Shift in the Playing Field by Ranganath Krishnamani - Spinning Top

The 2019 Customer Interaction Management Landscape Part 2: Upcoming Disruptions

Image credit: Shift in the playing field by Ranganath Krishnamani, spinning top

In part 1 of the series, we looked at technologies for self-service and customer interaction over the various channels. In this second part, I would like to cover process and analytics, the two other layers of the landscape.

My landscape is built on a detailed functional blueprint that I keep on updating with market changes. It can be used to map existing stacks or assemble new ones. As the industry evolves, some of the building blocks became features of larger categories. The process layer groups all the technologies helping with the handling and resolution of customer service requests as well as productivity aids for agents.

 

 

Automation and process digitization take central stage

Automation has risen to the top of the priority list for many enterprises. It complements self-service to help businesses cope with the explosion of interaction volume. Gartner's staggering prediction of a 3.5 increase in the number of interactions for the five-year period ending in 2022 helps appreciate the daunting task it represents. Self-service is only a partial solution to the challenge. Companies need as well to automate their back-end processes and assist their agents in being more productive. At the same time, businesses are overhauling or re-inventing their processes for the digital world. Automation and process digitization overlaps, the former being a byproduct of the latter. The two improve resolution times and reduce the customer effort for getting things done, both critical drivers of the Customer Experience (CX).

A natural place to implement these is CRM. All major CRM providers have significantly expanded the automation and workflow capabilities of their software. Besides, a growing number of vertical solutions come with prebuilt industry-specific processes. A CRM-centric approach has its limits though. CRM is only holding a fraction of the data and customer information needed. This is an issue tackled by low code platforms. They offer modern tools to automate workflows across applications and federate desktops. It can be a compelling approach and has already rejuvenated the category. Likewise, desktop integration software is on the rise.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) continues to make inroads in the front-office. A few weeks ago, Gartner issued an announcement that RPA became the fastest growing software category. While a large part of this growth is taking place in the back-office and finance departments, things are about to change. The largest players have recently announced product extensions or acquisitions to better serve the customer service market segment. They are joining specialists such as Jacada, Nice, and Pegasystems to give a boost to the category development.

Context is king

Automation and process digitization have bolstered the need for a comprehensive customer context. It is crucial for enabling personalized interactions between customers and customer service representatives. Context assembly is hard. It was the original promise of CRM but every progress in that direction got offset by the emergence of new applications. The past decade has witnessed in particular the formation of three new categories, Marketing Automation, Customer Success Management, and Customer Engagement, each holding large chunks of customers’ contexts. New technologies are emerging to tackle the issue, mirroring the Customer Data Platforms (CDP) development for marketing. Low code platforms include tools that can aggregate contexts from multiple applications. Eventually, several customer service players such as Kustomer or Zendesk with its Sunshine platform are incorporating context assembly capabilities in their software. It comes in the form of a flexible data model and rich APIs to connect to the various enterprise applications.

AI makes its way into the stack

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making headways, penetrating deeper in the customer interaction stack. The use of machine learning for routing continues to gain interest. Pioneers such as Afinity were joined by Genesys and Nice with its Mattersight acquisition while Cisco hinted at his ambitions in the domain. Google made the contact center a key focus area for its AI technology and has announced alliances with many providers. Access to the AI capabilities of Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a key driver behind Amazon Connect's rapid growth. Agent assistance is eventually emerging as a popular application for AI.

The rise of speech analytics

AI is also reshaping the speech and interaction analytics category. It now includes over 60 participants. Historical leaders, CallMiner, Nice, and Verint are now facing competition from a slew of new entrants such as Gridspace, Observe.AI, and Uniphore. AI has transformed speech to text, making it much more accurate. Additionally, it provides additional signals such as emotion. This can be done at scale allowing the analysis of all calls instead of random sampling. AI lets you uncover insights from interactions and surface the specific segments of calls that require attention. Speech Analytics has the potential to disrupt the traditional quality management model. The latest technology can work in realtime, enabling live assistance scenarios. Alas, few contact center infrastructure providers have opened their voice streaming interfaces. This is changing through with the likes of Amazon and Twilio.

Customer Experience Management reaches new heights

Customer Experience Management is a broad category. It includes players ranging from point Customer Satisfaction (CSat) or Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey tool vendors to providers of enterprise platforms gathering feedback from customers across all departments and all journeys. SAP acquisition of Qualtrics late 2018 for a whopping $8 Billion took the market by surprise. Qualtrics was about to IPO. Its S1 showed it had already reached quarterly revenues of $100M. Medallia is another player that went public recently with also strong financials. Market leaders are going beyond offering Voice of the Customers (VoC) software to incorporate employee feedback. It reflects the now well accepted tight correlation between employee engagement and customer engagement. These platforms include the capabilities to prioritize and take action on problems found, aspiring to become the “quarterback” of CX improvement. 

Analytics defragmentation?

The analytics layer remains very fragmented. The past years have seen the emergence or revival of several categories. Many large enterprises are turning to data warehouses and data lakes to consolidate all their analytics. They can then overlay data visualization software on top of them. Tableau's recent acquisition by Salesforce and Google's purchase of Looker illustrate the prominent role of this new type of software. Practitioners have also shared with me another compelling driver behind this approach. It is allowing them to untangle their stack in preparation for a cloud transition. Industry veterans who recall the importance of reporting software such as Avaya CMS will see a sign of the disaggregation of the traditional contact center software.

Customer Journey Analytics revival

Customer Journey Analytics can be considered the holy grail of customer analytics. They promise incredible insights but remain elusive because so hard to put together. While many organizations have adopted customer journey mapping, they rely on manual approaches and analytics have lagged. The complexity of pulling customer journeys across many applications, channels, and fragmented customer contexts have prevented the category from reaching its full potential. Our omnichannel world is having companies reassess the strategic importance of customer journeys. Customer Journey Visualization is a very compelling way to extract and present customer context. The cloud is eventually making things simpler and we can expect a new wave of solutions to emerge.

IDC issued a couple of days ago the prediction that CX related technology spending could reach $600B in 2022. It is no surprise that there are so many disruptions looming. Stay tuned with more articles on them.