Can You Really Predict Technology Trends?

Every year there are always plenty of fresh predictions and industry trends brought forward and discussed. They make for interesting reading, and beg the question – are they really predictions or are we just susceptible to the power of suggestion?

Many predictions have solid backing, such as Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends, announced at the Gartner Symposium / ITXpo. Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with the potential for significant impact on the organization, including a high potential for disruption to the business, end users, or IT; the need for a major investment; or the risk of being late to adopt. They look at trends that will impact an organization’s long-term plans, programs, and initiatives.

For 2016, Gartner predicted the following trends:

  • The Device Mesh
  • Ambient User Experience
  • 3D Printing Materials
  • Information of Everything
  • Advanced Machine Learning
  • Autonomous Agents and Things
  • Adaptive Security Architecture
  • Mesh App and Service Architecture
  • Internet of Things Platforms

In another set of predictions, No Jitter showcased the top four UC predictions for 2016. These included:

What Do They Have In Common?

When we read some of the trends and predictions, they almost seem too good to be true. It would appear that technology is moving toward almost an AI state where we can rely on it for everything. Science fiction aside, the one constant we do see is how technology improves the lives of those in business, communities, government entities, law enforcement, and individually at home and school. What we see is that all these trends have a common thread, one that we believe is critical to consider with every innovation we create at NEC – effective communication, collaboration, and orchestration of lives using Smart Solutions to improve and enhance every aspect of our lives.

For example, when adding UC to Workforce Management, contact centers are even more empowered to provide excellent customer service. If you combine Unified Communications with SDN, you have a powerful system that not only ensures your employees are communicating in a more efficient manner, but the system is now able to align itself with any traffic, making disaster recovery or even challenging inclement weather much easier to overcome.

CTA_download_smart_enterprise_drivers_ebook

Biometrics is another solution that has so many applications to positively impact our lives. Whether it’s the ability for law enforcement to rapidly and correctly identify a bad guy on the spot, or retail establishments to provide their customers with an amazing experience, biometrics will impact a multitude of industries, improving customer experiences and empowering the forward momentum of the Internet of Things.

Information is at an all-time premium, as businesses move toward more efficient and effective operations. When combining SDN with our server technology, our clients now can focus on their business needs and let the technology support the flow of data in an efficient manner to ensure constant access and improved uptime.

Of course, when you think about the Information of Everything, it is important to include data analytics as a foundational element. According to Gartner, by 2020, 25 billion devices will be generating data about almost every topic imaginable. There will be an abundance of data, but how do you make sense of it? Data analytics is no longer a single solution to consider, but a necessary component to capture data and provide appropriate information to create actionable results. Those companies that harness the power this data provides will have a competitive advantage.

Speaking of data, companies are not the only ones who have a significant need for big data, analytics, and positive user experiences. NEC focuses on various solutions, such as water leak detection systems; integration support for semantic interoperability into the NEC Internet of Things and Smart City Platforms; and integrated platforms for distribution of grid management, energy efficiency, distributed generation, and energy storage, just to name a few.

Just like Gartner and No Jitter, NEC invests significant effort and resources into research to ensure that solutions we develop will not only meet the needs of our clients today, but also their upcoming needs tomorrow. This serious focus on research and development has been part of the core philosophy of NEC since our inception. We believe that as recognized innovation leaders we can ensure our solutions truly meet the needs of our clients while continuing to keep pace with emerging trends and the expanding capabilities technology affords for the future.

Can you predict technology trends? We believe so—but only by keeping your finger on the pulse of business and societal needs.  NEC’s focus on solutions perfectly aligns with the trends we see, combining powerful technology to empower our clients and enhance their lives. Whether  providing platforms for significantly improved communication, ensuring improved flow of information through powerful data analytics, or inventing new solutions for society that support a better life, NEC will continue to focus on improving our lives through technology.

NEC: First in Communications Technology Infrastructure

Independent consultant David Stein of Stein Technology Consulting Group (STCG) recently conducted his third RFP assessment of 12 proposed premise and cloud-based solutions from eight leading communications vendors. The vendor evaluations, using fictional, but “real-world” RFPs, were critiqued on pricing, solutions architecture, features and five-year total cost of ownership.

If your organization is planning to upgrade its communications infrastructure, especially to a cloud-based solution, this whitepaper / eBook of David Stein’s evaluations will prove to be an insightful resource.

NEC Cloud RFP First Place

And … leading the pack among vendors was NEC, finishing first, with the highest ranking for TCO, strong marks for architecture and functionality, and excellent value for NEC’s UC and collaboration solution, UNVERGE 3C.

