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Businesses aim to make their sales function as productive as possible, but they don’t always support that goal with investment in technology. I recently wrote about sales needing a swift technology kick. Sales application vendor Xactly provides a boot with the release of Xactly Incent 8 and will make parts of the application suite available from the Apple App Store for the iPad in the coming weeks.

According to our benchmark research on sales applications, 40 percent of sales organizations plan to deploy tablets initially or deploy them further. Since sales is already one of the largest adopters of tablets and smartphones, vendors that provide relevant applications will have a ready market. On the iPad, Xactly is providing sales analytics, easy access to quota and commission metrics and specifics of compensation plan performance by product and customer. Users can quickly determine sales performance and interact with the analytics. In addition to the native iPad app, Xactly offers a browser-based version that can work across a variety of smartphones, including those running Android. These advancements in sales analytics are smart as sales is one of the fastest growing adopters of using mobile tablets and smartphones for getting to applications and information. The new Xactly Explorer provides drill down and ad-hoc analytics needed by a range of sales roles. But beyond analytics they now provide the ability to set objectives to address the larger scope of sales performance that can be monitored and scored for integrating into a sales review for providing any additional compensation.

Along with the advances in mobility, Incent 8 helps administrators and sales operations team communicate within the application through its announcements, which can provide immediate notification for reviewing plans or when payments are ready to be made.

I like Xactly’s eDocs and Approvals module, which automates workflow for compensation documents and plans and integrates them within the system. This saves time and hassle by bringing all the components of a compensation plan into one application. Another module, Xactly Territories, lets users manage and optimize territories and define crediting rules and assignments, which is an area where mistakes often occur in manual and spreadsheet-based approaches. Xactly Sandbox provides users with a copy of their production data they can use to experiment as they deal with the changes that are constant in sales and strive to achieve their goals.

Almost half (49%) of sales organizations in our research admitted that the use of spreadsheets impedes the management of sales. Xactly can integrate data from sources such as sales force automation (SFA) and accounting applications and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with its enhanced data integration service Xactly Express Connect, which uses technology from Informatica Cloud. This helps organizations bring data into the application and send it out to payroll and other systems that need commission and quota information. This application is built using Force.com, so it already integrates with Salesforce.com’s SFA environment.

Incent 8 shows sales administrators the state of their data and documents. To expedite access to the many applications that sales people might need to sign in for, Xactly has added SAML integration for easier single sign-on across applications. This release provides all the core capabilities for compensation and planning and management of sales commission payments. If you need analytics, modeling, territories and other capabilities, you can upgrade to other packages, which Xactly facilitates through its support services.

Xactly provides its applications on demand via software as a service (SaaS), which has become the preferred choice of 41 percent of sales organizations. By operating in the cloud Xactly can provide benchmark metrics that aggregate above and across its customers, providing broad insights into sales operations.

In addition to Incent 8, there is a new version of Xactly Express for small and midsize businesses; it also includes a tablet-based application that helps users ascertain their teams’ reps performance toward quota, which tops the list of concerns in our sales analytics research. Express also empowers sales teams to review their progress at any time without resorting to spreadsheets. The new version provides the drill-down and ad-hoc analytics needed by a range of sales roles, but beyond analytics, Xactly can set objectives and so monitor and score the complete scope of sales performance as part of reviews and for compensation purposes.

Xactly has supercharged its applications with analytics, which our research has found is the number-one technology trend for sales organizations, and now offering internal communication within its products that will hopefully evolve to further collaboration which is the second most desired technology trend in sales. Xactly goes well beyond sales compensation to provide a suite of applications for the needs of sales operations and the overall sales organization. Xactly understands the role of sales operations in supporting both management and account representatives, which is a major reason its business continues to grow. With Incent 8 it offers more sophisticated mobile and sales analytics support while addressing many of the core sales process and efficiency needs of organizations. I expect Xactly to continue to expand and support more needs of sales teams and impact not just the pipeline and forecast, but commissions and incentives. Xactly has advanced significantly since my last written analysis and continues to deliver incremental value to its customers and the industry. If you have not looked at Xactly recently, now might be the time to learn about the latest version.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

I attended NICE Systems’ annual Interactions (Twitter #Interaction2012) conference in Nashville to get the latest from this growing global software business that focuses on customer-centric applications. If you have not heard of NICE you might not be primarily involved in managing and interacting with customers, the area in which NICE has been growing organically and by acquiring technology providers that complement its existing portfolio. As we discussed in recent analyses, and NICE acquired Merced Systems for its sales- and service-centric performance management applications and Fizzback for customer feedback management software. Both have helped it become a more strategically focused software business. NICE Systems targets enterprise contact centers as well as financial risk, compliance and security. NICE makes its applications available not just on-premises but also in software as a service and hosted environments.

NICE offers a range of customer experience management applications: the agent desktop, customer feedback management and multichannel customer analytics across data, speech and text; agent performance management; interaction and communication technologies and broader customer and contact center analytics. Its contact center and overall workforce optimization suite enhances efficiency and intelligence in contact center operations and customer interactions. At the conference NICE announced a new class of cross-channel analytics-driven customer interaction applications that help personalize interactions to produce efficient and positive customer experiences. In the software, decisioning technology is combined with process management to guide agents as they respond to customer needs across any channel, from the Internet to the phone to retail locations. One way NICE does this is by using speech analytics to determine prompts to agents. Though the industry has been slow to adopt this approach, it is helping NICE customers improve the quality of customer service and resolve more issues on the first contact, which continues to be a top metric to manage agent efficiency and can help improve customer satisfaction.

The use of analytics is essential to identifying customer service improvements, according to 58 percent of organizations in our customer relationship management maturity benchmark research. Analytics works much better than spreadsheets, which are still used regularly or universally by almost two-thirds of contact centers according to our contact center analytics benchmark research. I expect to see NICE find ways to use predictive analytics to further fine-tune the information provided to agents.

NICE has not missed the rise of mobile technologies like smartphones and tablets in business. It announced a new solution called Mobile Reach that can provide quality customer interactions via smartphone. Instead of needing to call in to a contact center, customers can initiate real-time interaction from their smartphones to a center, where an agent can access customer information to respond to their needs. Agents can receive camera photos from customers and use real-time chat. An agent can help a customer to resolve some issue or locate the closest retail or service location. This advance in technology is impressive, and I expect NICE to offer similar or more support for tablets such as Apple’s iPad that has become a primary device for mobile commerce. It already provides analytics on tablets for assessing sales and customer service, and previewed new customer service management capabilities at the conference.

NICE also goes beyond these areas and helps in the back office with applications to manage the workforce, desktop processes, performance and quality assurance. I had a chance to review its process and task management software, which has the intelligence to spot where workers are not fulfilling their responsibilities. Organizations can apply the task monitoring technology to customers’ activities on their websites, and can be capture and replay it in what NICE calls interaction recording. I was impressed in the demonstration by how easy it is to identify issues and perform rapid root-cause analysis.

One of the key efforts in customer feedback management,  as my colleague Richard Snow states, is for businesses to hear the voice of the customer. VOC addresses direct and indirect channels across the Internet, such as social media. NICE announced further integration of the Fizzback technology; now contact centers can have any call or digital interaction dynamically invoke a feedback suggestion to make it easier to respond. Even more useful is the ability to have a manager actually listen to the customer interaction to assess any issues and then provide coaching where needed. This information can be essential to improving customer experience processes, which 59 percent of organizations have determined is a critical benefit of using feedback management. NICE was also demonstrating how it can take sentiment about a brand on social media, since analysis of this communication channel is already deployed in one-quarter of organizations and its use is the second highest priority in 19 percent of customer service organizations, according to our customer relationship maturity research. It also demonstrated where interactions started from social media can be part of a contact center or even marketing organizations operations. The ability to learn from social media interactions will be critical, as 89 percent of organizations already have a presence on Facebook, 68 percent on Twitter and 57 percent on LinkedIn according to our research.

At the conference I presented a session on establishing high-performance contact centers by using customer relationship maturity strategies, optimizing agent performance and productivity, utilizing analytics for contact centers, embracing social media for contact centers and understanding voice of the customer’s impact to customer experience. If you want a copy of the presentation, click here. It was great to have our Ventana Research Leadership Award winner  for 2011 in contact center category, Alliance Data, in the audience, too!

NICE’s new generation of customer- and agent-focused applications aims to optimize the customer experience. The company’s applications and technology portfolio are significantly ahead of those currently installed in most customer service organizations, which should provide it plenty of room to grow. Its intelligent use of analytics drives more effectiveness in customer interactions by improving agents’ performance. NICE has demonstrated its ability to acquire companies and integrate their products efficiently, leveraging both products and people to its advantage. It also partners with the likes of IBM, Cisco and even Five9 to enhance the contact center technology ecosystem. The largest challenge for NICE is to promote awareness of what it provides and what is possible with its technology. It will need to expand its market education efforts to explain how it helps the largest businesses change the way they operate in a more significant manner than previous CRM efforts. It will probably need to build some type of center of excellence and demonstrate what contact centers should strive to be over the next five years. I hope to see more chatter about NICE across social media on the part of organizations that wish to make substantive improvements to their contact centers and promote intelligent interactions with customers.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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