When you think of the big vendors in the Contact Center space then NICE systems sits right up there with Aspect and Verint. All three offer a suite of products that cover similar functional areas and my research shows that between them they dominate market share in what is often described as the “the workforce optimization” space. Even in a tough market place, NICE has performed well in 2009 and has been able to add to its already large customer base. This has allowed it to invest in its product portfolio and bring to market new capabilities that will help companies improve the performance of handling customer interactions and contact center operations.
For me workforce optimization includes five main areas of functionality: call recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, training/coaching and performance management (analytics) and part of agent performance management which I recently researched. During 2009 Nice delivered new capabilities including: increasing the volumes of calls that can be recorded, SIP trunk recording; analytics driven quality monitoring to help with agent coaching; multi-channel agent scheduling; workforce management for flexible scheduling and use outside of contact center; automated agent coaching; and interactive analytics across contact center data.
The very latest development enhances NICE’s ability to deliver cross-channel analytics. As customers change their preferred ways of communicating, companies have to respond by supporting more channels of communication such as e-mail, chat, mobile text messaging and social media. It is therefore vital that companies understand what channels of communication customers are using, and for what purposes as I found in my customer experience management (CEM) benchmark research. It is equally, or even more important to understand when customers begin an interaction on one channel but complete it by using one or more additional channels. The trick is to understand that disparate interactions might be from one customer – independently of channel – and that they relate to the same incident. NICE does this through a combination of voice analytics to understand, for example, that a call is as the result of a chat session, text analytics to understand the content of text-based interactions; and integration with systems such as CRM to identify that a series of interactions all relate to the same case. The new features also include root cause analysis which companies can use to identify why the sequence of interactions started.
All of these sit alongside developments which now mean many of the products are now available on a hosted (or cloud-based) basis, making them more accessible and affordable, especially for companies with small to medium size contact centers. This is particularly exciting as my research confirms that the majority of contact centers have fewer than 200 seats and hosted solutions open up the opportunity for them to take advantage of functionality normally only affordable by larger centers as also found in my research.
All of the signs suggest that 2010 will be “the year of the customer”, as the economy begins to pick up and companies focus more on improving customer service and in doing so drive up customer satisfaction and revenues. So although much of what NICE has been doing has been focused on the internal operations, increasing these new developments (and other new ones in the pipeline) will support companies in their efforts to improve the customer experience, improve the effectiveness and efficiency of handling customer interactions and make the agent’s life easier. All in all, companies that want to get smarter at handling all types of interactions would do well to keep track of what NICE can do for your organization.
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Richard Snow – VP & Research Director