Announcing the CUSTOMER TMC Labs Innovation Award Winners of 2017


Announcing the CUSTOMER TMC Labs Innovation Award Winners of 2017

By TMCnet News  |  January 19, 2018

Wow, what a year it’s been in the contact center and CRM spaces. Our 2017 TMC Labs Customer Awards are designed to highlight the leading companies in the industry and their recent innovations. We had a tough time choosing the winners of this year’s awards, but we hope you agree they are some of the best products on the market.

Star2Star impressed us with its trusted hybrid-hosted UC solution. MaritzCX Customer Conversations gives you the best of automated and manual customer conversations. ZOOM 6.0 has a blazing-fast omnichannel search engine which will help you spot bottom-line boosting trends more quickly.

Cicero Insight provides a desktop activity sensor which allows an organization to plan and optimize more efficiently. InGenius is laser focused on CTI – connecting the best of communications to CRM – allowing agents to maximize their productivity, service levels, and up- and cross-selling.

Finally, NICE Robotic Automation, one of the founders of the business process automation market, has literally packed its solution with gobs of new features such as advanced OCR and cognitive AI.

In all, the innovations in this space continue unabated – helping the digital transformation of the contact center to speed rapidly along.

Star2Star Communications

Hybrid Unified Communications System

Hybrid architecture combines aspects of on-premises and hosted VoIP solutions to get the best features of both without the limitations of either. It utilizes the cloud but also maintains some on-premises hardware and services. The primary on-premises component of Star2Star’s Hybrid Architecture is the StarBox Cloud Connection Manager, and the primary cloud-based component is the Constellation Network. On-premises PBX (News - Alert), hosted VoIP, and hybrid architecture systems are very different from one another in a number of ways.

The StarBox Cloud Connection Manager is a vital part of every Star2Star system. A reliable, solid-state, on-premises connection manager, the StarBox Cloud Connection Manager is designed to improve call quality and increase functionality while reducing costs. Constantly in communication with all of the major points of presence and the data centers that make up the Constellation Network, the StarBox Cloud Connection Manager plays a pivotal role in two-way traffic shaping, continuous network monitoring, and call routing. The StarBox Cloud Connection Manager also holds storage space, offers flexible networking configuration with dual WAN ports for automatic WAN failover, and provides the ability to manage multiple locations from a single log-in screen. There are currently multiple StarBox models that offer similar management interfaces and feature sets but scale to different size customers.

Benefits include the ability to connect calls within an office without going through the cloud as well as ensuring voice packets are prioritized to ensure quality of service.

In short, the Hybrid Unified Communications System allows for dynamic scalability, QoS voice features, line pooling, line bursting, chat, videoconferencing, fax, mobile, and more.


MaritzCX Customer Conversations

MaritzCX Customer Conversations drives customer experience outcomes by answering the following questions:

  • How do you facilitate, analyze, and act on natural customer conversations at scale?
  • How do you move beyond traditional surveys that relied heavily on structured rating questions and performance metrics and capture what information is truly valuable— the why that is at the heart of the customer issue or the story that helps companies understand and address the issues?

The technology set allows clients to effectively gather rich unstructured customer feedback, analyze it for insights, and take action on it through digital voice-to-text technology. It further provides the ability to intelligently probe customers on various aspects of their response, much like a human interviewer would, but during a digital survey experience. And finally it ensures that companies can take action and resolve any issues that customers discuss in those conversations through text analytic-triggered employee alerts.

In this manner it blends automation with human involvement, providing the best of both worlds.

Moreover, it contains three new technology components:

1)Voice-driven surveys: This allows customers to provide survey feedback using their natural voice vs. typing a response. The majority of customers respond to CX surveys via mobile devices, and since keyboards are smaller and responders could be engaged in other activities, the surveys provide 25 to 40 percent fewer open-ended responses vs. desktop surveys. Voice-driven surveys allow mobile responders to more easily and naturally provide verbatim commentary without these challenges – resulting in 70 to 100 percent more words from customers.

2)SmartProbe: Now in v2, this feature intelligently seeks additional information from customers on various aspect of their responses during a digital survey experience. This works much a like a real human interviewer would probe and dig deeper. That provides businesses with a higher volume of feedback and more detail. Research has shown that customers on which businesses used SmartProbe provided an average of 10 to 15 additional words to describe their experiences.

3)Text Analytic Triggered Employee Alerts/Cases: This feature allows companies to identify key problems or service failures in the expansive amount of customer conversations they may collect. And it routes these issues to employees for follow up and resolution. This technology leverages the best of NLP and text analytics to trigger employee alerts based upon the details of the customer conversation. One common use case of this technology is to identify customers that share feedback about possible customer defection (i.e. account closing, shopping around, etc.) and send customer cases to front line employees for customer contact and recovery efforts.

All three pieces of the product suite are available within the MaritzCX platform, which is a SaaS (News - Alert) solution.  Voice-driven surveys and SmartProbe are enhancements to open-ended questions available in the Survey Builder. The voice-to-text prompts make use of MaritzCX device detection; prompts are only presented to mobile and tablet respondents. The Text Analytic Triggered Alerts leverage the hosted Text Analytic capability and the Case Management module within the MaritzCX platform.

Enabling meaningful conversations should improve response and increase loyalty. Rather than merely checking a box, customers are able to share the aspects of their experience. Companies then can better understand what is meaningful to the customer, and they can act to reinforce a good experience or resolve an issue with an experience that has proven to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

MaritzCX Customer Conversations also eliminates the limitation of scale by leveraging mobile devices to extend a company’s reach with their customers. 

Its ability to deliver prompt voice-to-text for mobile respondents combined with its probing capabilities and hot alerts from the resulting rich verbatim responses is very rare in the marketplace.

This means companies can leap from merely gathering, analyzing and, often, guessing, at what a rating means to having a meaningful dialogue in a truly conversational way that helps them understand the why behind their data. With this unprecedented access to information about real experiences, companies can better understand root causes of customer issues and act upon them to impact future customer loyalty. Additionally, because MaritzCX Customer Conversations is deployed in digital environments, the scale at which companies are able to reach customers has increased exponentially.

And, for the customer, the voice-driven surveys and SmartProbe are equally innovative as they provide the opportunity to break out of checking a box to truly tell their experience stories in a conversational and far more natural way. That increases their satisfaction.

ZOOM International (News - Alert)

ZOOM 6.0, featuring the ZOOM Omnichannel Search Engine

Earlier this year, ZOOM International announced the ZOOM Omnichannel Search Engine – an industry first for contact center optimization and customer experience products. ZOSE is now a foundational part of the product suite and support services that earned ZOOM an 86 Net Promoter Score in the first half of 2017 – one of the highest for a B2B tech company.

Contact centers need to capture omnichannel customer interactions and the associated metadata. When this information is easily accessible, leaders can search and analyze a specific set of customer or agent interactions to improve. They can pinpoint significant events by filtering any type of data – raw text, call audio, email, chat, timestamp, website visit, call reason, keyword, segment, customer ID, lifetime value, and more.

The insights allow leaders to improve customer experience problem areas and make sure the next customer interaction is better than the previous one – be it an interaction with agents, IVRs, websites, or mobile apps. With the help of search inside the contact center, customers get better service and companies improve the level of customer satisfaction they can deliver, ultimately impacting profit.

With ZOSE, ZOOM’s 6.0 product suite captures, analyzes, and improves customer interactions quite effectively. ZOOM 6.0 captures a wide spectrum of interactions from CRM, customer surveys, audio calls, video calls, computer screens, email, chat, and collaboration.

Furthermore, there is an open set of extensible APIs available to capture SMS, social media, internet of things, IVRs, cloud integration services, location, mobile apps, website traffic, and more over time. There are also built-in connectors for Salesforce, eGain, and Cisco (News - Alert) Spark, with a roadmap for many more.

