Recap of Interactions 2012-Interactive Intelligence’s Take on Today and the FutureAvaya
The just-concluded Interactions 2012 in Indianapolis, the annual conclave of industry trend-setter in contact center automation, unified communications, and business process automation software and services Interactive Intelligence (News – Alert), was a feast of food for thought for those of us who follow the industry. For those who have followed my coverage of the event, from the electric keynote of Clayton Christensen to the expert panel and the insights of CEO Don Brown and those who ran over 350 breakout sessions, the event was a terrific window on the world now and provided a fascinating glimpse of how a host of different members of the community view the future.
Just prior to leaving Indy, I sat down with Interactive Intelligence Chief Marketing Officer Joe Staples (News – Alert) to get his take on the event and to compare notes. It was, to say the least, both enlightening and expansive. After all, the company has its feet in the enterprise and contact centers solutions spaces. It participates in the broad expanse of business optimization capabilities spanning not only technology (all things contact center related, but also unified communications (UC), collaboration, business process automation, premises-based, cloud), and is leveraging mobility and social media. In other words, the impressive number of breakouts reflected how much Interactive touches. And, given where things are going, and the company is leading, it is likely next year there will be even more.
We started by looking at the event itself. It was a groundbreaker. This was the first time Interactive Intelligence decided to host customers, prospects, channel partners, developers, consultants, industry and financial analysts and the press simultaneously. Staples noted,” We did not know what to expect. Our hope was for around 1000 registrants and we got roughly 1500.” He added that, “Indianapolis is our home. We think it is critical to we give our stakeholders and entire ecosystem access to not just our products but the people who create, maintain and enhance them.” I noted that the history of such events was to separate various audiences because of fear of what I characterized as “message contamination.” We both agreed that if a company’s message was consistent and sound it seems almost counter-intuitive that anyone would be worried about the intermingling of perspectives. In fact, should relish the chance to show off and tap the knowledge created from dynamic interactions.
Hitting the highlights
Staples and I interestingly were in violent agreement on the important takeaways from the event. After stating the obvious about the value of the Christensen keynote which set the tone for lively debate, and the interesting remarks of CEO Brown and the industry experts, the short list included:
Migration to CIC 4.0
Last year when I attended, 4.0 had yet to go commercial. Anticipation amongst customers and channel partners was intense, along with the desire of everyone to get their hands on Speech Analyzer, the keyword spotting capability that gives administrators a real-time ability to understand more about agent interactions. This year’s sessions focused on what is coming in SU 2 and SU3, and most importantly on tips and tricks for those migrating. The good news for Interactive Intelligence from my non-scientific queries of various customers is that migration, along with consideration of moving parts of the business to the cloud and taking a deep look at Interaction Process Automation (IPA) is top of mind.
The backdrop here is that Interactive Intelligence is rightfully proud that their early investment in communications as a service (CaaS) and moving contact centers into the cloud has paid off. They are expanding the number of data centers around the world, have been brought into some very large deals, and their cloud business at 28 percent represents a substantially larger portion of revenues than those of others in the space. In other words, they seem ahead of the curve for maximizing the potential of the market. As various sessions emphasized, they also appreciate that when it comes to the cloud one size does not fit all and the cloud is not for everyone.
Reality is that by having consistency between premises and cloud-based functionality, and giving customers the flexibility of changing as financial requirements, control and security issues, compliance and other factors dictate the need to be adroit, positions the company and its customers well for having solutions that precisely fit current needs but without the fear of a major forklift as circumstances change.
Purely from a marketing perspective, the announcement by CEO Brown to the analysts that the company intends to go “down market,” optimizing solutions and price points for companies with under 100 agents in their contact centers, was non-trivial.
Starting with the Brown opening of the event where Interaction Mobilizer was the demo and followed-up with packed audiences in the sessions and at the demo areas, it is clear that multi-channel issues resulting from the BYOD phenomena and people increasingly using their personal devices to interact with contact centers is going to be a critical part of the mix for years to come. This is true in the device management arena where Interactive Intelligence does not play, as well as on how getting the mobile thing right on the apps side can have profound impact on improving customer interaction experiences as well as on reducing contact center agent’s time to resolution of issues.
Indeed, mobility is part of a broader context challenge in terms of all customer experiences. Reality is the more context that is available about customer interactions the easier it is to resolve issues. However, it is going to mean adjustments by all aspects of company operations and not just the contact center, including changes in culture. It is also going to mean significant education of the customers’ customers. Just because there is an app for that does not mean people will use it. The real challenge in fact is to come up with the right balance for BYOD that is optimized for an increasingly self-service world but where the majority of people when they have a real issue want to talk with somebody and not have to continuously repeat themselves (the opportunity for context enhancements).
I like what Staples had to say. “We are still probably on the on-ramp of how social will impact businesses of all shapes and sizes. What we do know is that social media is an amazing way to get critical feedback. You cannot hear what your customers really think and have the ability to take corrective action or trumpet success unless you are listening closely. Social media is not just the way to promote, but is a tool we all need to harness in terms of its ability to enable us to meet customer expectations better.”
Staples and I had an interesting dialog on this. It went along with industry expert opinions that right now mobility and social media tend to be checklist “gotta have,” items which run the risk of actually hurting a company if not used correctly. What it said to me is that IT administrators must engage the predominant owners of social media, currently their marketing and pr departments, in a discussion of best practices. As Christensen noted in his speech you need to measure relevant factors, and it would behoove all internal stakeholders, as the expert panel stated numerous times, to know what those factors are and to have a well reasoned plan in place rather than a bunch of “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks,” initiatives.
As I stated at the top there was a lot to cover and certainly a lot to think about. It was actually invigorating to have so much intellectual stimulation. Interactive Intelligence deserves credit for a job well done.
However, I cannot close without sharing a perspective I heard that tends not to make headlines. Whether it was over breakfast, coffee or in the halls, the most consistent thing I heard throughout the event was customers interacting with each other about their biggest challenges. At the top of the list was “breaking down the silos.” In discussions of migration to newer technology to thinking about business process automation, to a person almost the challenge at most companies seems to be as much internal. The feeling as one contact center administrator told me was, “If we could just get our act together improving the customer experience would be the easy part.” Getting the right blend of people, products and services and processes, all correctly orchestrated and harmonized, and somehow managing disruption for positive results, is the Holy Grail.
Interactive Intelligence is rightly focused on the breaking down the silos issues. This is true from the internal perspective of automating as much as possible under closely monitored and measured environments, and sharing cross-LOB and operational information and insights for greater business and customer intelligence. It is also true on the outward facing part of the equation where making sure you interact with the customer according to their preferences, and are listening to what they are saying is not just a way to manage risk but is critical on the path to creating sustainable advantage.
It all shapes up as an interesting year for Interactive Intelligence and for the industry in general.
Link to article: