Last week I spent a very enjoyable three days in steamy Orlando, Florida attending Verint’s annual customer-fest Engage 2017. I got an update on the company’s strategy and products, participated in an executive forum with key customers, and learned how Verint tries to practice the CX that it preaches.
Verint was founded in 1994, went public in 2002 (NASDAQ: VRNT), and has grown organically and via acquisitions to now book about $1 billion in revenue annually (source). About two-thirds is from an array of “Customer Engagement” solutions and the balance from security solutions.
I went to the conference thinking mainly about Verint in the contact center space, and for sure it has a lot to offer in multi-channel engagement solutions, workforce management, and speech analytics. But I was frankly more interested in learning how acquisitions in CRM/Knowledge Management (KANA), Voice of Customer (Vovici, OpinionLab), and online communities (Telligent) fit in the product strategy.
Senior VP of Marketing Ryan Hollenbeck answered that question in his opening remarks at the conference. Yes, contact center solutions are the core, but Verint now includes solutions for backoffice automation (e.g. Robotic Process Automation), CX (customer listening), branch automation and even digital marketing. Thankfully, I saw very little hype about “AI” at the event, although analytics clearly is a critical element of Verint’s product strategy.
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Voice of Customer: From Portfolio to Platform
On the VoC front, Verint has embraced the vision of a “Command Center” (see my 2011 article) that will incorporate feedback from direct (e.g. surveys), indirect (e.g. social media), and inferred (e.g. digital interactions) sources. Over time that will evolve from aggregating feedback on a dashboard to more sophisticated cross-channel analytics that will surface issues for CX professionals, according to Ben Smith, VP/GM of CX Solutions.
Verint’s “VoC everywhere” makes a lot of sense to me. Instead of waiting for a survey, why not engage customers as they are interacting with a product? Like, for example, a car that enables customer feedback via an embedded microphone, demo’d in Verint’s innovation room. Very cool.
For IoT-enabled devices that don’t support voice input, they could potentially be connected with Amazon Echo or Google Home. Then when the refrigerator stops working, you can yell at it and send a message directly to the manufacturer!
OpinionLab, a digital VoC solution acquired early this year, is in my view just the tip of the iceberg. Integration with Vovici (acquired 4 years ago) will take a year or more, say company officials, to create more of an integrated platform rather than a collection of solutions. With the rise of digital interactions and advances in AI, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more M&A activity to beef up multi-channel VoC collection and advanced cross-channel analytics. As the number of feedback channels explodes and VoC becomes a real “big data” problem, dashboards won’t cut it: CX professionals will need AI-powered help deciding where to focus their attention.
Cloud: “All In”… with Help from Partners
About a year ago, Verint announced that its entire portfolio was available via the Cloud, in addition to traditional on-premise. That “any way you want it” message was also presented strongly at the Engage 2017 conference.
Cloud-based contact center solutions have been growing rapidly the past few years, and have seen the rise of vendors like EchoPass, Five9, InContact (now part of NICE), Interactive Intelligence (now part of Genesys), 8×8, and LiveOps (Cloud portion separated and rebranded as Serenova). Recently Amazon entered the market with Amazon Connect.
According to Nancy Treaster, the Verint SVP/GM who handles M&A, Verint has opted to not compete with its partners (Five9 being one) by directly selling a contact-center-in-the-cloud. However, the acquisition of Contact Solutions in early 2016 complicates matters, because it offers cloud-based voice IVR, which is also available from Five9 and others.
Verint’s strategy makes sense in the near term. Why turn partners into competitors when you can have them as customers? But — speculating here — I think most of the pure-play cloud contact center vendors will be acquired in the next few years, so the pressure will grow for Verint to make its own move. Watch this space.
CX in Practice
I’ve been to quite a few “CX” vendor conferences where company executives pitch that they have the tools to help improve customer experiences. It’s certainly true that the right tools are needed to manage multi-channel VoC and engagement. But what really sets companies apart is better execution of key CX practices.
In fact, in recent research I found that B2B companies reporting CXM success are doing a much better job of gathering customer feedback, making good decisions about what should be done, and aggressively acting to resolve customer issues. Technology is an enabler of some of these practices, not a driver per se.
As I outlined in my recent article about 5 key VoC industry trends, “leader” brands are much more effective at integrating multiple feedback sources and closing the loop between feedback and action. Leadership is also a key factor in customer-centric success — in fact it’s the single most predictive driver.
Discussions at the executive forum I attended certainly supported the conclusion that, just like in the CRM days, technology is necessary but not sufficient for CX success.
With that as a backdrop, you’ll understand why I was happy to spend time with Nancy Porte, Verint’s VP of Global Customer Experience, to learn how they practice the CX that they preach. Take listening. In a recent column post as a CustomerThink Advisor, Nancy discussed five non-survey ways to learn more about customers, including the role of a “CX Zone” at their customer conferences.
We set up the first ‘CX Zone’ at our annual user conference in 2015. It gave our customers an opportunity to interact directly with CX professionals and refer to our customer journey map to make their points. The response was amazing and the CX Zone has since become a regular part of our conferences.
A 24-foot long journey map was a key feature of the CX Zone. It was developed with both customer and employee input, under the guidance of Brian Simpson, a Sr. Management Consultant who came to Verint via the 2014 acquisition of Major Oak Consulting. Take a couple of minutes to watch this video as Porte gives one example of how they used the journey map to find the root cause of a problem.
Another good example of Verint truly engaging with customers in the product development process is this chart displayed in the Innovation Zone room. Customers clearly have a voice in development decisions, and Verint makes an effort to say “we’re listening.” Folks, this is one example of what “closing the loop” looks like in practice.
I asked Hollenbeck how he assessed the value of Verint’s CX program. His one-word answer: “culture.” Yes, they collect a lot of customer satisfaction/loyalty data and metrics are important to track progress. But it’s equally important to show that CX is a way of life at Verint, not just a marketing slogan to sell products. Bravo.
Disclosure: Verint invited me to attend this conference, gave me a free pass, and paid my travel expenses. My commentary should not be taken as an endorsement of Verint or any companies mentioned. Verint has been a sponsor of CustomerThink, and Nancy Porte serves as a CustomerThink Advisor writing a monthly column.