This architecture is truly a foundation for the future, with unlimited metadata additions such as integration IDs from any system and unstructured speech to text data.

ZOOM Omnichannel Search Engine is based on a powerful open source, cloud-centric search technology – Apache Solr – which is also used by Netflix, eBay, and Instagram. It does for finding contact center customer interactions what Amazon does for finding products.

The cloud-native platform is built for internet-scale scenarios, which integrates billions of records. With a distributed architecture, it also offers 10 to 100 times the speed and scale of traditional databases and data warehouses. Queries on customer interactions with a traditional database could take five or more minutes; they take just a few seconds with ZOSE. This speed and performance greatly improves a company’s ability to determine what actions to take instead of waiting to see result-sets.

The platform is also simple to use, as companies don’t need to invest in hiring Apache Solr or Java engineers to manage ZOSE. ZOOM has encapsulated the underlying search engine to make it simple for customers – it is easy to learn, install, configure, deploy, use, and extend. While contact centers with more than 10,000 seats can clearly benefit from such a robust and open platform, smaller contact centers will enjoy its ease of use and straightforward operational support. In addition, ZOSE has a user-friendly UI that is clean and easy to operate, just like Amazon searches. The UI offers auto-suggest on any filter; delivers queries with extreme speed; and then shows summaries and details for calls, videos, screen captures, emails, chats, and other metadata like customer ID, case ID, contract ID, or product ID.

With version 6.0 the company aso introduced the ZOOM Omnichannel Search Engine. In addition, this past summer, ZOOM added the ability to save and organize searches, which helps automate analysis. It allows ZOOM users to search on speech analytics tags to search by words customers have spoken on contact center calls, then find areas to improve. Up next is ZOOM for Cisco Spark, which will be one of the first WFO solutions to support Cisco Spark Cloud and Cisco Spark Hybrid.

Cicero Inc.

Cicero Insight

Cicero Insight is a measurement and analytics solution that collects and presents high-value information from multiple sources about quality, productivity, compliance, and revenue from frontline activity to target areas for improvement.

Technically speaking, Cicero Insight provides a desktop activity sensor. The data collected is securely forwarded to an application server where it is stored in an SQL database. Once collected, the data is available to the Cicero Insight analytics platform. This data is aggregated and classified into metrics and filters which are tuned to the needs of the customer. Other data sources can be connected to the platform and made available as metrics and/or filters to allow for the harmonization of disparate business data types. For example, desktop data might reveal time and motion type data that, when harmonized with outcome data from CRM, might reveal optimal handle time (as opposed to the typically measured average handle time when only ACD data is used). Such analysis can help an organization better understand SLAs by process, drive best practice across teams, and provide an enhanced customer experience at lower cost.

The desktop sensor records time spent in applications to form the basis of an empirical, always-on, time and motion study. In addition to baseline activity data, it is possible to call out specific user actions and to associate those actions with process milestones. Application data can be collected at each and any of these milestones and such interaction-specific data is available as metadata to the analytics platform.

The resulting aggregated data is used in a variety of ways. Organizations might use it simply to understand broad operational metrics such as real-world occupancy or the applications and screens that are used the most to better guide IT decisions. Others use the milestone data to understand the frequency and duration of certain service processes, and use the data for workforce planning and optimization.

Cicero Insight can be installed via on-premises or cloud-hosted methods. In a typical installation, a customer will host the Cicero application server and the detailed SQL activity database on premises, and they will host the analytics platform and the aggregated data in a private cloud. The private-cloud solution is also available as a managed service, but this is not a required deployment model.

The data collected from the activity sensor is typically routed to the database, but events can also be published via API or web-service from either the originating client or the application server. This provides an open interface for integration with third-party applications.

Once in the database, the data is available for analysis using standard SQL tools or for extraction to other BI and analytics tools. This provides an open data set that can be used to augment a customer’s existing analytics strategy.

