ResponseTek is a software vendor whose platform and services help companies collect and act on feedback from their customers. It supports a closed-loop process that collects feedback, analyzes it, provides customizable reports and analysis dependent on the user, and most importantly enables taking action based on the information. This allows companies to understand product and service issues, customer sentiment, intentions, and likely behaviors, and where necessary ensures the most appropriate actions are taken.
Topics: Customer Analytics, Customer Experience Management, Customer Feedback Management, Speech Analytics, Analytics, Business Analytics, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Text Analytics, omnichannel, voice of the customer (VoC)
Calabrio is a vendor of workforce optimization software whose core product is Calabrio ONE. It includes the common workforce optimization applications: call recording, quality management, workforce management and analytics. The company is rated Hot in our 2015 Workforce Optimization Value Index, and its product suite is the highest rated in the Usability category. Since our assessment, each of the modules has undergone upgrades, Calabrio has introduced more cloud-based services, and its analytics has undergone extensive changes to support customer experience management. The aim of these enhancements is to provide a single view of the customer that includes customer interactions across all channels, help companies streamline processes through workflow and automation, support more users and provide more deployment options. The Calabrio ONE Cloud Edition supports the full suite in a multitenant environment and is scalable to support companies of all sizes. It also enables users to store data, such as call recordings, in cloud-based services such as Amazon Web Services. I have reviewed these enhancements and note the most significant changes.
Through a continuing program of acquisitions and internal development, NICE Systems has transitioned from being a vendor of workforce optimization systems to one focused on aspects of the customer experience, notably voice of the customer (VOC), customer engagement analytics and customer journey mapping. It is also moving to cloud-based services from products installed on customers’ premises and is taking a business-solution approach (providing previously integrated and configured products that address specific business issues) rather than general-purpose products. All of these changes are evident in its latest services, which link VOC, real-time journey mapping and predictive analytics to address common customer service and engagement issues. The foundation for these packages are products I have previously covered – Fizzback for multichannel customer surveying and feedback analysis and Causata for a big data analytics platform that includes predictive analytics capabilities – along with its own customer engagement analytics platform, which can link customer data from disparate sources. The result, for example, is that journey maps can show all interactions on all channels a customer uses to try to resolve issues, including the customer sentiment at each touch point and the outcome of the journey.
Contact centers in the cloud are increasingly popular alternatives to managing them on a company’s own premises. Running many business applications on hardware owned and managed by a third party is relatively straightforward and requires less support internally. Also the payment model changes from a license to a recurring fee, and typically the vendor provides updates as part of the fee. The challenge with placing a contact center in the cloud is that it is not a single system or even a collection of similar systems. The center includes infrastructure systems to manage communication channels, a network to support telephone extensions and access points to business applications, specialist systems such as routing and IVR, business applications (such as ERP, CRM and workforce management) and performance management and analytics systems; increasingly the contact center has to support mobile and social media as well. Moving all these to the cloud in an integrated manner is a complex task.
In recent years I have tracked Salesforce, its product development and its announcements. Despite having grown into a giant corporation, it continues to introduce innovations. At a recent analyst day in the U.K., I followed up on the company’s overall direction, some key product developments and a new service to help drive adoption of innovative customer-related processes. Salesforce’s primary aim is to help organizations market and sell to, service, engage with and know their customers through innovative processes and cloud-based systems. To support these efforts, it has made significant updates to its marketing, service community and analytics clouds. For example, it has added Marketing Cloud Predictive Decisions to its Marketing Cloud. The new module enables marketers to apply analytics to a range of customer-related data to gain a more complete picture of their customers and from it build more personalized marketing messages and campaigns. Business users can set up their own analytics, determine next best actions and deliver marketing messages and dialogues through multiple communication channels. Predictive Decisions helps transform marketing’s approach from general one-off marketing campaigns to one-to-one, personalized dialogues through channels that individuals prefer. On another front, the company has enhanced its Service Cloud with Service Cloud Intelligence Engine. This product also runs across multiple channels. It dynamically pushes work to the right employee, based on the skill set required to handle the task and the history of the request, and at the same time it distributes and manages the workload across employees who handle customer interactions. Analytics here provides an enhanced view of customers so that dialogues concerning a case can be viewed and preserved across all channels. In other developments Community Cloud has been enhanced to expand the range of expert groups to engage, deliver customer self-service as part of a community, and do this on smart mobile devices. Analytics Cloud now can ingest larger volumes and types of customer-related data, including interaction data. It enables both business users and analysts to use a wider range of data sources to find answers to specific questions, also on mobile devices. It also includes capabilities for developers to build specific analytic apps for targeted business uses. My colleague has assessed the product in Salesforce Analytics Cloud Delivers Wave of Elegant Dashboards. All of these developments and existing capabilities have been brought together on what Salesforce calls the Customer Success Platform. It is built on the company’s cloud infrastructure, and as well as its own cloud-based apps, it includes all the partner apps available on the Salesforce app store. A “scalable metadata platform” glues everything together. It includes data and objects, a mobile user interface, collaboration tools, analytics, workflow and identity management. Enhancements enable developers to build mobile apps for both customers and employees more easily. In the pipeline are capabilities to use wearable technology to collect and display data. Salesforce’s efforts to help companies “do business in a new way” reflect challenges that many companies encounter in trying to serve customers