Richard Snow's Analyst Perspectives

NICE Systems Ventures into the Agent Back Office

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:26:52 PM

Most people involved with contact centers know of NICE Systems and its SmartCenter suite of workforce optimization products that support key contact center management capabilities such as call recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, customer feedback management and a variety of performance management and analytics tools. NICE recently received the top ranked Hot Vendor rating in the Ventana Research 2010 Value Index for Agent Performance Management.

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Topics: Customer Experience, NICE Systems, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Customer Relationship Management, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

inContact Provides Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:25:30 PM

All the buzz in the contact center market these days is about the “contact center in the cloud.” I have written on the subject, in particular “Is a Contact Center in the Cloud a Reality?” and “Will Cloud Computing Finally Bring Innovation to the Contact Center?”. In considering this issue my thinking focuses on what goes into a contact center and then what vendors offer these systems in the cloud. At the risk of oversimplifying things, I believe a contact center has two core components – communications management and agent and process management.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Customer Relationship Management, InContact, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

LiveOps Enhances Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:23:48 PM

I have written a couple of pieces this year about the exciting news that a few vendors are now able to provide companies with a call center they can access in the Internet cloud – Will Cloud Computing Finally Bring Innovation to the Contact Center? and Is a “Contact Center in the Cloud” a Reality? There is currently a lot of hype around any kind of cloud-based computing, and the same is true of the contact center. From my perspective, people should be clear about what this phrase really means. Anyone that has been involved in building an on-premises contact center knows it typically involves integrating complex call-management systems (such as PBX, ACD and IVR) and several computer systems including call routing, call recording, workforce management, CRM, agent quality monitoring and performance management, reporting and analytics. The idea is that calls or other types of interactions are delivered to the company’s call center location and then the combination of these technologies determines the best agent to handle the interaction and delivers it to that person. The contact center in the cloud shifts some or all of these systems to a third party, and the company accesses them over the Internet. The difference is that instead of going to the company’s location, an interaction is directly delivered to the best person to handle it, regardless of whether that person is in another location, in a contact center, in another line of business, working at home or even out of the office using a mobile phone. In addition, users are in control in the sense that rather than depending on in-house IT, they can access the service from anywhere with an Internet connection and get new features and functions without waiting for IT to upgrade.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Customer Relationship Management, LiveOps, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

Enkata Advances Contact Center Analytics to Improve Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:22:33 PM

Among the important findings of our latest benchmark research on contact center analytics were these two: 88 percent of companies said they can use analytics to improve the performance of the contact center (41% said they could make significant improvement), and the main issue holding them back from doing that is an excessive reliance on spreadsheets (90% indicated they use spreadsheets on a regular or universal basis).

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Topics: Customer Experience, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Customer Relationship Management, Enkata, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

Aurix Powers New Generation of Speech Analytics

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:21:11 PM

Aurix is not a widely recognized vendor in the speech analytics market even though its technology powers products provided by companies such as CallCopyKnoahSoftNewVoiceMedia and OnviSource. In fact its strategy is to provide the engine that these and other partners use in market-facing speech analytics solutions. Its main product, Aurix speech search SDK, is a search engine that searches through call recordings to find specified words, terms and phrases. It uses advanced phonetic search technology rather than the more common technique of large-vocabulary continuous speech recognition (LVCSR) and thus allows users to avoid setting up a library of the words they want to search for. This approach makes it easier to work with different languages and to pick out slang, jargon, product and place names, and other words not normally found in a dictionary.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Customer Relationship Management, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center Analytics, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Voice Analytics

Think Outside the Box when Investing in Salesforce Chatter

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:19:28 PM

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog discussing salesforce.com (SFDC) Chatter and the buzz the technology is making in which one of my biggest questions was how a non-SFDC customer could justify purchasing Chatter. Well I finally got to speak with someone who has paid at least partially for Chatter. I say partially because this particular customer already has several hundred licenses with SFDC (which entitle them to use Chatter for free) but has paid for several hundred other users to also have access.

