Ventana Research recently announced its Market Agenda in the expertise area of Customer Experience. CX has emerged as a way for organizations to demonstrate value and stand out in the marketplace. The technology underlying modern CX is transitioning from tools that are based on communication to those centered on data analysis and process automation. This allows organizations to build great experiences and reap the benefits in customer loyalty and value. It also forces companies to reckon with the complexity and disruption that technologies like artificial intelligence and automation bring to an organization.
Since 2021, Verint’s message to the customer experience community has focused on the “engagement capacity gap,” a way of describing how the available resources for CX clash with the high level of customer expectations. The argument is that efforts to close that gap require a rethink of how contact centers (and their parent organizations) operate and plan.
The market and buyer landscape for contact center operating services has changed significantly since the onset of the pandemic, now almost three years ago. Three years would have been enough time for some significant shifts, even without the pressure the pandemic put on service operations. Nevertheless, with on-premises systems now taking a backseat industrywide, it’s fair to say that CCaaS, which typically refers to cloud-based systems, now represents the lions’ share of spending and therefore stands as a proxy for the industry as a whole. Ventana Research predicts that by 2026, 7 in ten organizations will have moved all or part of their contact center technology into the cloud to attain greater flexibility and scalability.
For quite a few years now, two trends have put the contact center on a collision course. First, the technology used to handle customer inquiries has been evolving quickly, moving organizations farther and farther away from the traditional mode of primarily answering voice calls. At the same time, consumers have become much more demanding. There’s no doubt that customers are more likely to use quality of service as a gauge for whether they should continue doing business with an organization. They’re more willing to bolt for a competitor if they have a bad experience. In short, they want more of everything, and contact centers have been trying to accommodate these expectations.
Traditional key performance indicators used for performance measurement in contact centers are no longer sufficient. These outdated standards don’t reliably inform mid- and upper-level leadership about the true impact of agent work and behavior. Organizations should begin to expand the notion of what’s important in order to make the contact center a stronger organizational institution, more closely tied to others who impact the customer experience. Outside the contact center, people are keen to understand the relationship between what’s being spent and what’s coming in: revenue and growth.
Through 2025, establishing customer experience application suites on a common platform will be the focal point of the drive to optimize customer and organizational engagement. Organizations that are passionate about improving the customer experience are choosing to empower processes and people with intelligence through smarter applications that embrace analytics, artificial intelligence and automation to personalize and optimize the customer journey, whatever the channel of customer choice.
Today’s contact centers need to revisit core assumptions around measuring agent performance. Changes in business conditions influencing agent engagement raise new questions about whether traditional performance models are sufficient to address the more complex customer needs that have taken center stage in recent years.
Outbound communication is used in a number of different contexts. For potential customers, traditional telemarketing still exists, though it is limited these days due to its minimal effectiveness. Instead, many customer-experience planners have substituted digital outbound over voice for lead generation and nurturing campaigns. Customers find text messages in the channel of their choice to be much less intrusive, and they are considerably less expensive than having contact center agents reach out.
Zoho presented analysts with a deep look at its strategy and roadmap at its July analyst conference, describing how it intends to meld its many business applications together through integration at the level of the platform. The company, which is privately owned and funded, has generally sought to build its own tools rather than buy or partner. This approach has allowed the firm to create a suite of tightly linked tools that share a common interface.
The contact center industry is reexamining how organizations engage with contact center agents. One thing that we learned from the forced movement to work-from-home was that organizations have to provide agents with appropriate tools to collaborate and communicate with peers and supervisors as well as workers in the back office who participate in all sorts of customer-facing or customer-adjacent processes. It is also important to provide supervisors with visibility into agent activity. That means extending existing coaching and evaluation methods. Ventana Research believes that by 2025, nearly every organization will have dedicated systems or processes that help supervisors manage remotely.
Field service is a segment of customer experience that is dominated by two elements: the complexity of the issues handled, and the high cost of providing on-site services. It is recognized as a critical component of the service experience, especially when managing the condition of high-precision equipment in the medical, manufacturing and utility industries. It is also a high-risk moment in the customer life cycle. Consumers often experience the process as a series of disconnected visits and handoffs that fail to resolve issues the first time.
Contact centers are undergoing a radical reshuffling of the workforce, partly because the pandemic shifted agents to remote work. But the trends were in place to reorganize the world of work long before the pandemic. Digital contact channels, which are gaining in popularity, require workers that are better informed and capable of handling more complex and interdependent interactions and processes. That’s changing the nature of training, management and even process design between departments.
Customer Service and Support (CSS) software is about more than case tracking and trouble tickets. Many organizations view the service call as an opportunity to solidify a positive customer relationship and perhaps enhance the loyalty and value of the customer. That has propelled interest in the emphasis on workflows and automation that now/currently drives CSS, particularly when it comes to managing self-service and field service, and the ability to provide agents with contextually relevant information during interactions.
The technology underpinning customer experience (CX) is a hodgepodge of tools that have been developed for niche use cases and then expanded to fill broader roles. Examples include the old (CRM, help desk software and speech analytics) and the new (customer data platforms and conversational AI). This is because CX is a set of very specialized processes that happen in different parts of the enterprise, managed by people who often do not connect with peers handling related processes. Service-related activities are focused in the contact center, personalization and loyalty in marketing departments, and so forth.
