Interactive Intelligence Placed in Gartner Leaders Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure

There are few more coveted spots in the entire tech world than being placed in the Leaders quadrant by Gartner Group, which is where customer experience solutions provider Interactive Intelligence Group has been positioned in the .

The report, which provides an analysis of vendors in the market based on their ability to execute and completeness of vision, is included in the Interactive Intelligence ,

According to Gartner, Leaders in its Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure report are “high-viability vendors with broad portfolios, significant market share, broad geographic coverage, a clear vision of how contact center needs will evolve, and a proven track record of delivering contact center products. They are well-positioned with their current product portfolio and likely to continue delivering leading products. Leaders do not necessarily offer a best-of-breed solution for every customer requirement. However, overall, their products are strong and often have some exceptional capabilities. Additionally, these vendors provide solutions that present relatively low risk of deployment failure.”

The recognition is significant on its own in any given year, but is even more impressive since this is the sixth straight year Interactive Intelligence has been positioned as a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure, Worldwide.

Commenting on the report’s recognition, Dr. Donald E. Brown, founder and CEO for Interactive Intelligence said:  “We believe that our consistent placement in Gartner’s Leaders Quadrant is because we’re always looking ahead to what kind of technology innovation will give customers more value.” He added that, “Today, we see this next innovation as a result of using the cloud and hybrid solutions in entirely new ways to give organizations unprecedented speed of deployment, scalability, reliability, and unique functionality to more positively engage their customers.”

With Interactive Intelligence continuing its growth in all sectors of the market around the world in helping organizations transform the ways in which customers are engaged, by leveraging new functionality on premises, in the cloud and via hybrid solutions, having a state-of-the-art, agile and secure infrastructure is obviously the key.  Six straight years of recognition for contact center infrastructure leadership to say the least, says a lot.

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NexxPhase & Contact Solutions Team Up to Tackle Better Business Intelligence

Few companies can operate for long without a clear and present understanding of the market. Knowing what customers want, and what companies in the market both are and aren’t offering—not to mention where those sectors overlap—can mean all the difference between long-term success and short-term failure. A new partnership recently revealed between NexxPhase and , meanwhile, looks to improve the process of understanding the market and helping customers within said markets.

The partnership between NexxPhase and Contact Solutions is set to bring with it not only improvements in tools designed to yield better business intelligence, but also new tools to help customers engage in self-service mechanisms. useful cloud-based services to help drive customer engagement, and Contact Solutions deals in cloud-based customer care systems, with a particular focus on means to improve customer engagement. Contact Solutions was, at last report, the first company to offer optimization tools, benchmarking with a data focus, and analytics tools that can yield direct points of action.

With the new tools, calls can actually reflect the contents of and the resolutions reached around previous calls. This steps up the personal touch involved, and actually increases the effectiveness of customer self-service methods.

NexxLinx’s CEO, Craig Mento, offered up a bit of commentary on the partnership arrangement, saying “Contact Solutions has made a real science out of studying the difference between customer disservice and a rewarding customer experience. And then doing something about it. We’re thrilled to be working with them.” Contact Solutions’ COO and Executive Vice President of Strategic Development, Vete Clements, meanwhile, noted “NexxPhase has done an excellent job at understanding the unique needs of each client. Contact Solutions’ cloud-based IVR and mobile customer self-service is a perfect fit within their infrastructure, creating effortless customer care, breaking down the silos through highly personalized engagements, and providing sustainable, unique solutions for our mutual customers that quickly adapt to rapidly changing customer demands.”

Bringing in self-service methods for customer service, at least on some points, can be a very valuable tool for businesses to put to use. It allows for reduced staffing in customer service departments, as many common issues can be successfully routed to a combination of (IVR) tools and basic menus. If contact center staff doesn’t need to address the basics, then staff can be devoted to taking on more complex issues that require more of a human touch. The fewer people assigned to telling people things like store hours or account balances on a billing account, the more people can be put to major issues that might result in lost customers.

When the customers with simple questions can get answers just as quickly and effectively as customers with complex issues, the end result is a lot more in the way of satisfied customer. That’s a welcome development for all concerned, and a development that should make the partnership between NexxPhase and Contact Solutions a sound one indeed.

