A NICE Time in Wyoming
I recently attended my first in-person analyst event in18 months, and it sure was NICE (pun intended). The NICE team put on an amazing event, in terms of both content and the Analyst Experience (AX - a new term I coined). Taking place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we got to experience a scenic helicopter tour, and all that Jackson Ford Ranch had to offer including a choice of horseback riding, bison encounters, fly fishing, nature walk, archery/axe throwing, and more. The team went out of its way to provide extraordinary and transforming experiences, which happens to also be the company’s mission statement: Transforming experiences to be extraordinary and trusted.
The conference was also the setting for NICE’s introduction of CXi, or Customer Experience Interactions, a new framework delivered through a unified suite of applications on the NICE CXone platform.
Kicking off the conference, CEO Barak Eilam described how NICE is transforming the market and is committed to helping its customers transform. Eilam provided some background about the company history to demonstrate its extensive background and expertise, providing the foundation needed as the industry moves to digital-first, AI-enabled experiences. He noted that in 2016, NICE and inContact came together to revolutionize the market with a single platform for routing, workforce engagement, and analytics with its CXone platform. The company has continued to grow and innovate in several areas, notably CCaaS, WFO, digital and self-service, and analytics, with more than 400 new features introduced in 2021.
There’s no doubt that the company has been extremely successful, with $1.9 billion revenue, and 27,000 customers. Acquisitions have been a big part of the company’s growth, with 3-4 acquisitions a year, enabling NICE to move faster on its vision.
A good part of the presentations and discussions were around digital and self-service, and of course, AI. Eilam noted that today’s basic self-service solutions aren’t satisfactory, as they create customer disillusionment and friction. A better solution is required, which of course NICE CXone can provide.
Introducing a New Framework and Acronym - CXi
Paul Jarman, President NICE CXone, set the stage for the introduction of CXi, noting that only 19% of interactions start in a contact center, with 81% starting at “a digital doorstep” such as an app, search engine, website, social app, etc. For years the industry has had voice, IVR, and ACD to cover the 19%, but with the rise of digital and self-service, the focus needs to shift from the 19% to the 81% to create the right, personalized, seamless customer journey.
As Jarman explained, “We have an opportunity to drive a new CX standard – with one smart platform unifying ALL interactions,” adding, “I’m more excited about what we’re doing next than anything we’ve done before.” He explained that the traditional approach to CX misses the full customer journey and customer needs, setting the stage for digital as the catalyst for market disruption. With a focus on the digital doorstep as the beginning of most interactions, CXi empowers organizations to intelligently meet their customers wherever their journey begins, while leveraging AI and data driven self-service to assist customers and agents to successfully resolve customer issues.
CXi is not a product, but a framework or a standard bringing together NICE’s various assets, including digital, self-service, WFO, CaaS, and analytics, with AI as the glue bringing these assets together. As shown in the slide below, CXi is delivered through the integration of several core CXone platform capabilities:
- Digital entry points, such as a search engine, application, proactive chat, website, etc.
- Smart self-service, based on conversational data, AI, bots, knowledge, and more.
- Full CX orchestration for not just the agent but for the entire journey from the originating customer need event to its successful conclusion.
- Prepared agents, which means having the right trained, engaged, motivated, and scheduled agents.
- Complete performance, including insight, automation, and intelligence.
Supporting all of this is Enlighten AI with “the right AI and data models to create personalized experiences.” The foundation is the CXone open cloud platform to interconnect all of the elements and ensure they all work together in a seamless way. The result is the ability to manage 100% of interactions, rather than just 19%.
During the conference I spoke with Jarman to get more information on CXi. In this video interview, Jarman discusses CXi, “digital doorsteps,” and more. As he explains, CXi goes beyond the contact center and helps companies manage all their interactions.
