NICE systems is an established vendor in the market for agent performance management (APM) systems, and it recently took the top ranking in the Ventana Research APM Value Index awards [http://www.ventanaresearch.com/resources/resources.aspx?id=3786]. Workforce optimization software includes call recording, quality monitoring, workforce management and training; to this APM adds call routing, coaching, compensation management and agent-focused analytics. The need for these additional capabilities was validated in our benchmark research on agent performance management. I recently wrote an update on NICE Systems’ efforts and direction for 2010 in which I noted that NICE has been expanding its analytics to support better cross-channel customer interactions for agents.
The functional components of APM help close the loop for agents interacting with customers. Calls are routed to the most-qualified available agent where recording and monitoring can occur. Coaching is bought more into line with training and becomes a more formal process. Compensation and incentives rewards agents based on agreed performance indicators, and analytics provides reports, dashboards and analysis so everyone involved can see how an agent is performing. In combination they help ensure that calls are handled by the most skilled available agent, and the result for the customer can be a satisfying experience. NICE Systems thus has one of the most comprehensive set of products to enhance and monitor agent performance, but until recently its functionality didn’t extend to customer experience management. As shown in our benchmark research, CEM focuses on making things happen in real time so the agent can deliver the best possible experience for the customer while they are on the phone and produce the business outcome the company seeks. To achieve these goals, companies need all agents to follow the best practices of the most effective agents, but enforcing that cannot simply be left to coaching or training. The answer is to deploy a “smart desktop” that not only makes it easy for agents to navigate through different applications efficiently but also guides agents to apply the best ways to handle calls, by prompting them on the best action to take next, what information to ask for and what data to capture. The rules driving these processes can be created through analysis of how agents handle the various types of calls that identifies which agents achieve the best outcomes, and then built in to ensure all agents follow those best practices.
Until recently most vendors offered smart desktop technology independently of other customer interaction technologies, although Altitude’s smart desktop is integrated with its communication management technologies. NICE Systems has announced its acquisition of eglue Business Technologies and thus becomes the first vendor to integrate APM with a smart desktop.The eglue product uses the technique of popping up small windows (called bubbles) on the screen to advise the agent what to do next. It comes with tools to create extractors that can push and pull data from different applications and a rules-based engine that determines what bubble is to be popped and when. The bubbles can remind the agent what question to ask next, what information to capture, what sales offer to make, what regulatory statement to read and other instructions. Bubbles can be linked to the context of all information known about the customer, the context of the current call or the agent’s skill level, or set to reflect other business priorities.
The eglue desktop will become an integral part of NICE’s SmartCenter product and will enable it to capture data from more systems, provide an extended range of analytics and offer real-time guidance at the desktop, as well as support quality management and performance management. The combination also will enhance capabilities for managing related business activities such as compliance, operational efficiency, and sales and marketing effectiveness. Closing the loop on handling customer calls also opens up the opportunity to allow back-office employees to carry out customer-facing activities while ensuring that they follow best practices.
In my view the key to success will be how well NICE Systems integrates the two product lines. To date it has created its portfolio largely through acquisition and thus has experience in doing this, although every acquisition creates its own issues, in terms of integrating the teams as well as the technologies. I understand that the two companies have some customers in common, with whom they have already worked on integration. Assuming this process is successful, I advise companies to examine this extended portfolio as they seek to meet increasing demands to improve their customers’ experiences.
Richard Snow – VP & Global Research Director