The Buzz(ient) on Interactive Intelligence and Social Media

13 Oct 2010

At Interactive Intelligence's partner conference last week, a group of analysts and consultants got to hear about the company's products, strategy, direction, and more. While much of the discussion over the 2½ days focused on Communications as a Service (CaaS), business process automation, and the new Customer Interaction Center (CIC) 4.0, I was most interested in - surprise, surprise - Interactive's foray into social media. With its focus on the contact center, it makes sense that Interactive Intelligence would add social media as another channel for its contact center solution, using its routings and queuing capabilities for social media comments and queries.

Rather than developing its own social media analytics capabilities, Interactive Intelligence is partnering with Buzzient and integrating Buzzient with CIC to monitor, route, and report on social media interactions. Buzzient monitors 20 social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, as well as blogs, wikis, and online forums, and searches for and captures customer-defined key words and phrases. It sends an email including the social media communications and a sentiment score to the contact center via CIC, which routes the email to an appropriate agent based on information provided by Buzzient, including the sentiment score. The sentiment score is an assigned positive or negative value based on words and phrases used in the social media posting. If a customer tweets, "I'm really angry about the quality of the product I just ordered from X," then it would be assigned a negative sentiment score. Buzzient has harvested information and intelligence from the social web for various industries including high tech, financial services, health care, consumer products, and retail, to build an analytics base to help identify sentiment and the way words are used. For example, in the retail market, there may be a younger demographic that uses different terminology, so Buzzient built in intelligence to identify phrases that may be used differently based on context, such as "these are sick shoes," which would actually get a positive sentiment score, as opposed to "I'm so sick of the way the company treats its customers," which would get a negative score.

The emails are sent from Buzzient and are queued and routed to agents through CIC just like any other email, and the agent receiving the email can read the customer's social media post and respond to it via Buzzient or directly through the social media channel that was used. If the agent responds by going through Buzzient, then CIC can report on it just like any other contact center interaction. If the agent instead goes directly to Twitter, Facebook, or whichever social media site, then it is not captured and reported on. I'm not quite sure why Interactive Intelligence would include this option, since it's important to track these interactions and include them in the contact center reports, and to use this information for agent staffing and scheduling.

Reporting and metrics is a key part of the value that Buzzent provides. In the Buzzient screen, companies can view competitive metrics such as the sentiment of tweets about your company compared with your competitors. Since Buzzient scans various public social media sites, it can capture information and sentiment ratings not only on your company, but your competitors as well, so you can see the positive and negative things being said about your product versus what's being said about your competitors.

The Buzzient/CIC integration seems pretty simple and straightforward. Customers just need Interactive's CIC and Customer Interaction Attendant (capable of handling email, not just voice), and they purchase the Buzzient software through Buzzient (I think it would make more sense for Interactive's resellers and sales people to be able to resell Buzzient). I do like the fact that Interactive isn't charging for the Buzzient integration.

According to Jennifer Wilson, Interactive Intelligence social media product manager, the company is trying to identify customer interest in these social media capabilities, and will add more integration points down the road, such as CRM integration.

While the Buzzient integration is a great first step toward integrating social media with the contact center, it's just a first step, and there are capabilities I'd like to see added. Right now, the social media communications show up in reports as email interactions (since Buzzient sends the information to CIC as an email), and there is no separate category for social media. There is also no automated response capability built in for agents responding to social media postings. I like the sentiment score, but I'd also like to see influence scores and other capabilities that are currently missing.

Interactive is taking it slow and waiting to hear what its customers are looking for before moving ahead too quickly with social media integration. This may be a wise approach - for now.


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