I recently wrote that companies are struggling to provide omnichannel customer experiences and digital customer service is now seen as a business differentiator. To address these issues, organizations need to change how they use people and processes, and deploy innovative technologies that can support new initiatives. To provide an enterprise-wide solution, contact center systems fall into four categories: communications, business applications, analytics and self-service. Our benchmark research into next-generation contact center systems in the cloud shows which types of systems companies have deployed, which they plan to deploy in the next 24 months and whether they prefer them to be on-premises or cloud-based.
In today’s intensely competitive markets, companies must strive to meet customer expectations during every interaction, and interactions occur through many channels. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement finds that customers use up to 17 channels of engagement. Some channels involve assisted service from employees of the company, and some use self-service technologies such as interactive voice response (IVR), websites, mobile apps and social media, also known as digital service. Although the use of self-service is increasing, the research finds that organizations still expect volumes of assisted interactions to grow, albeit more slowly. The research also shows that the employees customers interact with may work in almost any line of business, including marketing, sales, the contact center, finance and human resources. These challenges require organizations to focus on people, processes, information and technology to optimize the performance of the workforce.
My colleague David Menninger recently wrote about the SAS Analyst Summit, concluding that “the SAS analytics juggernaut keeps on truckin’.” He observed, as I have done in the past, that SAS has a vast array of products that it regularly updates to keep up with market demand, ensuring it remains one of the premier vendors of data management and analytics systems. Dave’s perspectives provide in-depth insights into what these products do, while I focus on how they help with business outcomes around customer experience. I was therefore intrigued to hear at SAS’s European analyst event that its products support four types of user – data scientist, business analyst, intelligence analyst and IT analyst. The presenter used simple quotes to illustrate the differing priorities of these groups: For the data scientist, the one that caught my eye was “I need the latest algorithms to solve the latest problems”; for the business analyst I picked “I need to get my report done quickly and easily”; the information analyst is about “identifying patterns of interest that can prompt active decision-making”; and the IT analyst is about “issue resolution and redemption” (mainly operational analysis). In short each type of user needs different products and capabilities, hence the array of products. Nearest to my research practice is the business analyst, who wants easy access to reports and analysis to resolve business issues, and this is where the company’s Customer Intelligence product plays a part.
In our benchmark research into the next-generation contact center in the cloud more than two-thirds (69%) of organizations said they need to improve customer service, and market dynamics require them to do this is in new ways. Whereas today most (83%) compete on the services they offer, over the next two years 70 percent said they expect customer experience to be the top way they will compete, and nearly half (46%) said they expect to compete through self-service, digital channels. There is no doubt that consumers have changed the ways they prefer to communicate with each other and with companies. Mobile devices have become ubiquitous, and many consumers prefer to use chat-based technologies and mobile apps to engage. That is not to say that phone use is obsolete, as the research shows it and email are the most widely supported channels (each by 92% of companies), and while use of the corporate website (cited by 41%) is expected to show the greatest growth, more than one-fifth (22%) of participants said that the volume of inbound calls will show significant growth. Thus organizations must handle customer interactions across a variety of communication channels to maintain the business of all demographic groups.
NICE Systems was one of the first vendors I started to cover when I joined Ventana Research more than 11 years ago. Back then it was a pure-play vendor of workforce optimization (WFO) systems and was creating a portfolio of products by developing its own systems and acquiring niche vendors of call recording, quality management, workforce management, performance management and analytics. Over the years its portfolio has grown with new features, improved integration between the component parts, centralized administration and management capabilities, and a standard, modern user interface. The latest version of its core Workforce Optimization product was rated a Hot vendor in our 2015 WFO Value Index. It is still undergoing development, and a new version is being marketed as Adaptive WFO as it uses analytics to become more information-driven.
I have been involved in the contact center industry for more than 25 years and often see organizations that are slow in keeping up with consumers’ expectations; many of them seem reluctant to change, regardless of the need to do so. For example, agents of my cell phone operator ask the same four questions at the start of a call as they did 30 years ago; my bank supports several channels of communication, but it doesn’t provide the same information on all channels; and a well-known airline couldn’t tell me where my bag was for 36 hours (it was at the airport where I departed!). My list goes on, and I am sure you have your own.
I recently attended the Interactive Intelligence Interactions 2016 conference and came away with four key insights regarding the company’s plans and progress in providing contact centers in the cloud. These include the short-term success of PureCloud, the company’s financial performance, the importance of customer support and dealing with change.
Verint is an established vendor of workforce optimization, advanced analytics and self-service products for customer experience management. Recently it announced its acquisition of Contact Solutions, whose products complement Verint’s. The acquisition adds analytics capabilities and fraud detection software, both of Verint will incorporate into its existing products. Contact Solutions also brings to the merger IVR and My:Time, two innovative products that add to Verint’s portfolio for customer self-service.
Six months ago I wrote that Interactive Intelligence bases its product strategy on continued support of its three core products: CIC, CaaS and PureCloud. During a recent briefing CMO Jeff Platón made it clear that although the company continues to support all three, its main focus will be PureCloud Engage that is also certified and available on the Salesforce AppExchange. When the company first released this product in 2012, the financial markets and some analysts saw it as a big risk because it is a ground-up development designed to run only in the cloud. The question was whether the company could succeed with a new architecture, all new capabilities and a new cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Now the answer seems to be yes; the company asserts that cloud revenue is up and that it has gained 26 new PureCloud customers in the last 12 months and some positive customer references. This is not surprising to me because in my past research I carried out nearly two-thirds or organizations said they planned to adopt contact center applications in the cloud, and just under half said they intended to adopt communication systems in the cloud; judging by results from this and other vendors, many seem to have carried out this intention.
During a recent analyst briefing, I learned that Genesys finished 2015 with a bang and enters 2016 with high expectations. Last year it made several changes at the top of the organization, naming a new president, Tom Eggemeier; a new chief marketing officer, Merijn te Booij; and a new head of global sales and field operations, Mark Turner. Their mandate is to stimulate sales of the company’s core product, Customer Experience Platform. I also learned that since spinning out of Alcatel Lucent in 2012, Genesys has had financial success, won many new accounts and expanded around the globe. Several new customers use the cloud-based version of the product, which reflects our analysis that many organizations are replacing outdated, disconnected on-premises systems with cloud-based, fully integrated software suites.