In tracking NICE for a decade I have seen the company grow, through a series of acquisitions and product developments, from a vendor largely of workforce management systems to one that offers a full suite of workforce optimization products. It is now advancing what I call a customer experience platform that builds on top of my last coverage of it advancing its efforts. This includes systems to manage assisted channels of engagement (primarily the telephone), digital channels of engagement, workforce optimization, advanced analytics and tight integration with business applications such as CRM. NICE is on the road to building such a platform using existing and newly developed products and those that it recently acquired from Nexidia and inContact. It will take time before a fully integrated platform is available, but the company has already taken steps toward this goal.
During a recent call Adam Grinfiled, director of enterprise strategy and innovation, told me that its most recent results indicate both financial and sales success. In Q4 GAAP revenue grew 18 percent year-on-year, operating profit was US$37 million, and operating margin was 11.5 percent as outlined in their financial release. As well as increasing sales to its current customer base, he said, NICE had added a record number of new customers. Analytics had the highest number of new sales; perhaps more organizations are realizing the value of analytics to improve agent and customer experiences.
Here is a quick review of two new product releases that are advancing NICE and the customer experience.
NICE Advanced Interaction Recorder (AIR) and Engage is the company’s platform for recording customer interactions. It enables organizations to capture interactions across multiple channels such as voice, chat, video and social media using a single code base to support common processes across channels. This release, 6.6, allows organizations to capture chat sessions, email and social media from more third-party products, in particular Facebook Messenger. It also improves connectivity with some major contact center infrastructure system vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, Oracle and Sonus. These are all underpinned by several new API capabilities, which NICE claims supports integration with “any third-party application.” The APIs can be configured to capture interactions offline or in real time. The software can run on-premises or in the cloud, includes multiple security options and can be used in various activities including compliance recording, capturing a greater range of business data, enhanced search and data discovery. A new mobile app – NICE Watch – can alert users to recording failures so they can take corrective action quickly to identify, locate and resolve them. An enhanced playback portal helps users find and play back recordings of special interest. Overall this release improves functionality, accessibility, manageability and usability to provide users with a comprehensive set of recording capabilities that capture data from multiple channels and systems to support the transition to omnichannel customer engagement.
AIR and Engage works with a second new release, NICE Real-Time Authentication, which uses voice biometrics to identify callers. These techniques have been available but are not yet widely adopted by companies. NICE aims to change that by removing the need for callers to register with the system before they can be identified. The product supports what NICE calls “passive registration”: At the beginning of a call the system captures the caller’s voice and uses voice biometrics and machine-learning techniques to compare it with voice prints already on file. If the system finds a matching voice print it can immediately identify the caller and no further authentication is required. If it doesn’t find a match, it creates a new voice print, no matter which voice channel the caller is using, and links it to the new customer. In both scenarios, the caller can be identified without having to preregister. This voice biometrics authentication process saves the agent from carrying out any further authentication and frees the agent to get on with the rest of the call, as well as allowing the system to display customer information that can help in call resolution. NICE estimates that using voice biometrics can reduce the time of the authentication process by more than half, which can have a significant impact on the average length of calls. In another example of collaborative use of its products, Real-Time Authentication can be linked with the Actimize security products to identify potential fraudulent calls. NICE asserts that the system will have low “false positive” rates, which with higher rates of adoption, could herald an era in which voice biometrics is commonly used to authenticate callers.
The contact center market is now undergoing its biggest transformation since I began covering it for Ventana Research some 14 years ago. All the talk is about omnichannel engagement and the customer experience. However, our benchmark research into the Contact Center in the Cloud finds that although about half (48%) of companies claim to deliver omnichannel experiences, other evidence in the research calls this into question; for example, fewer than one-third of agents are trained to deliver such experiences, and nearly three-quarters of organizations doubt that they are meeting customer expectations. In my view the primary reason is that few vendors have, or are even working toward, a full customer experience platform that has an integrated set of products with which to deliver a true omnichannel experience. NICE is one of a few vendors striving to produce such a platform. I will be following its progress and recommend organizations that want to be on the same omnichannel journey should as well.
VP & Research Director