Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives

Barriers to Omnichannel Customer Communications

Posted by Richard Snow on Jun 11, 2013 10:52:38 AM

In never ceases to amaze me, the number of new terms and acronyms the contact center market generates. Just as everyone is getting used to the fact that customers interact with companies through multiple communication channels (multichannel for short), someone invents the term omnichannel and we all have to get our heads around what this means. My research into the contact center in the cloud shows that companies now support on average nearly five communication channels, and although the traditional channels are still the most common, as the chart shows, there are signs that new channels such as chat (used by 37%), social media (29%), text messaging (22%) and video (5%) are on the increase.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Social Media, Customer Experience, Social CRM, Voice of the Customer, Echopass, Enghouse interactive, Five9, LiveOps, Mobile Apps, NewVoicemedia, Operational Performance, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, CRM, Interactive Intelligence, Unified Communications

Interactive Intelligence Reveals Ambitious Plans for Customer Service

Posted by Richard Snow on May 20, 2013 10:08:58 AM

At its recent user conference, Interactions 2013, Interactive Intelligence (Nasdqaq: ININ) showcased its extensive product portfolio and its ambitious plans to improve the products both technically and functionally. I have written more than once about the complexities of building a contact center, which is getting even more complex as companies begin to support more channels of interaction as inbound ones are distributed around the organization including sales (59%), marketing (46%) and CRM team (41%) and distribute to many different contact center sites according to our customer relationship maturity research. To keep up with developments, I divide contact center systems and applications into five groups:

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Topics: Sales Performance, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Mobile Apps, Self-service, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Force Optimization

Astute Solutions Supports Integrated Approach to CRM

Posted by Richard Snow on Apr 5, 2013 11:53:52 AM

Like all analysts, I have a series of classifications to help group together vendors with similar capabilities. My challenge is to create categories that align with most users’ expectations so I don’t confuse readers when I define which category a vendor falls into. My “big five” are WFO or agent performance management (quality monitoring, workforce management, training and coaching, remuneration, and agent-related analytics); contact center infrastructure, including cloud-based systems (multichannel interaction management, routing, CTI, and rerecording); CRM (marketing, sales and customer service); customer experience management (agent desktop, self-service, customer feedback management, knowledge management); and contact center and customer analytics (transactional, speech, text, event, process, multichannel, predictive and big data). Occasionally a vendor comes along that defies these classifications. Astute Solutions is one such. It describes itself as providing “best-of-breed CRM Customer Service, Social CRM, Contact Center, IP Communications, Knowledge Management, Mobile, and Self-Service solutions specifically designed for enabling customer-centric business strategies” – quite a mouthful.

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Topics: Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Voice of the Customer, Mobile Apps, Self-service, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Interactive Intelligence, Unified Communications

Interactive Intelligence Embraces Business Process Management

Posted by Richard Snow on Aug 22, 2012 11:11:39 AM

The product page for Interactive Intelligence highlights what the company is best known for – IP-based business communications. This image is further strengthened by its flagship Customer Interaction Center platform, which offers organizations a fully featured multimedia contact center in the cloud. This offering includes multimedia communications in the cloud along with many of the capabilities that Ventana Research terms agent performance management. However, the company also offers a third set of products, which support business process automation. On first examination these seem somewhat tangential to the other products, but my research into customer relationship maturity shows the product sets are likely to converge more and more as organizations address the challenges of providing customers with excellent experiences.

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Topics: Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Force Optimization

Salesforce.com Advances Customer Interaction

Posted by Richard Snow on Aug 2, 2012 10:53:03 AM

Since it was founded in 1999, salesforce.com has been driving other vendors and end-user organizations to rethink how they supply and purchase software. The company has grown from being a supplier of CRM in the cloud to a vendor with diverse offerings that include a development platform, an app exchange, platforms that support marketing, sales and customer service, knowledge management, desktop technology, collaboration, website development, social media support and analytics. Along the way it has also become a powerful marketing machine – which sometimes gets in the way of understanding just what its products do and don’t do, and where they all fit. This obfuscation also extends to its extensive range of partners, where again it is sometimes hard to know who it deals with and how.

