InContact has cloud-based products that cover multichannel communications infrastructure (sometimes referred to as a “contact center in the cloud”) and workforce optimization. The channel management products were developed by inContact and through a partnership with Verint. InContact has been working to make Verint’s workforce optimization products available in the cloud while integrating the two sets of products. I met Kristyn Emenecker, inContact’s VP of workforce optimization, at the recent ICMI Contact Center Expo to find out how the recent announcement that it has acquired Uptivity, which also provides workforce optimization products in the cloud, will impact that partnership and the future direction for the products.
She explained that one reason for the acquisition was that many contact centers around the world have relatively few seats and that Verint’s product is best suited to larger centers with several hundred or thousands of seats, but Uptivity’s is a better fit for smaller centers. My contact center benchmark research projects confirm the prevalence of smaller centers. For example, in my recent research into next-generation workforce optimization more than two-thirds of participating organizations’ contact centers have fewer than 250 seats. My research also shows that smaller centers invest in contact center systems only half as often as larger ones, relying instead on their agents’ initiative to deliver good experiences and leaving managers to use spreadsheets as their main analysis and reporting tool.
Another one of my research projects, into the contact center in the cloud, finds that to improve interaction-handling many companies are planning to invest in contact center applications such as workforce optimization in the cloud and, to a lesser extent, communication technologies in the cloud. More detailed examination of the results shows that smaller centers are more likely to make these investments if cloud-based systems are available. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by inContact, hence its focus on cloud-based systems and the investment in Uptivity.
I have covered Uptivity (formally known as CallCopy) for several years and recently wrote that it had added analytics and gamification to its workforce optimization suite. That suite consists of call recording, quality management, workforce management, coaching and training, and performance management, which aligns with the top five systems companies in my next-generation workforce optimization research most commonly said they use. In addition inContact has products that support compliance, desktop analytics, desktop recording, speech analytics and survey management. These are widely used products that enable companies to understand customer sentiment during and after interactions and to manage the people who are charged with improving those experiences. In combination these applications provide an integrated set of products that allow companies to manage their contact centers better. My research shows that most companies want products that meet these fundamental needs and they want them integrated so they are easy to use and manage. Availability in the cloud also enables companies, especially those with smaller centers, to manage costs and requires fewer skilled resources to operate.
My research into next-generation customer engagement shows that customer experience management requires a combination of integrated multichannel interaction management, business applications and analytics. Integrated multichannel interaction management provides customers with a choice of channels but ensures that the experience is the same on whichever channel the customer uses. Our research finds the benefits to be clear on improving the customer experience which is top benefit in almost three quarters (74%) of organizations. Workforce optimization addresses the people side of interaction-handling, and analytics provides an understanding of what is going on, which helps companies optimize the use of agents and channels. Kristyn explained that after the Uptivity acquisition, inContact has two options to meet these needs, which are similar but aimed at different sizes of centers. When I asked, where the boundary is between them, she said that there is no hard and fast rule based on the number of seats and that consultation with individual customers will determine which is more suited to their needs. Furthermore, customers need not upgrade from one option to the other if a center grows beyond a certain size. In the short term this situation is complicated further because although inContact has a roadmap to produce a fully integrated, cloud-based based option based on the Uptivity product, the final version won’t be ready soon. For companies considering inContact, I recommend they be very specific about which product and which version of it they select to meet their needs. I also expect some tension between inContact and Verint until they agree how to handle these situations.
In my experience acquisitions always create issues. They impact current and future customers in product support and roadmaps. Product functionality often overlaps, and integration can be problematic between two what are probably very different products sets. The acquiring company has to integrate two workforces, and in cases like this, the purchase can impact existing partnerships. I was assured that inContact is aware of and working on all of these issues, but it will be some time before the situation begins to resolve and customers can assess the level of success.
Few vendors offer the combination of channel management, workforce optimization and analytics that inContact has, so if it succeeds in handling the challenges, it should be in a strong position to support companies seeking to improve the customer experience. I will keep tracking developments, but in the meantime inContact is one of the vendors I recommend evaluating, while keeping the issues discussed here in mind.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director – Customer Engagement