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Topics: Sales, Social Media, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Social CRM, Customer Relationship Management, CIO, Collaboration, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

Merced Systems’ European Event Showcases Best Practices and Customer Insights

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:18:18 PM

Merced Systems provides software to support performance management in both sales and service. Its products extract data from various systems to produce business-related reports, dashboards, scorecards and analysis that help companies improve performance in these two key functions. To further its efforts, Merced recently invited around 100 partners, customers and prospects to its 360 Degree Performance Management Forum in London. As well as the usual presentations and demonstrations to convey its messages, successes and strategy, the customer presentations provided practical insights into how companies use these products to gain real business benefits. Since my colleague covered Merced’s U.S. event in depth on applications and technology, I will assess one of the customer presentations in more depth.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Merced Systems, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Analytics, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

Teradata Advances Personalized Marketing Using Analytics

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:16:52 PM

Most people would describe Teradata as a data warehouse and analytics vendor as my colleague has reviewed its core technology. In addition to that, through its own development and by partnering, the company has branched out into the applications market. One such application is Teradata Relationship Manager (TRM) main purpose is to personalize customer interactions, regardless of channel or type of interaction, although its target area is predominantly marketing.

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Topics: Marketing, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Business Analytics, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

Cicero Has Smart Agent Desktop for Contact Centers

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:15:36 PM

My research over seven years persistently shows that the two main business objectives in a contact center are to reduce average call-handling time (AHT) and improve customer satisfaction. It doesn't seem unreasonable to ask why after all this time most companies haven't come up with solutions to these challenges. To find the answer, I think you have to look at the causes. I believe the big two are that "not all agents are equal" - some are more successful at handling calls than others - and that the combination of tools most of them are given - their agent desktop - to support their efforts is a mess.

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Topics: Operational Performance Management (OPM), Analytics, Contact Center, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

SAS Supports Marketing through Customer Intelligence

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:13:58 PM

SAS is a presence in analytics of virtually every kind and my colleague the broader value of SAS earlier this year. Only a couple of months back I wrote briefly about one of its newest offerings, Social Media Analytics. Since then I have had a chance to see this product in action. While the current version isn’t what I would describe as on the leading edge, it provides capabilities companies need right now. In simple terms it lets companies farm data from multiple social media sites (using extensions of its well-proven data extractors), processes these through a version of its core BI applications and then presents what consumers are saying about a company in ways that are easy to use and understand. Users can see customer sentiments about various topics such as company brand, products or services and get a view of trends and likely causes of changes of sentiment. Now that many consumers and customers are expressing their views through social media, this kind of information becomes vital to plotting future activities and helping to make smart decisions.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Customer Intelligence, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

The Buzz Is about Salesforce.com Chatter

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:12:13 PM

On Wednesday, September 9, 2010 the massive marketing machine called salesforce.com rolled into London to stage its 2010 Cloudforce event at the Royal Festival Hall. The clout of CEO Mark Benioff and his team in the IT industry was evident in the fact that at short notice they could postpone the event by a day and still get about 3,000 attendees, stage a massive partner show and put on a keynote speech and side events that kept the attendees busy and informed about latest developments with salesforce.com and its customers and partners. But through it all one thing stood out – Chatter.

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Topics: Social Media, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Business Collaboration, Customer Service, Business Performance Management (BPM), CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM)

Contact Center Analytics Help Reduce Average Call-Handling Time

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:10:05 PM

My research continues to show that the most important key performance indicator (KPI) for call centers is average call-handling time (AHT). Furthermore, second in importance only to improving customer satisfaction is the challenge of reducing operating costs, which invariably involves trying to reduce AHT, which contact centers need to do without negatively impacting customer satisfaction. An indicator of the complexity of this issue is its persistence as one of the longest-running and most active debates on LinkedIn.

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Topics: Operational Performance Management (OPM), Analytics, Business Analytics, Call Center, Contact Center, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

KnoahSoft Harmonizes Agent Performance Management

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:08:45 PM

Over the last decade in my research into contact center operations has revolved around the four operational challenges faced by center managers: to reduce average call-handling time, increase agent utilization, increase customer satisfaction and one recently gaining in importance, to increase first-contact-resolution rates. The first two clearly relate to the core issue of reducing operational costs; the latter two focus on customer retention. At the center of meeting all these challenges are the contact center agents. Those of us who follow relevant LinkedIn discussions see that many experts and center managers agree on his point, but most also point out that even skilled agents need technology to help them.