more effectively. Our research into next-generation customer engagement shows that the three most common challenges are integrating systems (49%), managing communication challenges in a unified way and not as silos (47%) and inconsistent responses and information in customer interactions (33%). My research and customer case studies lead me to conclude that changing processes is the biggest challenge. To meet this challenge Salesforce has introduced a consulting program called Ignite. This collaborative consulting service aims to help organizations design their customer management vision and execution roadmap. It is comprised of four steps: discovery, inspiration and design, prototyping and iteration and doing it. Discovery uses joint workshops and interviews with key stakeholders to introduce the program and its objectives, gain buy-in and discover the current state. Inspiration and design is another series of joint workshops to develop ideas and envision the desired state. Prototyping and iteration uses the new ideas to develop prototypes of how the new vision can be delivered. The “do” step presents and demonstrates the prototypes to stakeholders and develops a value statement and an implementation plan so the business can decide the way forward. Overall this seems to be a fairly typical consulting service that focuses on customer engagement and associated processes, systems and metrics, but it is deliberately collaborative and tailored around Salesforce applications and tools. The main innovation I see is that it is designed to uncover new ways of working that organizations may not have considered. Business, especially around customer engagement, is changing more rapidly than ever, and it is hard for organizations to keep up with technology developments and learn how to gain maximum benefit from them. Ignite should help Salesforce customers identify how they can improve customer management and introduce new approaches to keep ahead of the competition. The Salesforce Customer Success Platform is a comprehensive package of systems that focus on customer management processes, underpinned by improved integration, analytics and collaborative capabilities. Our research consistently finds that most companies are still relatively immature in the use of people, processes, information and systems for customer management. I therefore recommend companies seeking to survive and prosper in today’s highly competitive markets assess how the Salesforce products and service can help.
I recently wrote about six technologies that can help companies deliver experiences that live up to their customers’ expectations: an integrated multichannel infrastructure, analytics, a smart agent desktop, business applications such as workforce management and knowledge management, collaboration and mobile apps. They should be closely integrated to simplify system administration, to support processes that have been disconnected because they required multiple systems and to be easy to use. In my experience few vendors provide systems that meet all these goals so I was keen to learn about the latest version of the Genesys Customer Experience Platform which was the recipient of 2014 Ventana Research T Technology Innovation award for contact center in its works with IBM Watson Engagement Advisor.
Some new words can give the wrong impression. Take “gamification,” for example. It may sound as if employers are inviting their employees to play games just for fun, when actually this is a technique increasingly being used to recognize achievement and thus help improve performance. Several workforce management software vendors have introduced gamification systems that support setting targets, measuring achievement against those targets, rewarding players who meet their target and displaying winners who do best at meeting or exceeding their targets. This concept is not entirely new in contact centers, which long have used notice boards that recognize achievements such as “agent of the month,” which is also an award to the employee best meeting his or her targets. A new product called Verint Gamification supports similar capabilities but visualizes them in more engaging ways that link meeting personal goals with enterprise objectives.
Advertising and marketers tell us we now live in a “digital economy.” That implies the economy is based on and depends on digital technologies. It certainly is true that many consumers, especially younger ones, have changed the ways they interact with each other and businesses; they are now more likely to use digital channels of communication, particularly email, websites, text messaging, instant messaging and social media. In this digital world, where customers can search globally for products and services and change suppliers instantly, it is critical for companies to focus on the customer experience.
In 2013, Ventana Research carried out groundbreaking benchmark research into contact centers in the cloud. It revealed that customer pressures have forced companies to support an increasing variety of channels of interaction. This research investigated the systems companies were using then or were planning to use, particularly cloud computing, to manage these channels. The research uncovered three major challenges: integration of systems, channels of communication supported as silos and customers receiving inconsistent information across channels. We found that to overcome these challenges, companies most often were planning to improve agent training and coaching (73%), to deploy contact center applications such as CRM and workforce optimization in the cloud (63%) and to adopt communications management systems in the cloud (44%). Further benchmark research shows continuing changes. The number of channels customers use continues to grow, and in particular more customers prefer to use digital self-service channels such as chat, visual IVR, voice-activated virtual agents and social forums. On the business side more employees across the organization have become involved in handling interactions, including finance and HR departments, mobile customer service and home agents. As channels proliferate more companies have realized that they need a single, comprehensive view of their customers that includes a history of their interactions, the channels they used for those interactions and likely actions they might take as a result of the outcomes of those interactions.
In covering Verint for several years I have watched it go from selling call recording systems to adding workforce optimization software, analytics, and support for multiple channels of interaction with customers. Its latest product, Customer Engagement Optimization, increases support for customer engagement and managing the customer experience. Verint has achieved this expansion through a combination of acquisitions and in-house development. Its acquisition of Kana enabled it to go from supporting workforce optimization with some analytics to supporting multiple channels of customer engagement, workforce optimization and advanced analytics. I have written several times that this approach has its advantages – acquisitions shorten the time it takes to add new capabilities and extend the scope of the products – and disadvantages – it creates challenges in producing fully integrated products and developing a common user interface so the products are easier to use. During a recent briefing I saw that the company continues its efforts to advance in all these areas.