Back in July I wrote about Kana’s acquisition of Ciboodle and its previous acquisition of Overtone and what seemed to be its ambitious plans to release an integrated version of the products. I went so far as to say Kana would have “something unique to offer” if it pulled off this effort. Now, almost nine months to the day, it has launched a new version of Kana Enterprise, and from what I saw in a prelaunch briefing it does seem to be something unique. Billed as “the first omni-channel customer service suite,” the new product brings together the original Kana customer self-service and knowledge management products, the Ciboodle desktop and several new developments.
Kana CMO Jim Norwood asserted that much of the product’s code has been redeveloped into a single code set that integrates all the functionality; he insisted that this was done to achieve the primary objective of providing seamless integration of the customer experience and the agent experience, across all communication channels. Kana chose not to develop a middleware layer that simply makes such integration possible; instead it developed a platform of service modules that support all the business applications. The Kana Enterprise platform includes a common knowledge base to support interactions through the phone, email, chat, the Web, postal mail, kiosks, mobile devices and social media. It also includes common master data, messaging, knowledge management, adaptive case management and business process management and integration services tools to support a new user interface that can be adapted for each user, tools to support personalization and customization of responses to interactions, and a new reporting and analytics framework. These tools support a range of business applications for case management, campaign management, email management, postal mail management, knowledge management, chat and co-browsing a desktop that can be customized by user role, an application to support capturing, analyzing and responding to social media, and analytics provide reports and analysis about the business, customers and agents. Each of these applications makes the agent’s work easier, as well as providing consistent, contextual and personalized customer experiences across traditional channels (such as phone, email and postal mail) as well as web-based self-service, social media, and mobile apps.
This is an impressive list of capabilities, and I’ll comment on a few that are particularly useful. One of the fundamental issues companies face before they can provide consistent, in-context, personalized customer experiences across multiple channels is to reconcile various customer IDs – to determine whether a name, phone number, mobile number, email address, web login, Twitter handle, Facebook ID and customer account number all belong to the same person. Kana addresses this challenge through an in-product customer database that over time captures and stores these IDs in a single customer record, which can be become the record of customer information or can feed from and to other applications. This means that as an interaction is processed, the system can identify the individual customer and thus put the current interaction into the context of that person’s profile and previous interactions. Kana intends to enhance this capability in future releases to include additional information such as the customer’s preferred channel of communication.
Another innovative tool in Kana Enterprise allows users to use a common tool to define how different types of interactions are to be handled, including cases where an interaction crosses channels of communication. The product also supports mobility both for agents and other users accessing the system from their smart devices, and through a series of APIs for interfacing with the smart mobile customer service apps now available.
The new release further supports consistency through a smart or unified desktop. My research into the agent desktop shows that many of the problems companies face in providing efficient and effective responses are due to outmoded agent desktops and most treat communication channels as silos for agents according to 21 percent of organizations. To handle interactions agents often have multiple applications open on their desktop (8% of them in our research must access more than five applications to resolve a single interaction),as well as multiple communication systems for the different types of channels, message boards and performance dashboards; this mix of technologies slows down and distracts agents from their primary role of resolving customers’ issues. In contrast, the enhanced desktop included in the new Kana Enterprise overcomes many of these issues and extends to advising agents on what to do next. Our research shows that such a desktop can provide several customer service benefits such as more employees to handle interactions, better collaboration between employees, and most importantly for many contact center managers, reducing average handling times.. The results also show that such a desktop has a major impact on agent satisfaction – agents with such a desktop are twice as likely to be satisfied with their jobs as those that don’t have one; in turn, those agents are twice as likely as others to be on target for key metrics such as customer satisfaction, first-contact resolution, and net promoter and customer effort scores. Having a desktop embedded in the product gives Kana a key differentiator from many other vendors.
I must admit I have trouble with the term “omni-channel customer experience” as it implies that customers in the future will interact through a single channel of communication and the experience will feel the same regardless of channel. My research into contact centers in the cloud dispels this belief, showing that companies are likely to have to go on supporting all the channels they now support plus new ones such as social and mobile, and that each will look and feel slightly different. On the other hand, my research into customer experience shows that customers expect responses to be personalized, in-context and consistent across channels; indeed if they don’t find they are consistent, they will channel-hop until they get the answer they want. From what I have seen so far, Kana’s new release lives up to the expectations it set out at the time of the Ciboodle acquisition and could provide many of the benefits of what our research in agent desktop that I have already communicated. As they try to improve the quality and consistency of customer experience regardless of channel, I advise companies to evaluate it.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director