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Topics: Human Capital Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), KnoahSoft, Call Center, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

Clarabridge’s Text Analytics Improve Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:06:48 PM

I have been doing research into customer relationship management (CRM), contact centers and analytics for seven years. Throughout that time some customer-related themes have remained constant: Companies say their top driver is to improve customer satisfaction; customer experience management (CEM) has overtaken CRM as a top priority; and companies still search for a 360-degree view of the customer (which now is often called “the voice of the customer”). For many companies these themes remain problematic. Most don’t really know how satisfied their customers are; many are not sure exactly what CEM is; and that 360-degree view of the customer remains elusive.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Clarabridge, Information Management, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Information Management (IM), Text Analytics

Vitria Adds Operational Intelligence to Customer Experience Management

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:05:05 PM

In my writing and speaking, I try to avoid “market babble,” which numbs ordinary readers with technology buzzwords and three-letter acronyms. Lately I have been accused of overusing the phrase “interaction-handling processes,” which some people have taken as an instance of market-speak. So I’ll explain what I mean by it. It has to do with contact center agents – or customer service representatives, if you prefer – trying to resolve customers’ issues. When handling a call, for example, this includes how they identify the caller, how they identify the caller’s issue, the systems they use to resolve the issue, how they close the call, and what they need to do afterward. It used to be common for companies to provide agents with a script to guide them through this process, but now these inflexible routines are being replaced with more advanced automated systems. These systems guide the agent through interactions of different types – general inquiries, complaints, sales and support, say – and allow them to personalize responses based on the caller’s profile. It is generally true that the more an agent can adapt the process to personalize the responses, the better the customer experience will turn out.

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Topics: Operational Performance Management (OPM), Vitria, Complex Event Processing, Operational Intelligence

Agent Performance Management Is Important to the Customer Experience

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:02:41 PM

My research into Customer Experience Management shows that four of the top five factors that influence a customer’s experience in dealing with a contact center relate to agents: their attitudes, understanding of the customer’s issue, ability to resolve issues the first time and general knowledge (third on the list was average queue times). The research also shows that the largest volumes of actionable interactions are still phone calls to a contact center; social media interactions perhaps generate more in pure numbers, but many of these are complaints about the way consumers are treated during other forms of interaction. In any case, there is no doubt that agent performance has a fundamental impact on the customer experience.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Analytics, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

Knowlagent Increases Agent Effectiveness

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 1:00:56 PM

My benchmark research into agent performance management (APM) found that the number-one objective of companies trying to improve the handling of customer interactions was to utilize agents more effectively; this also was their top objective in creating agents’ work schedules. In the latter case, the research uncovered a primary reason for difficulties in achieving this objective: Only 36 percent of companies use a dedicated tool to create these schedules; the majority do it manually or with spreadsheets.

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Topics: Operational Performance Management (OPM), Knowlagent, Analytics, Call Center, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

CallCopy Emerges as a Player in Agent Performance Management

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 12:54:28 PM

Last year I carried out research to discover how companies manage their workforces in handling customer interactions; I investigated their best practices, technologies being used and priorities for the future. The findings led me to define agent performance management (APM) as an extension of what other observers call workforce optimization; APM includes call routing, call recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, training and coaching, agent compensation management and agent-focused analytics. The results showed that many companies want to expand their call-recording capabilities to include all calls, that optimizing the utilization of agents is high on their agenda and that they want to take advantage of new technologies such as analytics for the agent’s desktop, speech and text to get a fuller picture of agent performance.

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Topics: Operational Performance Management (OPM), Call Copy, Analytics, Call Center, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

Infor Launches Innovative E-mail Management

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 12:53:01 PM

On August 2, Infor launched its next generation of products for customer relationship management (CRM), which are built on its Interaction Advisor that in May I called “its CEM surprise.” At the time it was clear that Interaction Advisor was a platform on which Infor could build a series of innovative products. I didn’t expect the first of them to be just around the corner.

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Topics: Marketing Automation, Operational Performance Management (OPM), CRM, Infor, Sales Performance Management (SPM)

Will Cloud Computing Finally Bring Innovation to the Contact Center?

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 12:51:29 PM

I have been associated with the contact center industry for more than 20 years, first as a systems integrator building centers and more recently covering it as an analyst with Ventana Research. From this experience I have distilled three major observations: that centers are dominated by technology, that they change very slowly and that performance is largely judged by the average handling time (AHT) of calls. The main challenges have not changed much over the years: Centers constantly have to balance improving customer satisfaction with reducing AHT; this remains true even though many companies are realizing that first-contact resolution (FCR) is a much better indicator of performance.