Named Best in TCO ~ Recognized for Architecture & Functionality ~ Acknowledged Excellence NEC and its UNIVERGE® 3C should be considered a candidate when looking for a strategic partner in communications infrastructure.

Download David Stein’s UC RFP and Review ebook for unbiased third-party opinion and a better understanding of his RFP findings. Feel free to share Stein’s ebook with your colleagues so they can see the value that NEC can bring as their strategic communications partner for premise and cloud-based solutions.

Changing the Game for Contact Center Technology

As the manager of sales engineer and operations for NEC Corporation of America, I have seen numerous changes in contact center technology, but one thing was the same – technology drove the solutions – until now. We have moved to an environment that is significantly more consumer driven, and those needs drive the solution. What makes this most interesting from the standpoint of contact center technology is that the technology is moving beyond the contact center and into the rest of the organization.

According to Carmela Fairchild, contact center technology expert at dvsAnalytics, workforce optimization is being used in financial areas such as credit collections, for higher education and in hospitality. In all these cases, the uses are beyond a traditional call-center environment. Organizations realized that the amount of data that can be accumulated in the call center could be used to assess customer experience, responsiveness and overall effectiveness of many other departments. For example, a reseller of automotive parts with more than 1,400 locations throughout the United States and Canada realized that call center technology would empower it to record all the phone calls to its small locations, providing actionable data.

#Customer engagement is a metric that is here to stay, particularly as consumers become more sophisticated w/ tech Click To Tweet

We see a similar trend with our customers, and find that there is increasing interest in deploying contact center technology for uses outside the traditional center.

“I used to spend most of my time speaking with contact center executives, but now I spend 90% or more speaking to CIOs and CFOs who realize the power of this solution and how it can positively impact their business,” said Mary Irwin, solutions architect for NEC Corporation of America. “Organizations realize that data can be retrieved via this technology, and that they can provide better customer engagement by routing calls so they are answered, rather than going to voice mail.”

Irwin went on to say, “Tracking the entire organization has become important so they can ensure the right information is given to the right people to do their jobs more effectively. It’s more about solving a business problem rather than tracking call times or other metrics.”

Organizations are focused more on customer engagement than ever before, with an eye to self-service as well as getting answers to questions quickly and efficiently.

“Customer satisfaction has become more important, so in addition to self-service to provide convenience, organizations are now realizing they must get customers to the right person, no matter the cost. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing that customer, which costs them more in the long run,” said Irwin.

Customer engagement is a metric that is here to stay, particularly as consumers become more sophisticated in their technology use and also increase their expectations. So what else is in store for contact center technology?

The Future is About…

“Even with all the best technology and self-service capabilities, I believe that voice will become the de facto standard for escalation.  When consumers cannot get what they need by other methods, speaking with a live expert is the next logical step.  However, I do see it improving via the use of speech analytics,” said Fairchild.

One trend we all agree on is that contact center technology will start to include gamification. Reasons include:

  • Agent retention and motivation
  • Competitive differentiation
  • Improve operational efficiencies

According to Gartner research, by the end of 2015, more than 40% of the top companies will be using gamification to transform their business operations.   Therefore, workforce optimization solutions will need to provide the framework to support the trend.

Multiple media, sometimes called multi-channel or omni-channel, will expand significantly in the years ahead. Virtual queuing, or what we used to identify as “callback,” will become the rule as opposed to the exception. Companies are learning that virtual queuing can vastly improve their first call resolution while keeping customers happy.

For more information on how contact center technology can support your operational initiatives as well as future needs, visit our recorded webinar series where you can learn more about NEC’s latest contact center innovations, why they are so important and which are appropriate for your organization.

Looking for Proactive Customer Engagement? The Answer is in the Contact Center

Ensuring a positive customer experience across your organization requires an understanding of how the customer interacts with every facet of the company. In the past, that has been a difficult task, primarily due to the segmented nature of most companies – accounting does not always speak to sales, and customer service may not regularly chat with engineering. The good news is there is a solution that has been in play for many years, and when deployed across your entire organization, positively impacts and improves customer experience. What is it?

Contact Centers (and Their Tools)

“Contact centers have moved from reactive to proactive. In the past, the focus was to provide service with the least amount of overhead, and the metrics were reflective of that trend,” said Peggy Murphy, manager, sales engineering and operations, NEC Corporation of America. “Today the focus is shifting toward satisfying or exceeding the needs of the customer while using analytics and metrics to optimize the workforce. The result is the contact center becoming part of the overall customer engagement strategy that supports a company’s competitiveness.”

With today’s customer firmly in the driver’s seat, companies must find unique and creative ways to leverage their existing resources to meet customer demands. Fortunately, there are savvy people who can provide good answers, if they have the right tools. This is where technology plays a significant role.