Finally, Cicero Insight provides an analytics platform in itself that allows customers (or departments) new to analytics to build their strategies around modern big-data tools.

Cicero’s desktop activity sensor leverages the power of Cicero Integrator to provide a robust, system-level integration with the various application platforms in use both historically and new today. Cicero Insight supports interaction analytics for application platforms from an IBM 3270 mainframe to Angular JS., Cicero Insight works with Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Cicero Insight breaks new ground by being open in a progressively more closed space. It does not require a customer to commit to a platform or suite of contact center and back-office products; rather, it works with what the customer already has. As already mentioned, this open philosophy is supported by web-service and API interfaces that provide events to third-party applications, by a data store based on industry standards with a published schema and an analytics platform that is open to consume data from other sources for broad operational views.

The analytic approach of filters and metrics puts users in charge of how they view the data. Gone are static reports that take DBAs weeks to write and test; these are replaced by pick-lists from which users can build their own charts and tables (subject to access permissions).


InGenius Connector Enterprise

InGenius was founded in 1986 as a real-time software development and contract R&D provider. The company evolved over the next 25 years, offering various software-related services and building products for streaming video, dynamic HTML, unified communications, mobile applications, softphones and other telephony applications. During these years, customer software development projects in the telephony space led the team to the realization that there was significant demand for the capability to connect phones directly into the CRM. Customers wanted a product that didn’t require desktop software and was scalable to the enterprise. In 2011, InGenius moved to an exclusive focus on computer telephony integration, or CTI, to address this need.

InGenius quickly and easily adapts to unique contact center needs with next-generation CTI. It connects existing telephone systems into leading CRMs with maximum flexibility. The customer needs either an Avaya, Cisco, Mitel (News - Alert), or Asterisk on-premises or hosted phone system, as well as a Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce, or ServiceNow CRM. The customer also requires a dedicated Windows server, which can be hosted or on premises.

And InGenius works with existing telephony systems and CRM, rather than requiring the purchase of new hardware or software. (For enterprise customers using a mix of CRMs and multiple telephony systems, InGenius can integrate with them all.)  And it works with a contact center’s existing set-up, including established call queues, routing, and interactive voice response systems. InGenius even offers easy business integration into areas of telephony and CRMs that are unique, like complex dialing capabilities, and custom CRM objects or entities.

This solution is backed by the company’s customer care, expertise and reliability, which InGenius has built in its more than 20 years in the enterprise telephony space. And all that helps contact centers increase productivity and customer satisfaction.

InGenius Connector Enterprise equips contact centers with features like screen pop, click-to-dial, automated call logging, and enhanced call reports. The solution enables agents to serve customers efficiently and see a comprehensive view of customer call interactions for intelligent decision-making.

To ensure the product provides all the features a contact center may need, even outside of the scope of pure CTI, the team has designed it to be adaptable and modular to integrate with other vendor’s products. For example, InGenius Connector Enterprise can connect with call recording solutions and CRM security apps.

InGenius has close partnerships with its supported CRMs and telephony providers and is aligned with its partners' product roadmaps. In fact, InGenius participates in these partners’ pilot programs for new functionality. In the contact center industry, there is a definite trend toward digital transformation of customer interactions. This transformation means communication across voice, chat, social media, and web should be seamless, and should support the company's brand and values. InGenius is keeping up with this evolution by supporting new products like Salesforce Omni-Channel and ServiceNow CSM, to provide a modern customer experience.

InGenius Connector Enterprise easily adapts to each customer's unique contact center needs. The company architected its product to adapt quickly and easily to any unique workflow. In most cases it can do so without any professional services costs to customers. The product installs in about an hour – that’s an amazing feat considering the complexity involved.


