Pandemic Speeds Adoption of IA
Interaction analytics (IA) is a highly valuable application for contact centers, with even higher potential for making major contributions to other enterprise departments. IA can be used to identify customers’ needs and wants, and when these insights are incorporated into the operating systems of business units, can help substantially improve the CX, reduce operating costs and improve employee engagement. IA is an essential input into the customer journey analytics (CJA) process, particularly when the feedback is provided on a timely basis. Companies, especially their contact centers, have figured out how to apply IA findings on a historical basis and are starting to take advantage of its real-time information, a trend that is paying off in companies that are willing to change their processes, something that the pandemic may have helped along.
The pandemic has changed contact centers in what is hopefully a lasting way. It showed the world that contact centers can be flexible and agile despite their size and complexity. It also demonstrated that these departments have some amazing capabilities and oversight tools, including IA, which gives companies direct insight into what their agents are doing throughout the business day, something not available to any other departments.
The uses of IA have been expanding inside and outside of contact centers. During the past year, adoption of sentiment analysis capabilities has augmented the value of IA findings. The ability to capture and evaluate emotion and sentiment for both customers and agents is having a positive impact on quality management (QM) programs and proving the need for companies to transition to AI-powered analytics-enabled quality management (AQM) where the system automates the process of finding trends and opportunities across channels by evaluating up to 100% of the transactions cost effectively. AQM allows companies to review a statistically valid sample of inquiries, something they cannot do with their regular QM programs. AQM frees QM specialists to concentrate on what their jobs are intended to be – coaching agents and helping them realize their full potential.
The amount of research and development (R&D) dollars being invested in IA solutions during the past 12 months has reached a high point. In the past, IA solutions were effective in finding issues but not necessarily in laying out the plans to apply their findings. Artificial intelligence, specifically machine learning (ML), is starting to change this and be accepted by users.
While many companies are applying IA findings in a single department, other organizations have started to combine the output with other enterprise data. Some of the IA vendors are working with Tableau and other enterprise business intelligence (BI) solutions to make it easy for their customers to incorporate IA findings. This allows companies to include IA findings in their enterprise performance management dashboards and is helping to establish IA as a mission-critical tool at the enterprise level.
The potential for the IA sector is great, as it’s a counter-cyclical application that has sold well to contact centers in both good and challenging economic times. For years, IA vendors have been trying to convince executives that these are enterprise-level BI tools, but they have not been effective in selling these solutions outside of contact centers. COVID-19 has given vendors use cases and examples of IA’s success throughout the enterprise, but this is just the first step in expanding their addressable market beyond contact centers and service organizations.
IA has proven to be a great tool for managing work-at-home (WAH) agents, particularly when it’s combined with desktop analytics, but companies that want to apply these solutions for this purpose must figure out how to address privacy issues. The IA vendors need to work with their companies to identify and establish acceptable privacy practices if they want to see greater adoption of IA for WAH management.
Using IA to enhance QM and compliance programs is a very opportunistic application, and businesses are showing growing interest in AQM. Unfortunately, some of the vendors are charging prices that are so high that it’s a deterrent to all but a small number of companies. It’s understandable that vendors want to earn a return in their R&D dollars, but they also need to be realistic about what they can charge for their solutions if they want to see broad adoption. (DMG estimates that adoption of AQM is less than 3% of the IA market today.)
IA is one of the lucky solutions. It helps companies improve the customer experience (CX) while also improving employee engagement and reducing operating expenses. IA alone can make highly valuable contributions to many enterprise departments, including contact centers; AQM broadens these benefits, particularly for contact centers. The pandemic demonstrated another practical application of IA, using it to oversee and manage at-home agents. The opportunities to sell both IA and AQM to contact centers and for broader use throughout enterprises is very large. The challenge is for the IA vendors to come up with go-to-market strategies that will make them successful in expanding adoption outside of their primary user base.
DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.