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Connect First Joins Coalition of Groups to Connect With Charity

Connect First is already a name to be reckoned with when it comes to (SaaS) software, along with its reputation in cloud contact center software. But now, it’s looking to make an expansion in another role, joining up with a group of other concerns to bring some extra value into peoples’ lives in a whole new way. Specifically, Connect First is joining others to help out on the housing front.

Specifically, —through its Connect First Foundation—is teaming up with the World Racing League (WRL) to give fellow partner Flatirons Habitat for Humanity not only more in the way of resources to work with, but also some help on the ground in terms of getting more people back in houses in the area. Flatirons Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Susan Lythgoe offered up a little more in the way of background on how the three groups got together.

She said “It is so important to the work of nonprofits such as Flatirons Habitat for Humanity to receive such tremendous support from our business community. When we have the opportunity to extend that support and message to a broader audience through the World Racing League, it is even more impactful. It was so exciting to spend time with the Connect First team at the endurance race and share our mutual passions for events such as that and help to improve our community. Many thanks to Connect First for making that bridge possible.”

This isn’t a first for the Connect First Foundation, however, having also been reportedly seen in events like the “Tour de Cure,” and the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure” events. This shows just how deeply Connect First is committed to not just providing a quality product in the SaaS field, but also in helping others in time of need. As Connect First COO Dan Candee described, “So many of our neighbors and our community were crippled by the flood, and are still in serious rebuilding mode. Habitat is facilitating many rebuild projects along the Front Range, and we want to do everything we can to support that mission.”

Engaging in charitable works is a great thing for a company to do. It not only allows for a deeper connection between the community and the business that serves the community with its products and services, but it also provides something of a halo effect for the rest of the business’ ventures, providing a margin of error should something go wrong. Apologies from a company for a defective product or an accident involving hazardous wastes, for example, tend to fall on more receptive ears when the company is already well-known for cleaning up parks or building houses. Charitable moves for a business, therefore, aren’t just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do to ensure regular provision of goodwill from the community, a valuable coin in time of trouble.

Thus, Connect First has afforded itself a measure of protection, as well as a measure of respect from the community at large. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the company’s bottom line in the near term, but whether it does or it doesn’t, it still has some valuable protections and a little good old fashioned karma insurance.

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Connect First named 2014 Colorado Company to Watch

Connect First, a SaaS telecommunications and cloud contact center software provider, was recently named a 2014 Colorado Company to Watch. Connect First was one of only 49 Colorado companies to receive the award.

“We’ve accomplished so much in the last year not only with our products, but also within the Boulder community,” said Geoff Mina, Connect First CEO. “We’re honored to be recognized for these accomplishments, and we hope to continue the technological, monetary, and cultural growth that’s been taking place at Connect First for years to come.”

Connect First claims that it offers a robust platform, designed and supported by a team of highly experienced engineers, designers, and business analysts, and backed with personalized in-house customer care. Solutions include Cloud Routing, Inbound ACD, Outbound Dialing, Call Tracking, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Voice Broadcast, Disaster Recovery, Predictive Dialer, Real-Time Telemetry, CDR Reporting, Live Agent Chat and more. Through a consultative approach with each customer interaction, Connect First builds customized solutions to meet the needs of a discerning customer base.

Few weeks ago, Connect First’s solution received the prestigious , at the PACE National Convention and Expo at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Fla. The PACE Technovation recognizes innovation in products and services within the telecommunications industry.

Connect First Safe is a new account type for contact centers that gives contact centers the power to dial cell phone numbers, staying in compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act regulations, which greatly affect outbound dialing; restricting the use of auto-dialers and requiring express written consent for outbound telemarketing. By removing the “capacity” for predictive/ preview dialing, Connect First Safe keeps outbound-dialing clients within the bounds of the law. Officials said that Connect First Safe uses new outbound server architecture that does not have access to predictive, preview, or power dialing.

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Omni-Channel? A Definition of Terms Please!