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Topics: Salesforce.com, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, LiveOps, NewVoicemedia, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Call Center, Cisco, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Vocalcom

Interactive Intelligence Offers Customers Mobile Self-Service

Posted by Richard Snow on May 7, 2012 10:09:56 AM

Interactive Intelligence announced Interaction Mobilizer, the latest application in its growing portfolio of products. As I recently wrote, Interactive Intelligence has come a long way since it launched its first software-based PBX in 1994. It was a pioneer in offering contact center applications in the cloud, which now include communications in the cloud and products for workforce optimization. The latest announcement follows similar ones from other vendors also announcing applications to support mobile self-service. Each of those products supports slightly different sets of capabilities, but all of them follow the trend to provide organizations with another channel through which customers can interact with them, and support customers who want self-service capabilities from their smartphones or tablets.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Sales Performance, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Information Applications, Workforce Performance, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management

NICE Transforms Customer Experience through Mobile and Interaction Intelligence

Posted by Mark Smith on May 4, 2012 9:50:58 AM

I attended NICE Systems’ annual Interactions (Twitter #Interaction2012) conference in Nashville to get the latest from this growing global software business that focuses on customer-centric applications. If you have not heard of NICE you might not be primarily involved in managing and interacting with customers, the area in which NICE has been growing organically and by acquiring technology providers that complement its existing portfolio. As we discussed in recent analyses, and NICE acquired Merced Systems for its sales- and service-centric performance management applications and Fizzback for customer feedback management software. Both have helped it become a more strategically focused software business. NICE Systems targets enterprise contact centers as well as financial risk, compliance and security. NICE makes its applications available not just on-premises but also in software as a service and hosted environments.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Sales Performance, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, NICE Systems, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Operational Intelligence, Workforce Performance, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management

Customer Engagement Day Reveals New Issues and Opportunity

Posted by Richard Snow on May 1, 2012 11:15:43 AM

I recently attended the second in the series of customer engagement days organized by the Directors Club (GB & NI). The format of the event was the same as the first day that I wrote about and included three keynote presentations and three roundtable sessions where attendees discussed how organizations should engage with customers. As for the first event I chaired the roundtable on perfecting multichannel customer engagement in the contact center and gave a keynote on how social media is impacting the contact center.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Sales Performance, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, Sustainability, Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, NICE Systems, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Genesys, InContact, IT Performance, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications, Information Management, Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Workforce Performance, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management, Noble Systems, Verint

Interactive Intelligence Puts Meaning Back in Innovation

Posted by Richard Snow on Apr 23, 2012 9:17:35 AM

Marketing claims about a company’s innovation have become so common as to be almost meaningless, and this is true in the software business. That’s a shame because it obscures cases in which a vendor really is innovative. For example, at a recent partner and analyst event hosted by Interactive Intelligence (ININ), its CMO told me that ININ has stopped using the phrase “deliberately innovative”  because claiming to be innovative isn’t helpful in getting across its messages.

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Topics: Microsoft, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Workforce Performance, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Unified Communications, Workforce Management

Interactive Intelligence Offers Trial Access to Contact Center in the Cloud

Posted by Richard Snow on Oct 25, 2011 11:08:10 AM

Cloud computing offers companies opportunity to innovate in the ways their contact centers handle customer interactions. Systems vendors have been gradually moving call and other interaction management to the cloud, along with some of the core applications required to operate a contact center such as call recording, workforce management and analytics. Interactive Intelligence is one of the front runners in this market with its Customer Interaction Center. To approach potential customers that aren’t convinced of the virtues of cloud-based systems, Interactive Intelligence recently launched a new service, Quick Spin, a trial version of the its suite.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management

New Customer and Contact Center Technology at Call Centre Expo

Posted by Richard Snow on Oct 15, 2011 3:33:21 AM

I have spent the last two days at the U.K.’s largest contact center trade show, which this year moved to London Olympia from the NEC in Birmingham. While the overall number of visitors seemed to be down, some exhibitors told me there were more high-level attendees with serious intent to purchase.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, SAP, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Call Copy, Enghouse interactive, Enkata, Genesys, NewVoicemedia, Nexidia, ShoreTel, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Workforce Performance, Call Center, Cisco, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management, and Verint, cTalk Ltd, Noble Systems, Digital Technology

Interactive Intelligence Advances Cloud-Based Contact Center

Posted by Richard Snow on Sep 30, 2011 1:43:38 AM

Interactive Intelligence recently released version 4.0 of its Customer Interaction Center (CIC). CIC provides companies with integrated communications and contact center functions that can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment divided between them. 

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Operational Performance, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management

Conference Highlights Social Media, Analytics and the Customer Experience

Posted by Ventana Research on May 25, 2011 5:33:23 AM

The Directors Club of the U.K. recently held its inaugural National Customer Show in London. The event was well attended and attracted sponsorship from some of the biggest vendors in the contact center industry; among them were platinum sponsors Interactive Intelligence and salesforce.com, and session sponsors Nexidia and SwordCiboodle. I noticed three common themes, covering very different aspects of managing the customer, and I’ll hit the highlights of each.

Social Media

These days you can’t escape discussions about social media and the impact it is having on how companies interact with customers and prospects. As I recently wrote, social media is here, and millions of people are using it to communicate with friends, colleagues, businesses and even government. But all the hype, statistics and YouTube videos are masking the realities of business use. My research shows that as yet social media has had little impact on the contact center, and at the show I found confirmation of this point. I also heard more people than usual, even from salesforce.com, uttering cautionary words about social media. The reality is that business use outside of marketing and training videos is still low and consumer use is largely confined to complaining. Several people picked up the latter point; whereas in the past one complaint was heard by a few tens of people, now a single complaint may be heard by thousands (and potentially by millions) of people. Companies need to be aware of this; they need to monitor comments and take positive action about them and do whatever is possible to not let the things that generated the complaints happen again. So the message was monitor social media, have a process and people in place to take appropriate action and have a process to address the root cause of customer issues.

 Contact Center Analytics

Throughout the show, and at one session I chaired, I heard conversations about the need for companies to review their existing metrics and add new metrics that reflect their business goals, rather than settle for efficiency metrics that just show how well things are or are not working. The general consensus seemed to be that no one metric is going to fit the bill for all companies. Yes, net promoter scores add insight to potential new business, and having good customer effort scores makes sense from an efficiency and customer perspective because making it easy for customers to interact with your company is likely to generate more business at lower costs. But companies need a balanced set of metrics from contact center analytics that I recently researched that reflect their business and priorities. I was pleased to find considerable support for my view that having “metrics for metrics’ sake” is pointless and that companies need to have in place processes that ensure action is taken based on their key performance metrics.

 The Customer Experience

As a concept, customer experience management is going the same way as CRM, in that it means many things to different people. For me it is about proactively managing the experience customers receive at any touch point. So when it comes to the most popular channel – calls to the contact center – CEM is about how agents handle each and every customer call.

This theme was echoed during one session I attended that connected customer experience with agent empowerment. My benchmark research into CEM has shown that the major influence on the customer experience is the agent’s attitude. The discussion took up the theme that if agents are not empowered to handle calls effectively then customers are likely to go away unhappy. Empowerment seemed to come down to doing some basic things well: process (not doing dumb things), training and coaching, motivation, and setting rewards and performance metrics that positively encourage agents to do a good job and deliver to the company’s business requirements.

Personally I like the theme “take the dumb out of handling customer interactions.” Too many times companies do dumb things: asking customers to repeat information they have given before, having metrics that drive agents to do the wrong things (keep calls short rather than solve the problem), using IVR menus that don’t match what customers want to do, providing inconsistent information on different channels – the list goes on. If companies would stand back and examine objectively the dumb things they are doing and put them right, we would all get a better experience.

In this day of social media fixing broken processes is even more important. Dumb things will end up exposed in public. This begs the question of who should be responsible for social media, because one dumb response can cause more trouble than the original issues. As a result companies need to pay more attention to interaction-handling than ever before.

Are you ready to cope with this new environment? Can you be certain that interactions are being handled consistently and effectively across all channels? How is social media impacting customer experience and do you use analytics to gain better visibility to what you do not know. If so, I’d love to know how you do it.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Nexidia, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Workforce Management, SwordCiboodle

It’s Time for the Contact Center To Change

Posted by Ventana Research on May 3, 2011 9:07:01 PM

Twenty years ago, when I began consulting in the contact center industry, building a call center was a hard, resource-consuming task. Just to begin handling calls required purchasing lots of proprietary equipment, such as PBXs and automatic call distributors (ACDs), as well as software for computer/telephony integration (CTI) and business applications such as case management and CRM – and then spending a lot of time and effort integrating them. Lots of tasks were managed using spreadsheets, and if you wanted anything more than the basic reports available from your PBX/ACD supplier, you would have to budget a great deal more money. Right from those early days, call center managers focused on efficiency and relied on basic metrics such as queue lengths, average call-handling time, hold times and call transfers.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Sales Performance, SAP, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, InContact, LiveOps, Operational Performance, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Workforce Performance, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management, Contactual

Interactive Intelligence Integrates Contact Center Interactions

Posted by Ventana Research on Apr 25, 2011 7:23:16 AM

Interactive Intelligence (ININ) recently invited partners, consultants and analysts to Portugal to hear about the latest developments in its products. Not surprisingly given the extensive range of products it now supports, none of us had much time to enjoy Lisbon but were put through an intensive program of presentations and discussions.

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Topics: Predictive Analytics, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, RightNow, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Customer Service, Workforce Performance, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Desktop Analytics, Interactive Intelligence, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management

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