As a solutions engineer for NEC Corporation of America, I speak with customers every day who are embracing the value of contact center data and how they can utilize it to improve operations. Associates are now empowered to ensure that customers are cared for, even beyond the traditional contact center team. Today, everyone is expected to provide excellent customer service. Technology supports this effort by opening up the resource pool to encompass the whole company, along with providing analytics and tracking across the organization, rather than just within one department.

Beyond the Basics

The call routing engine for UCE Contact Center (CCDesign®), UCE ACD (CallCenterWorX), makes it extraordinarily easy to deliver customers to the best agent that is capable of handling their call.  Add in the Management Information Systems (MIS) Global Navigator for real-time and historical reporting, along with key management tools for supervisors, and you have the right infrastructure.

Now, improve your customer’s experience with queue announcements customized specifically for each department, and inform callers of how many people are ahead of them in the queue or provide an idea of when they will be answered, and you’ve set expectations that you can meet.  If the wait is too long, offer them a variety of callback options.

Don’t be afraid to ask how you’re doing!  Using After Call Survey, offer callers the opportunity to answer a few key questions at the end of their call to confirm you’re providing great service or let them help you improve through their responses!

Expand how customers communicate with your company by routing Web Chat and Email interactions directly into your contact center so you can track, escalate, report and view all interactions together.

Did you know? 86% of consumers QUIT doing business with a company because of bad customer service Click To Tweet

Analytics You Already Have

Many organizations have invested in contact center technology to support customer service efforts. The good news is this technology has continued to progress so that today’s analytics are robust and provide excellent metrics for both contact centers and other departments that utilize the system.

According to Carmela Fairchild, contact center technology expert at dvsAnalytics, the ability for organizations to improve the customer experience is enhanced even more when introducing call recording and workforce optimization technology.

“Today the ability to evaluate recordings for training and coaching purposes is significantly improved. In addition, live monitoring tools are readily available via multiple devices, including mobile, to ensure consistency in customer service quality,” said Carmela.

Call recording technology has changed dramatically in recent years. Traditionally, limited meta data was available to insert into recordings, and organizations believed they had an acceptable call recording system if they could find a recording based on the date and time the call was made. If they didn’t have the date and time, it was like searching for a “needle in a haystack.” The meta data now being inserted into call recordings for search and retrieval has expanded significantly to also include:

  • The dialed number and the customer’s number
  • Agent ID and name
  • Call direction and call type
  • Agent skill group (i.e., English/Spanish, premium customer, etc.)
  • Customer or patient identifiers
  • Call results, such as sale, no sale, first call resolution
  • Speech analytics is used to identify satisfied or dissatisfied customer interactions
  • Positive or negative customer survey
  • And much more

The benefits do not stop there. Encore integrates with the UCE Contact Center  for robust call and screen interaction recording as well as workforce management optimization to ensure that customers can be served regardless of how they choose to interact with the organization, as well as when they choose. Customers are much less tolerant of wait times and will not stay on hold. The most efficient way to ensure you have the right team in the right place at the right time is via workforce optimization.

Encore’s Workforce Optimization capability is comprised of integrated solutions, enabling organizations to improve agent productivity, identify performance gaps, deliver targeted coaching, and eLearning. It nurtures performance-driven operations and culture, leverages the power of advanced analytics to improve daily operations and effectively engage employees.

The integrated solutions include:

  • Workforce Management, which balances the goal for outstanding customer service and the need for low operational costs
  • Recording all call interactions to attain a complete understanding of agent and customer communications
  • Analytics that turn unstructured, unsearchable voice communications into structured, searchable data to gain valuable insight into customer communications
  • Quality management that allows supervisors to evaluate agent and customer interactions and which, in turn, improves performance in the contact center
  • Reports that help to continuously optimize processes and provide pertinent feedback to other business units

NEC’s Encore customers have stated that they have benefitted from improved agent performance, more effective handling of dispute resolution, better quality customer interactions, and reduced worries about compliance. In fact, a customer recently told us: “Within two months of implementation, our agent coaching and feedback sessions improved dramatically. Agents producing in the bottom third of sales production increased their evaluation scores by 25% and their sales per hour more than doubled!”

“Our primary goal is to ensure our customers have the most effective, efficient, easy to access, tools in hand to ensure excellent customer engagement,” said Murphy. “That is why we are committed to continuing to innovate our solution, merging proven technology such as unified communications into our already robust solution, so our customers can feel confident they have everything they need to reach their customer engagement goals.”

To ensure you are on the right track for great customer engagement, visit our recorded webinar series where you can learn more about NEC’s latest contact center innovations, why they are so important and which are appropriate for your organization.