In looking through the massive number of potential items to cover that fill up my inbox in a virtual continuous stream, I came across something that caught my attention. It was a press release titled, “Johnston & Murphy Steps Up Omni-Channel Commerce with Demandware.”  Given that “omni-channel” is just a few short months replaced multi-channel as the term de jure for categorizing 360 degree customer engagement, I was intrigued. That was until it became apparent that one person’s definition of omni-channel is not the same as another’s, and for all of us that is not a good thing.

This is in no way to belittle what high-end footwear retailer Johnston & Murphy (J&M) is trying to accomplish with the migration of its digital commerce operations to Demandware’s cloud-based commerce platform. In fact, J&M as a cutting edge retailer is setting an example that is being replicated by retailers around the world in leveraging the cloud to free its IT people from managing infrastructure to concentrating on enhancing customers’ shopping experiences whether they are online or offline.  It also enables J&M developers, marketing and sales to use the data generated by customers using various channels for information and transactional purposes to continue to fine-tune capabilities that create sustainable competitive advantage.

That said, I took a look at the Demandware site to see all of the capabilities its platform had to offer, and read further as to where live customer interaction with contact center agents, possible even with the help of in-store employees, was part of the omni-channel experience.  Interestingly, the ability of the customer to use their voice, as opposed to just their smartphone or tablet, was nowhere to be found.

The good news is that, the headline may be a bit misleading as can be seen from the following:  “Our customers expect increasingly sophisticated shopping experiences, so for Johnston & Murphy, we started with a refresh of our ecommerce site. Our next step will be to optimize our site for mobile devices and eventually take digital into our stores, working toward a true omni-channel experience,” said Heather Marsh, vice president of ecommerce at Johnston & Murphy. “With Demandware, we have a powerful, yet agile platform that will help us move faster to achieve our ultimate goal of omni-channel enablement.”

Therein lies therub.  When the industry is using very specific jargon as a marketing tool, it needs to be very careful. Having a great cloud-based e-commerce website customers can interact with to obtain information and perform a multitude of self-service capabilities is not the same as being truly omni-channel. 

In fact, as TMC’s recently concluded event highlighted, when it comes to enhancing the customer experience, particularly in regards to contact centers, you are not omni-channel if voice is not a key component of customer engagement.  Indeed, self-service can only go so far and it is still the personal touch that has significant impact on customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. If you are skeptical for some reason, look no further than how closely social media is being monitored by retailers and how the majority of experiences shared have to deal with bad personal interactions with customer service people. 

In short, words matter (double meaning intended), and our industry needs to be really careful how it uses them so the hype does not create unrealistic expectations.   

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Birch Communications Named Top 50 by BenchmarkPortal

Birch Communications, a provider of business focused communications, cloud and managed services, has won a Top 50 placement in the Top 100 Small Call Center competition for 2014 from BenchmarkPortal. Birch Communications was awarded the Top 50 placement after evaluating key metrics against industry peers.  

“This year it is an honor to move up to the Top 50, in a thorough comparison with our peers,” noted Chris Aversano, executive vice-president and COO of Birch.  “At Birch, our customer care teams strive to provide faster and better service to our customers than they would receive if they contacted any of our competitors. Our call center staff answers most calls within 60 seconds, or less, achieving a prestigious 80 percent service level.  Our company tag line is ‘At Your Service,’ and at Birch, we really mean it.”

Birch Communications provides IP-based communications, cloud and managed services to businesses in all 50-states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Puerto Rico.  Birch services include:  voice, broadband, Internet access, hosted services, managed services, wireless voice, wireless data and many other communications, cloud and managed services.  Voice and broadband services are, in most cases, delivered using the Birch secure IP-network. 

In April, Birch Customer Service Department won the Certification as a Center of Excellence from BenchmarkPortal. As part of the call center certification process, Birch Customer Service Department underwent a rigorous benchmarking process that compared its operational metrics to those of its peers using BenchmarkPortal’s database, which is considered the largest database of contact center metrics. A group of experts from BenchmarkPortal audited and verified key data from the contact center applying for the certification.

