Aspect is a well-established global provider of contact center systems. Its portfolio of products includes applications for contact centers, self-service, workforce optimization and analytics. In May the company announced it has gained clearance for restructuring its debt, which means it is in a better financial position  to invest in its products and global ecosystem of partners, to the benefit of its customers and new prospects. In a recent briefing Aspect’s SVP and general manager of workforce optimization, Mike Burke, asserted that the restructuring will benefit its customers and cited healthy numbers around its pipeline, sales and revenue, including significant recurring revenue from sales of cloud-based products.

One of its flagship products is Aspect EQ, a suite of workforce optimization products that consists of three layers:

  1. An open systems layer includes components that support a universal ADD interface, Web services and multiple APIs, which facilitate integration with third-party products.
  2. An integration and administration layer includes components that support a common HTML5 user interface, multiple dashboards, a workflow engine that runs across the other components, a common data store, administration tools and support for Web, mobile and IVR systems. This technology makes the software easy to administer and use, while centralizing essential capabilities such as data management and workflow.
  3. A top layer includes standard workforce optimization applications such as call recording, quality management, workforce management, e-learning, coaching and performance management plus a number of products not typically associated with workforce optimization, such as surveys, analytics (including desktop and speech), and support for managing back-office employees involved in customer-related tasks.

To support Aspect EQ the company offers a set of professional services to bundle the products to suit individual organizations’ requirements and deploy them quickly.

Mike Burke articulated Aspect’s product strategy, which is  based on six principles:

  • enabling additional integration of all workforce optimization components, including a common user interface and administration capabilities
  • keeping the product up-to-date technically and functionally
  • supporting all cloud models: private, public and hybrid
  • enhancing agent engagement by adding capabilities such as gamification, mobile access to key features and reporting
  • supporting management of employee-related tasks associated with handling multiple engagement channels in both in the front and back offices
  • providing advanced analytics including predictive and prescriptive analytics and real-time advice through analytics-driven actions.

The 8.2 release of Aspect EQ includes advances in each of these areas. In particular, there are functional improvements to quality management, speech analytics, workforce management and performance management. There is also a new desktop analytics product, Aspect EQ Activity Insight, which captures desktop usage and produces various analysis of actions such as idle time, time spent on various tasks, compliance with regulations, process issues, and redundant and erroneous data entry; such analyses can be used to improve interaction handling processes and agent performance. A complementary application, Aspect EQ Activity Automation is a “smart desktop” system that enables single sign-on and automates data entry across applications, looking up of customer information and completion of forms. In total the suite offers a comprehensive suite of workforce optimization capabilities.

Combined with the other applications, enhanced workforce optimization can help produce superior customer experiences. In addition, Aspect recently announced Aspect Via, which will be on general release as of October 2016. It brings together the underlying platform of services, workforce optimization, communication channel management – assisted and self-service – and analytics to enable organizations to manage all aspects of the customer experience. It has a common, customizable user interface and both real-time and historical reporting that utilizes data from all applications. It is designed and available only in the cloud, but even so, the platform services provide capabilities to integrate with third-party data sources and applications.

I believe that Aspect Via is a key development for the company. Customer experience and the need to provide omnichannel customervr_ngce_15_supporting_multiple_channels engagement are on many companies’ agendas, but in our benchmark research into next-generation contact center in the cloud fewer than half (48%) of companies said they provide such experiences. Our research into next-generation customer engagement identifies five key challenges organizations face as they try to move from multichannel to omnichannel customer engagement: integrating systems (cited by 49%), channels managed as silos (47%), inconsistent response (33%), high cost of implementation (30%) and the need for skilled resources (29%). To overcome these challenges, organizations need complete views of interaction handling; effective employee training, coaching and support; integrated channels of engagement; and integration with applications agents need to resolve interactions. Furthermore, these systems must be connected so data can flow between systems and processes, for example, using analysis of customer feedback in agent training and coaching. Aspect Via is one of the few suites that connect all these component parts, so I recommend that organizations looking to improve agent and customer experiences assess how it can help those efforts and keep track of how it develops, as I will be doing.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director, Customer

Follow Me on Twitter and Connect with me on LinkedIn

Ventana Research has published its Workforce Optimization 2016 Value Index. The Value Index provides a comprehensive evaluation ofvr_wfo_vi_2016 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.

