When I last wrote about Panviva I likened its product SupportPoint to a smart agent desktop – a system that helps contact center agents access the information they need to handle customer interactions, guides them through the process of handling interactions and offers advice on what to say next (for example, which product to upsell). Several trends have emerged since then. Two of our recent benchmark research projects, next-generation customer engagement and next-generation customer analytics, confirm that handling interactions is now an enterprise issue – every business unit except IT now handles interactions. This change creates challenges. More kinds of employees need access to information relevant to the type of interactions they handle. Yet each business unit typically has its own processes and systems to support the way it handles interactions. A third issue is that more employees handle interactions away from their desks and need access to information on mobile devices. The situation is further complicated because, as our research projects also show, customers now interact with organizations through more channels, and companies must provide easy access to those channels.
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.