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Topics: Operational Performance Management (OPM), Cloud Computing, Contact Center, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

SAS Helps Companies Make Sense of Social Media Comments

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 12:49:57 PM

I often read and hear today that social media is the new channel for marketing and customer service channel and also that companies must improve customer satisfaction to survive (I agree with the second proposition). Several observers have put the two ideas together and concluded that in the future all marketing and customer service will happen through social media – that I don’t agree with. My research shows that most customer interactions occur through a contact center or on a customer self-service portal, and I see no evidence that this will change, at least not for several years. However, it is true that many companies have created presences on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook – Ventana Research was one of the first research companies to do this. Many companies blog to promote their views and make announcements, and many use YouTube to show customers and prospects informational, marketing and training videos, but only a few have used social media as a customer forum to gather feedback and opinions. Of more significance is consumers’ use all of these sites to stay in touch with friends, find information – and complain about poor customer service. So we have a situation where both companies and consumers are experimenting with social media, but no one is sure how this new channel will affect business in the long run.

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Topics: Social Media, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

IBM Innovates in Call-Routing for Agent Performance

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 10:34:47 AM

One often-cited approach to improving the performance of contact centers and customer service agents is skills-based routing. This involves tagging data about the skills of individual agents – for example, languages spoken, training courses passed or the ability to handle well a particular type of call – and using a call-routing system to deliver calls to an extension where an agent with the requisite skills has signed in and is available. Identifying the required skills typically is done by an interactive voice response (IVR) system or perhaps through the number dialed by the caller; in the latter case, a high-value customer might call a special number and identify the issue by selecting among options in an IVR system. Either way, matching customers and their requirements with agents skilled in dealing with them is thought to increase the chance that the customer’s issue will be resolved efficiently in the first attempt.

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Topics: Human Capital Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Call Routing, IBM, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

Snowfly Motivates Agents To Improve Performance

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 10:27:01 AM

I have often seen evidence that contact center agents’ performance is strongly influenced by the key performance indicators managers use to judge, and often reward, their performance. In one extreme example I found that agents in a high-value-customer service center were rewarded if they kept the average call-handling time below two minutes. This sounded positive until I uncovered the common practice of agents dropping calls as soon as they reached two minutes, regardless of whether the customer’s issue had been resolved. This and other observations lead me to conclude that agent performance metrics should be chosen carefully, as companies will reap what they sow, and that companies must positively reinforce performance so agents deliver on the chosen metrics.

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Topics: Human Capital Management, Call Center, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Snowfly

Upstream Works Helps Improve Contact Center Performance

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 10:23:41 AM

Anyone involved in running a contact center is aware of the imperatives my research has highlighted: reduce operating costs, transition to multichannel support, raise customer satisfaction levels and increase up-sales. On a daily basis, these demands spur managers to focus on reducing average handling times, increasing first-call-resolution rates, optimizing agent utilization, delivering more pertinent agent training and personalizing responses in light of the customer’s profile, the context of the call and targeted business outcomes. The foundation of all these efforts is information and systems that support the contact center agent.

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Topics: Operational Performance Management (OPM), Call Center, Contact Center, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Upstream Works

ResponseTek Underpins Customer Experience Management

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 27, 2010 9:51:45 AM

Most of all, customer experience management is about a company delivering the optimal experience during an interaction. For example, during a conversation the contact center should ensure that the agent’s responses are appropriate to the context of the overall customer relationship and are personalized. The same should be true for a customer’s visits to the Web site, during chat sessions and in responses to mobile text messages. It goes without saying that the person or system involved in an interaction needs all relevant information about the customer, so responses meet the customer’s expectations while also delivering against business goals.

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Topics: Customer Experience, CEM, ResponseTek, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

inContact Provides Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 26, 2010 6:54:56 AM

All the buzz in the contact center market these days is about the “contact center in the cloud.” I have written on the subject, in particular “Is a Contact Center in the Cloud a Reality?” and “Will Cloud Computing Finally Bring Innovation to the Contact Center?”. In considering this issue my thinking focuses on what goes into a contact center and then what vendors offer these systems in the cloud. At the risk of oversimplifying things, I believe a contact center has two core components – communications management and agent and process management.

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Topics: Customer Experience, InContact, Cloud Computing, Call Center, Contact Center, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM)

NICE Systems Ventures into the Agent Back Office

Posted by jillventana on Nov 25, 2010 1:20:53 PM

Most people involved with contact centers know of NICE Systems and its SmartCenter suite of workforce optimization products that support key contact center management capabilities such as call recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, customer feedback management and a variety of performance management and analytics tools. NICE recently received the top ranked Hot Vendor rating in the Ventana Research 2010 Value Index for Agent Performance Management.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Human Capital Management, Customer Performance Management (CPM)