BenchmarkPortal call center certification process assesses the efficiency of a call center based on a number of criteria such as first call resolution, cost per call, call waiting time, customer satisfaction, agent satisfaction and utilization of human resources.

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Interactive Intelligence Partners with Amcom

Customer experience software provider Interactive Intelligence announced this week that it has partnered with communications company Amcom. The two companies have joined in order for Amcom to resell the Interactive Intelligence software suite, Customer Interaction Center.

The announcement indicates that Interactive Intelligence is excited to have Amcom enter its ranks as a reseller. Brendan Maree, vice president of Interactive Intelligence in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, spoke about the partnership in his company’s announcement.

“We are delighted to be working with Amcom as a reseller partner. This will enable Interactive Intelligence to satisfy demand and support deployment for our cloud-based communications solutions while opening up major new business opportunities for our companies in both public and private sector organisations,” Maree said.

Amcom, based in Australia, has also had its SIP Services package validated. It is now cleared to work directly with the Interactive Intelligence Contact Centre Platform. Working together, the two platforms should allow businesses working with Amcom to reduce their SIP purchasing costs by eliminating the need to purchase additional hardware or telephony equipment. Amcom can offer a telecommunications package that is entirely IP-based and therefore will take businesses away from legacy ISDN services.

The Customer Interaction Center is capable of being utilized entirely in the cloud or on-site. Interactive Intelligence lists its applications as including multichannel routing and queuing, interactive voice response, call and screen recording, predictive dialing, workforce management, real-time speech analytics, and customer feedback management.

Businesses can realize many benefits when switching from a legacy telephony system to one that works entirely through a . This includes the ability for VoIP and related services to scale with a business as it grows and the simplicity of such scaling. Businesses can also manage their entire operation from within the cloud, such is the case with the Customer Interaction Center, and handle the deployment or restriction of a range of services such as call forwarding or routing.

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OneLogin Integration with ServiceNow Helps Enhance the Security of Cloud Data

OneLogin, a specialist in providing identity management solutions has been certified for its integration with ServiceNow. This certification implies that OneLogin has completed a series of tests pertaining to integration interoperability, security and performance. It also ensures optimum quality in OneLogin’s integration with ServiceNow.

This integration will save a lot in time and money for organizations, besides enhancing the security of their data in the cloud when connecting to directories like Active Directory, LDAP and Workday to ServiceNow.

Together, OneLogin and ServiceNow serve several customers including Netflix, Interactive Intelligence and AAA, among others. Being an easy to use and secure solution, OneLogin serves the need of customers for a single sign-on (SSO) enterprise identity management. Also OneLogin for ServiceNow is offered for free for an unlimited number of users.

As OneLogin is entirely cloud-based, ServiceNow customers can start using it without installing new software or making any changes to appliances or firewall settings. The single sign-on (SSO) facility allows users to sign into ServiceNow with existing network credentials.

OneLogin allows ServiceNow users to sync in real-time with Active Directory or LDAP while the multi-factor authentication allows IT admin to augment security using OneLogin’s Mobile OTP App. The ServiceNow on OneLogin Mobile feature enables users to securely access ServiceNow from their mobile devices.

According to Thomas Pedersen, CEO at OneLogin, the end user experience of ServiceNow customers is enhanced with the easy access to ServiceNow which increases their productivity many fold. Also ServiceNow forms part of the 400 pre-integrated SAML-enabled SaaS applications that are available in OneLogin’s Application Catalog.

Asure Software a provider of workplace management solutions uses OneLogin’s cloud-based to help its customers to connect their internal directories to AsureSpace meeting room manager or AsureSpace resource scheduler with single sign-on (SSO).

OneLogin enables AsureSpace customers to easily connect their internal directories to Asure’s products so their employees can access both systems with SSO. Previously, Asure customers had to manually manage their users and a login was required. SSO functionality enhances productivity by simplifying the login process and eliminating the need for end users to track and remember more login credentials.

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Premise-Based Call Centers Plan to Migrate to Cloud

While recent reports from various solutions providers in the contact center market have pointed to the growing momentum of organizations looking to the cloud as their next generation means for interacting with customers, a new survey from and the (CCNG) has revealed that the trend is really going to pick up steam.

