Most people involved with contact centers know of NICE Systems and its SmartCenter suite of workforce optimization products that support key contact center management capabilities such as call recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, customer feedback management and a variety of performance management and analytics tools. NICE recently received the top ranked Hot Vendor rating in the Ventana Research 2010 Value Index for Agent Performance Management.
The challenge for it and other vendors in the same space is that contact centers are changing, or more precisely the way companies handle customer interactions is changing. First and foremost companies must now support multiple channels and types of customer interactions: calls, e-mail, postal mail, surveys, instant messaging and chat, text messages, Web self-service and now social media. More often than not, the contact center is not responsible for all of these, which means more lines of business are handling customer interactions. These employees have to cope with that on top of their normal jobs, which can involve complex processes of their own, for example, handling customer insurance claims or putting together mortgage documentation. This situation is exacerbated as companies send more interactions to home-based workers, mobile workers and third parties providing interaction-handling services.
As a result more workers are less visible to central management, which makes it harder to identify what these employees are actually doing, scheduling how many are needed to meet expected workloads, monitoring how well or poorly they are doing, and producing all the required reports and analysis to monitor and assess their performance. In response and bolstered by its acquisition of eglue that I assessed, NICE Systems has taken the rather bold step of starting to offer products to support back-office activities. Its Back Office Suite has four main components: desktop process management, workforce management, quality management and performance management.
The process management tool is built on the acquired eglue product and allows companies to capture and monitor how employees actually use the systems on their desktops – what systems they access, what data they capture and access, and how they navigate between systems. This enables companies to identify best practices and where appropriate build a desktop that will steer everyone to follow the best practices. The same functionality can be used to ensure everyone follows defined processes to ensure compliance with designated regulations. The workforce management and quality monitoring applications use the existing front-office versions of these products to help companies forecast the staff numbers they need to cover back-office tasks and create structured processes to monitor and assess back-office employee performance and better focus coaching. The performance management application is a version of the front-office product that is targeted to produce reports and analysis of how back-office employees are performing against key performance metrics. It draws data from back-office applications and other required data sources.
These applications are targeted at lines of business within a company that need to execute complex process (such as claims handling) on a consistent basis for large volumes of transactions, much as companies have had to learn to do in handling customer interactions. NICE simply intends to apply the experience it gained in the contact center to the people and processes associated with these back-office tasks. This wasn’t quite what I expected NICE Systems to do with its eglue acquisition. But I have written many times that a “smart” desktop can make agents not only more efficient but also much more effective at resolving customer issues. I see no reason why the same thinking can’t be applied to some complex back-office tasks. Has your company adopted a smart desktop in the contact center? Have you ever thought that using similar systems could make some of your back-office activities more efficient and effective? Let me know.
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Richard Snow – VP & Research Director