Managing the tasks associated with handling customer interactions has become more challenging. Organizations now handle large volumes of interactions through more channels of engagement; our benchmark research into contact centers in the cloud finds that the average number of channels supported by organizations has risen to eight. At the same time the interactions themselves have become more complex, and customer expectations of how well interactions are handled have risen. In addition, more employees throughout the organization – in all business units except IT – now handle interactions.

Workforce optimization technology is increasingly widely deployed. The types of systems in widest use are call recording (by 70% of organizations), quality monitoring (64%) and e-learning (44%); the systems most often planned to be deployed in the next two years are e-learning (36%), workforce management (32%) and coaching (30%). This contact center in the cloud research shows that companies now see analytics as a key tool for improving interaction handling and employee and customer satisfaction. To support decisions about interactions they seek comprehensive views of customers and use more customer-related metrics. They also attempt to link employee performance and customer satisfaction, track employee performance using operational metrics and develop customer journey maps showing the transition from one channel to another and from one employee to another. Vendors of workforce optimization systems and tools are under pressure to support all these capabilities.

The research shows that companies of all sizes increasingly are open to using cloud-based systems and that this trend is likely to accelerate as more small and midsize businesses choose to deploy workforce optimization technology. This trend is especially true for advanced analytics systems; more companies intend to deploy speech, text and event analytics in the cloud than on-premises. Mobility also is having an impact in supporting managers and team leaders working away from their desks, such as when walking a contact center floor to provide real-time coaching, and in supporting home-based agents. Advanced workforce optimization systems therefore need to provide access to key capabilities through smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. We connect these preferences to another research finding, that usability is a key factor for organizations evaluating software for workforce optimization. In this regard, organizations want a user interface that matches the expectations of modern users – for example, by providing visualization and point-and-click capabilities.

The research also shows the growing importance of systems integration; almost half of organizations said that integration between workforce optimization applications is important. Such integration has a dual impact, making it easier to manage all applications “as one” as well as to share data between systems to automate what have been disconnected manual processes – for example, to connect analytics that identify needed training and workforce management to automatically schedule that training.

Using these and other insights and responses to the detailed questions enabled us to construct the 2016 Workforce Optimization Value Index questionnaire, in which we divided the questions into seven categories: adaptability, capability, usability, manageability, reliability, vendor validation and support for developing TCO-ROI. We invited 13 vendors to complete this based on the products they had in general release as of March 2016. Six decided not to respond due tovr_wfo_vi_2016_weighted_overall resource issues or because the company had been acquired, putting the future of its products into question. Thus the 2016 Workforce Optimization Value Index report includes seven vendors: Calabrio, dvsAnalytics, Envision, NICE, OnviSource, TelStrat and Verint. The findings of our analyses demonstrate the maturity of this market. All seven companies received our Hot rating, and first and last places are separated by fewer than five percentage points. The analysis shows that currently Verint is the top supplier, followed by NICE in second place. This mirrors our 2015 Value Index in which Verint ranked first and NICE third; since then NICE has acquired the 2015 second-place finisher, VPI.

Both Verint and NICE are well-established global vendors of workforce optimization systems and provide tools for capturing multiple forms of interaction, agent quality management, workforce management, agent compensation management, coaching, training, performance management and analytics. Each of the two built its suite through a combination of in-house development and acquisition, and each has invested to improve integration between the products, build a modern user interface for all modules, and centralize setup, administration and management of them. Each also has invested in providing cloud-based versions of the existing products.

The other five vendors – Envision, OnviSource, Calabrio, dvsAnalytics and TelStrat, in order of rank – are smaller companies that focus predominantly on the U.S. market, although all are expanding to international markets. Their systems were developed largely in-house and thus have the advantages of being tightly integrated, having a common user interface and being managed centrally. Each of these vendors also has developed cloud-based services based on its products.

We urge organizations to do a thorough job of evaluating workforce optimization systems and dig deeper than just the overall rankings as individual company requirements will differ and each will have its own priorities. We offer this Value Index as both the results of our in-depth analysis of these vendors and as an evaluation methodology. The Value Index can be used to evaluate existing suppliers and also provides evaluation criteria for new projects. Applying it this way can shorten the RFP cycle time and enable your organization to optimize its contact center workforce optimization efforts. To learn more and receive a complimentary copy of the report, please visit http://www.ventanaresearch.com/WFOValueIndex/.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director, Customer

Follow Me on Twitter  and Connect with me on LinkedIn

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