Topics: Customer Experience, Marketing, Marketing Performance Management, Voice of the Customer, Contact Center, Product Information Management, Digital Marketing, agent management, intelligent marketing, Customer Experience Management, Digital Experience Platform, Conversational Marketing, customer service and support
In a previous Analyst Perspective, we discussed some of the big-picture trends that are bringing cost control back as a core driver of contact center operations. In this report we will tackle some of the practical ramifications: how those trends affect decision-making and operations.
Contact centers have always been very cost-centric and attuned to the kinds of constraints that they have to operate in, but many organizations were diverted from that kind of focus when the pandemic first hit. In 2020, there was a sudden need for new tools and equipment just to keep centers running, and the costs involved in enabling agents to work from home — equipping them and their supervisors with the tools they needed to collaborate and stay in sync — were unavoidable.
A formal Voice of the Customer (VoC) program is a necessity for any organization that wants to grow its customer base and differentiate from its competitors. Unfortunately, many organizations have not updated their notion of “formal” in quite a few years.
Topics: Customer Experience, Marketing, Voice of the Customer, Contact Center, Digital Marketing, agent management, Customer Experience Management, Field Service, Conversational Marketing, customer service and support
Ventana Research recently announced its Market Agenda in the expertise area of Customer Experience. For the past several years, many organizations have found it challenging to provide excellent customer experiences in the face of drastic technology changes and the ongoing pandemic. These challenges have highlighted for many decision-makers how strategic CX can be in differentiating from competitors. But it can also be a complex and disjointed effort that requires continuous investment in people, processes and technologies.
The contact center is where much of customer experience management happens, but it is by no means the beginning or end of the CX story. Other departments, notably marketing and revenue, have a stake in what happens during the customer’s lifecycle. Whether it’s developing offers, orchestrating interactions or assessing behavior and intent, handling the complexity of the relationship requires a broad set of participants who are not always in alignment.
Any organization that relies heavily on a large labor force looks to automation to reduce costs, and contact centers are no exception. They handle interactions at such large scale that almost any effort to automate some part of the process can deliver measurable efficiencies. Two factors have ratcheted up attention on automating customer experience workflows: the dramatic expansion of digital interaction channels, and the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to facilitate workflow deployment.
Topics: Customer Experience, Voice of the Customer, Analytics, Data Integration, Contact Center, Data, AI and Machine Learning, agent management, data operations, Digital Business, Experience Management, Customer Experience Management, Field Service
When migrating their communications stacks to the cloud, many organizations come face to face with a quandary: do they emphasize the business phone system and gravitate toward a unified communications vendor? Or should they focus on the specific applications needed for running their contact centers and seek out a CCaaS vendor?
When NICE acquired inContact in 2016, it began a transformation that saw it broaden its product offering and positioned itself to play a larger role in the contact center and customer experience industries. It was a prescient move, creating a firm that could supply end-to-end contact center functionality in the cloud. And it anticipated today’s market dynamic, in which NICE and its competitors are racing to define (and capitalize on) the post-contact center future.
Topics: Customer Experience, Voice of the Customer, Business Continuity, Analytics, Contact Center, Data, Digital transformation, AI and Machine Learning, agent management, Digital Business, Experience Management, Customer Experience Management, Field Service, customer service and support
In part one of this Analyst Perspective on the use of artificial intelligence within contact center applications, we focused on the evolution — and resulting benefits — of tools embedded with AI, including ease-of-use for non-data-scientists.
When artificial intelligence emerged from the labs and vendors started offering it as a component of their software, many contact-center buyers shied away from it. From their point of view, AI and machine learning tools were new, expensive, relatively untested and had an uncertain use case. This stance was understandable, as contact center professionals are traditionally expected to be risk-averse when deploying technology into their operations. Contact centers are, by design, supposed to be hardened, mission-critical sites of high reliability. There has historically been a bias towards avoiding new technology, deploying only when it has been thoroughly vetted across the industry.
Tools for contact center agent management have changed considerably in the past few years. The suite of software applications has grown from those that perform core functions in scheduling and quality control to include more advanced solutions for agent guidance, integrated desktops, and workflow and automation design. One area of intense investment by vendors has been analytics, specifically for assessing customer satisfaction and hearing the “voice of the customer.”
Customer support operations increasingly rely on automation and complex workflow processes to reduce costs and improve experiences. Automation also allows organizations to make their service processes richer, incorporating information and staff from back offices, for example, or embedding conversational tools into contact center processes.
Topics: Customer Experience, embedded analytics, Analytics, Contact Center, natural language processing, AI and Machine Learning, agent management, Customer Experience Management, Field Service, Process Mining, Streaming Analytics, customer service and support
Ventana Research recently announced its 2021 market agenda in the expertise area of Customer Experience. Most organizations have some degree of focus on managing how they interact with their customers, but it is often a disjointed and constrained process. Developing an effective customer experience has become an investment priority in recent years as organizations increasingly recognize the importance of good experiences to profitability, customer longevity and advocacy on behalf of brands.
Topics: Sales, Customer Experience, Marketing, Voice of the Customer, Analytics, Customer Service, Contact Center, Workforce Management, Digital Marketing, Digital Commerce, AI and Machine Learning, agent management, Customer Experience Management, Field Service