The big news as the headline above notes is that the of 197 contact center management professionals showed that while 77.5 percent of contact centers are premise-based today, 70 percent of respondents plan to move to the cloud. The survey also revealed that the top investment priorities for contact centers for 2014 include Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Work Force Management (WFM), and Business Intelligence (BI).

The reasons cited for moving to the cloud should be familiar to readers. Respondents believe the cloud offers them greater scalability, lower total cost of ownership and the ability to more easily employ work from home agents as the main reasons they were interested in cloud migrations.

“Through CCNG’s events we have the unique opportunity to listen to the issues and perspectives of contact center management across a wide variety of industries,” says David Hadobas, President and CEO of CCNG International Inc. “The conversations and dialogues at those events mirror the findings from this survey in that there is high interest in leveraging cloud solutions to expand contact center capabilities to improve customer service and the overall customer experience.”

“The findings of the survey confirm what we hear in the field daily – that cloud technologies are enabling call centers to change the way organizations work,” says Rich Fox, director of the contact center practice at Evolve IP. “Advanced technologies like integration with CRM and WFM provide call centers with better insight and new options for enabling programs like Work From Home.”

Other survey findings included the following:

  • Nearly 20 percent of the organizations surveyed did not have a disaster recovery (DR) plan in place.
  • More than half of those surveyed did not have the ability for their agents to be fully functional from home in the event of a power outage/disaster at their office.
  • More than a quarter of those surveyed had no downtime in their call centers over the past 12 months, and another 24 percent only had one incident of downtime during that period.
  • 61 percent of the call centers surveyed had agents working in more than one location, and 10 percent had representatives dispersed across more than 20 different locations.

The message from the survey is unmistakable. If you currently have a premises-based contact center and are in the process of evaluating if, when, how and why you should consider moving some or all of your contact center functionality to the cloud, you are not alone. In fact, your colleagues appreciate the operational efficiencies and ability to improve the customer experience to be gained from such a move. The trend seems to be the path to make the your friend in a host of ways. 

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New Study finds Customers Want Fast, Accurate and Understandable Contact Center Interactions

Many companies today offer the type of customer service they think their customers want. Unfortunately, there is often a huge disconnection between what companies think a customer needs and what customers actually want and need. A smart customer support provider will ask questions when building a system: What are the customer service expectations and preferences of consumers and the IT professionals who work for companies providing service?

This is precisely what a commissioned by contact center and unified communications solutions provider Interactive Intelligence and carried out by independent research firm Actionable Research sought to answer. In an era of multichannel customer service, these questions are important to ask: companies may be squandering resources on channels that customers don’t want, while giving short-shrift to channels that customers do demand.

“This survey uncovered many interesting differences between the attitudes of consumers and IT professionals,” said Joe Staples, Interactive Intelligence chief marketing officer, in a statement. “For instance, while 61 percent of IT professionals found interactive voice response a valuable service, only 37 percent of consumers did. These types of findings are the first step toward better aligning the expectations of those receiving and providing service.”

Many companies are so focused on peripheral channels that they forget that customers still prefer the telephone and expect the most rigorous support there. The study found that 51 percent of customers still prefer a phone call with an agent to all other channels. The study also found that customers consider a timely response to be one of the most important factors in making a customer experience a good one.

When it comes to customer pain points, the two greatest were not being able to understand the agent – which holds great significance to companies that try to save money with foreign outsourcing – and a condescending attitude by the agent.  These two factors were tied at the top of the list: 74 percent of customers cited language barriers and unpleasant agents as the factors most likely to drive them away.

Today, it’s extra-critical to get these things right. Sixty-two percent of customers said they would seek an alternative vendor if their customer support needs are not met to their satisfaction. On the positive side, 64 percent of customers said that they tell others when they have a positive customer service experience, and they are more likely to share a positive experience than a negative experience in social media.

But as with any other business function, one size never fits all in a contact center environment. What works for one company may not work for another, particularly if two organizations have different customer bases. The only way to be sure you are providing a customer with what they want and need is to go ahead and ask them. Making assumptions could be the downfall of the business.

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