NICE Robotic Automation

NICE Robotic Automation mimics human behavior on a desktop. It can emulate sets of activities programmed by its Automation Studio to operate multiple applications/systems, update fields, copy data, and navigate between windows and tabs, etc. to complete a business process which is done on a desktop/server. Also, the product can connect to any web-service or database to enrich data used during the automated process.

The product is typically employed on premises since clients need to connect with the desktop applications used in the customer environment. However, the company supports other deployment models for servers, which can either reside on a local/internal/private cloud, or at a hosted location –within NICE hosted servers or Amazon.

NICE has been in the process automation market for more than 16 years. That was before the market was defined as RPA. It is the largest process automation vendor, with more than 400 customers and 500,000 software clients in production.

In addition, NICE provides a portfolio of solutions, all based on a single client and technology. These include Desktop Automation and Desktop Analytics. And NICE has announced its new Cognitive framework offering to allow for automation based on unstructured data derived from scanned documents, emails and text messages, chat, and voice. This integrates into NICE’s in-house cognitive solutions for text and voice analytics and natural language processing, including an OCR solution in its Robotic Automation solution, and provides built-in integrations for such third-party solutions as chatbots, voicebots, and machine learning.

The company is one of the first in the market to integrate RPA and AI technologies. It provides out-of-the-box integration with the leading OCR engine in the market, leverages in-house integration with Nexidia NLP and text analytics solutions, and has announced third-party integrations with Celaton’s machine learning solution and some of the leading chatbots (from Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft).

NICE says that its ability to support multiple use cases based on a single client technology; its Connectivity Watcher, a patent pending capability that issues alerts on any connectivity break so it is immediately attended to and the automation flows are kept intact; and its Shape-analysis ability to recognize and connect to a screen object based on its location, shape, and proximity to other objects on the screen are all groundbreaking.

Here are some other items of note. Most NICE customers use more than one solution, based on their process automation portfolio – Desktop Automation, Robotic Automation, and Desktop Analytics. They employ Desktop Analytics to identify process automation and guidance opportunities, and then employee Robotic Automation or Desktop Automation (or many times both) to improve those processes and overall productivity and quality of service. NICE offers a wide portfolio or products, complementary to its process automation offering. The NICE broad product portfolio includes interaction recording, interaction analytics (Nexidia), workforce optimization products, voice of the customer, as well as many other solutions for the contact center and back office operations. There are many internal product integrations between the RPA offering and the wider portfolio. For example, it can automate based on speech (words being said in the spoken interaction between a customer and a customer service rep). The company’s solutions also have the ability to scale. In fact, NICE has some of the largest deployments in the process automation solutions market. And it has scaled up to 40,000 robots in production in a single deployment.

Additionally, NICE in recent months has made the following improvements:

Desktop Client Control Room

Web-based application that manages deployments of Desktop Analytics clients on agent desktops for Assisted Automation and analytics; helps IT track the status of clients from a central location, without physically accessing the desktop

Robotics Control Room

Web-based application that manages deployments of robot clients on application servers for measuring and monitoring performance, controlling the robots and troubleshooting analytics; helps IT track the status of robots from a central location, and to optimize the robots’ performance and execution ratio

Robotics Process Automation Scale  

Supports up to 1,000 robots on a single solution software instance

Advanced Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Engine

Ability to capture text from images, scanned documents and user interfaces of applications using Optical Character Recognition

New screen element core engine

Enhanced screen element core engine that provides quicker recognition of screen activity along with extraction of additional data relevant for Desktop Analytics

Cognitive and artificial intelligence capabilities

Ability to leverage NICE natural language processing and text analytics engines for cognitive decisions in the robots and desktop analytics engine, including out-of-the-box integration with Cognitive Cloud Services such as IBM Watson and Amazon

Shape analysis

New surface automation capability for identifying and connecting to generic screen elements using shape analysis technologies

NICE Actimize Enterprise Risk Case Management integration

Integration of NICE Robotics Process Automation and Desktop Analytics within NICE Actimize Enterprise Risk Case Manager solution.

Edited by Erik Linask
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