Jarman noted, “CXi is a framework; customers can start where they want and we can help them perfect their journeys with more of our solutions.” He explained that CXone is best positioned to drive the new standard based on NICE’s assets and capabilities, including deep CX market expertise, its global partner network, “the largest set of labeled CX interactions data in the world, the widest range of products covering digital and self-service,” and more.
I also spoke with Chris Bauserman, VP Marketing for NICE CXone, who discussed CXi as the next evolution of CX management. He also described how NICE views AI and self-service to support customers through whichever digital doorstep they use as part of their customer journey. According to Bauserman, CXone pulls everything together in one platform, with purpose-built AI for self-service and agent assist to provide the best outcomes. He also discussed how CXone can support mobile capabilities enabling organizations to provide proactive service from mobile apps.
AI – or Data, Data, Data
I’ve long been impressed with NICE’s AI portfolio and capabilities, built upon years and years of data collection and labeling. Enlighten AI, introduced two years ago, is the core AI brain of CXone, providing out-of-the-box AI models that are purpose built for CX. Enlighten AI is embedded natively across the CXone product portfolio. As Barry Cooper, President, Workforce Engagement & Customer Experience Division, noted, “AI has come of age. The next stage is “AI Native,” which goes beyond today’s rules-based or bolt-on AI. AI is being used to take what agents do and train bots to be smarter and make self-service work.
The Enlighten Data Platform is NICE CXone’s data factory creating AI assets for CXi, with out-of-the-box AI models purpose built for CX, and unified AI embedded natively across all applications. At the heart of the Enlighten Data Platform are hundreds of models, thanks to Nexidia, which NICE acquired several years ago. NICE has created AI assets that natively embed intelligence before, during, and after every interaction to improve interactions in the moment and proactively.
The Enlighten AI portfolio includes:
- Enlighten AI routing to find the best match based on agent and customer attributes for smarter routing decisions.
- Enlighten XO, which uses agent actions to train self service to work smarter and better. It identifies types of business processes that deliver the highest ROI for self service and applies specialized models to find and train highly effective automation.
- Enlighten AI for CSAT to create intelligence based on sentiment and eight agent behavior scores, followed by action to automate business processes.
To drill down into Enlighten AI and Enlighten XO, I spoke with John Willcutts, VP Digital Solutions Group for NICE CXone. Willcutts made it clear that NICE is a leader when it comes to data, noting, “No one takes the analytics approach first because they don’t have the data the way we do. You can’t believe the metadata we have.” As he explains in this video interview, all digital journeys start with data, which come from previous interactions. NICE built labeled data sets that can be used to identify how and where to get started with bot self-service and automation. Enlighten XO shows the best opportunities for automation, AI, and self-service with the potential ROI.
As far as analyst conferences go, NICE upped the ante, providing personalized and extraordinary experiences. While these analyst experiences are fun and made for a truly awesome event, what’s really important was hearing about the progress NICE has made and how the company is delivering on its vision for CXone and CXi. The company’s deep expertise in AI and automation, backed by lots and lots of data, is being used to support both agents and customers, as the industry shifts from voice-first to digital- and self-service-first experiences. The demos of future releases helped solidify my view of the company’s position as an innovation leader. With a large amount of cash from operations, expect to see NICE continue acquiring companies to help accelerate its growth.
While it was clear that CXone is a unified, connected, and extendable platform for delivering CX, I would have liked to have heard more about NICE’s approach to integrated UCaaS and CCaaS, which has become a key trend in the industry. The company acknowledged its strong partnerships and integration with RingCentral and Microsoft Teams, but I would have liked to have heard a stronger statement about the company’s direction and strategy for UCaaS.
All in all, it was great to finally attend a live analyst event, hear about NICE’s strategy and direction, interact with the NICE execs, and stay in a beautiful part of the world. I came away being more impressed with NICE as a company and Eilam as a leader, as we heard about the focus on the employee experience, especially during the past 18 months to help employees feel connected and engaged.
And did I mention the helicopter ride?