the component parts, centralized administration and management capabilities, and a standard, modern user interface. The latest version of its core Workforce Optimization product was rated a Hot vendor in our 2015 WFO Value Index. It is still undergoing development, and a new version is being marketed as Adaptive WFO as it uses analytics to become more information-driven.
I have been involved in the contact center industry for more than 25 years and often see organizations that are slow in keeping up with consumers’ expectations; many of them seem reluctant to change, regardless of the need to do so. For example, agents of my cell phone operator ask the same four questions at the start of a call as they did 30 years ago; my bank supports several channels of communication, but it doesn’t provide the same information on all channels; and a well-known airline couldn’t tell me where my bag was for 36 hours (it was at the airport where I departed!). My list goes on, and I am sure you have your own.