One of the first applications I learned about in the contact center market was customer relationship management (CRM). The core capabilities of a CRM system were to manage customer data, marketing campaigns, sales opportunities and service requests. Vendors also touted them as the source for a comprehensive “360 degree” view of the customer, which they could never actually deliver because they did not include customer financial data, interaction histories or customer sentiment in the form of feedback. In any case CRM applications became integral to contact centers as a source of information to answer customer queries, but in reality they did little to actually manage the customer relationship, which was a factor in why they gained a bad reputation. Over time, many vendors adopted a different approach and broke the CRM category into marketing, sales and service clouds, which although they include additional capabilities basically do the same thing, with one big drawback – customer data is managed in three different systems, reducing the availability of a single source of customer data even further.
In 2016 Ventana Research saw a significant shift in the customer engagement and contact center software markets. Our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud shows that for 70 percent of companies, customer experience is and will be an important way of competing; the largest growth in ways of competing is to introduce digital self-service, which will increase by 12 percent. To support those changes, organizations have introduced more channels of engagement, to the extent that our research shows the average has grown to eight channels. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that in nearly half (47%) of organizations these channels are managed as silos, which indicates that most organizations still operate multiple channels rather than supporting omnichannel engagement. The next-generation contact center research confirms that customer engagement is an enterprise-wide issue but one-third (33%) of companies struggle to provide consistent responses across touch points.
NICE is a longstanding provider of contact center systems. At the beginning of 2016 NICE acquired Nexidia, a provider of customer analytics, which raised questions about the future of the acquired company, its products and its customers. During a recent briefing SVP of product management Larry Skowronek discussed these issues. Nexidia now trades as “a NICE analytics company,” which is unusual because previous NICE acquisitions have been absorbed into the overall company and the brand effectively lost. This arrangement, Skowronek said, gives the company the benefit of retaining the Nexidia brand while taking advantage of the scale, financial strength and market presence of NICE. Several of Nexidia’s longstanding customers have remained customers and are benefiting from new developments and access to the wider NICE portfolio. The company also has a series of new wins, both as a result of direct efforts by its own staff and joint actions with NICE.