Aspect is a well-established global provider of contact center systems. Its portfolio of products includes applications for contact centers, self-service, workforce optimization and analytics. In May the company announced it has gained clearance for restructuring its debt, which means it is in a better financial position to invest in its products and global ecosystem of partners, to the benefit of its customers and new prospects. In a recent briefing Aspect’s SVP and general manager of workforce optimization, Mike Burke, asserted that the restructuring will benefit its customers and cited healthy numbers around its pipeline, sales and revenue, including significant recurring revenue from sales of cloud-based products.
One of its flagship products is Aspect EQ, a suite of workforce optimization products that consists of three layers:
- An open systems layer includes components that support a universal ADD interface, Web services and multiple APIs, which facilitate integration with third-party products.
- An integration and administration layer includes components that support a common HTML5 user interface, multiple dashboards, a workflow engine that runs across the other components, a common data store, administration tools and support for Web, mobile and IVR systems. This technology makes the software easy to administer and use, while centralizing essential capabilities such as data management and workflow.
- A top layer includes standard workforce optimization applications such as call recording, quality management, workforce management, e-learning, coaching and performance management plus a number of products not typically associated with workforce optimization, such as surveys, analytics (including desktop and speech), and support for managing back-office employees involved in customer-related tasks.
To support Aspect EQ the company offers a set of professional services to bundle the products to suit individual organizations’ requirements and deploy them quickly.
Mike Burke articulated Aspect’s product strategy, which is based on six principles:
- enabling additional integration of all workforce optimization components, including a common user interface and administration capabilities
- keeping the product up-to-date technically and functionally
- supporting all cloud models: private, public and hybrid
- enhancing agent engagement by adding capabilities such as gamification, mobile access to key features and reporting
- supporting management of employee-related tasks associated with handling multiple engagement channels in both in the front and back offices
- providing advanced analytics including predictive and prescriptive analytics and real-time advice through analytics-driven actions.
The 8.2 release of Aspect EQ includes advances in each of these areas. In particular, there are functional improvements to quality management, speech analytics, workforce management and performance management. There is also a new desktop analytics product, Aspect EQ Activity Insight, which captures desktop usage and produces various analysis of actions such as idle time, time spent on various tasks, compliance with regulations, process issues, and redundant and erroneous data entry; such analyses can be used to improve interaction handling processes and agent performance. A complementary application, Aspect EQ Activity Automation is a “smart desktop” system that enables single sign-on and automates data entry across applications, looking up of customer information and completion of forms. In total the suite offers a comprehensive suite of workforce optimization capabilities.
Combined with the other applications, enhanced workforce optimization can help produce superior customer experiences. In addition, Aspect recently announced Aspect Via, which will be on general release as of October 2016. It brings together the underlying platform of services, workforce optimization, communication channel management – assisted and self-service – and analytics to enable organizations to manage all aspects of the customer experience. It has a common, customizable user interface and both real-time and historical reporting that utilizes data from all applications. It is designed and available only in the cloud, but even so, the platform services provide capabilities to integrate with third-party data sources and applications.
I believe that Aspect Via is a key development for the company. Customer experience and the need to provide omnichannel customer engagement are on many companies’ agendas, but in our benchmark research into next-generation contact center in the cloud fewer than half (48%) of companies said they provide such experiences. Our research into next-generation customer engagement identifies five key challenges organizations face as they try to move from multichannel to omnichannel customer engagement: integrating systems (cited by 49%), channels managed as silos (47%), inconsistent response (33%), high cost of implementation (30%) and the need for skilled resources (29%). To overcome these challenges, organizations need complete views of interaction handling; effective employee training, coaching and support; integrated channels of engagement; and integration with applications agents need to resolve interactions. Furthermore, these systems must be connected so data can flow between systems and processes, for example, using analysis of customer feedback in agent training and coaching. Aspect Via is one of the few suites that connect all these component parts, so I recommend that organizations looking to improve agent and customer experiences assess how it can help those efforts and keep track of how it develops, as I will be doing.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director, Customer