Last week I had an enjoyable visit to Orlando, Florida, for Verint’s annual Engage conference. I’d like to share some highlights and comments about what I learned.
Engagement R Us
The tech industry has embraced “customer experience” because, well, that’s what sells. Business leaders all proclaim their love for CX and who can blame software marketers for following that trend?
The problem is that — just like in the old CRM days — once everything gets labeled with the same acronym it ceases to be a useful differentiator. Taken to the extreme, any technology can be used to improve CX, so CXTech could be viewed as a $1 Trillion Market!
Verint is one of the few that has stuck with “engagement” and I think it’s a smart move. SVP Product Strategy Kristyn Emenecker summed up the Verint strategy for me this way:
“We want to be the application layer end-to-end for customer engagement.”
While CX is of high interest to top management, Emenecker confirmed what I’ve been hearing from other industry contacts: managing costs is usually a higher priority where the rubber meets the road.
In Customer Experience vs. Customer Engagement — A Distinction Without a Difference? I concluded: “…’customer engagement’ is actually a good and useful term for the vendor community. After all, they do provide the systems that help companies deliver at least some customer experiences, with the goal of creating more engaged (loyal) customer relationships.”
Here’s the key thing… Verint’s positioning as a “customer engagement” platform enables it to sell it for both improving CX and/or efficiency — a point made repeatedly throughout conference keynotes. So, to my CX friends I say, it’s not always about the experience. Sometimes you just want to save money — which CEOs know drops straight to the bottom line. By contrast, it’s much harder to connect the dots from CX/loyalty improvements to revenue growth.
“Unified” Voice of Customer Solution
In recent years, Verint has expanded from its traditional strength in call center solutions (workforce management being one) to the CX/Voice of Customer market. In my Verint conference report two years ago, I noted that:
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.
This strategy has unfolded with acquisitions of Vovici (traditional survey/EFM) in 2013, OpinionLab (digital VoC) in 2017, and Foresee (digital VoC) in late 2018. All added to Verint’s strong speech and text analytics capabilities to provide an impressive portfolio of VoC solutions. At this year’s conference, these products were announced as part of a New Voice of the Customer Cloud Solution.
Three key points come to mind.
The Foresee acquisition is a big deal. This company has a 20-year history and a ton of data science behind it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to keep up with marketing and development demands as the VoC industry ramped up in recent years. Now as part of Verint, Foresee will have the resources needed to capitalize on a strong product. I spent some time at the Foresee booth and came away very impressed with its depth and utility beyond conventional survey-based VOC solutions, especially in “impact analysis” which would help CX pros target improvement efforts.
Unification is a work in progress. It normally takes years to assimilate multiple products into a cohesive solution. Using the cloud may help as a common platform (Verint uses AWS and Azure), and APIs can link different solutions. But I think Verint overreached a bit in calling a collection of products a “solution” (singular). Rick Blair, VP Product Strategy, shared a roadmap which emphasizes UI convergence and AI-powered anomaly detection in the near-term, with harder bits coming later. Some likely scenarios seem to be consolidating on technologies for text analytics, survey presentation, and other services common to multiple products.
More work is needed on multi-channel impact analysis and action planning. The CX industry is still fixated on surveys, in part because it generates scores (NPS, CSAT, etc.) to track progress. “Yippee, our NPS just increased 5 points!” But CX pros really need help prioritizing issues based on loyalty and business impact. Conceptually: an AI-based engine that ingests multiple disparate feedback streams, figures out what the key problems are, and then recommends actions based on potential CX and business impact, not just frequency.
CX in Practice
Two years ago Verint presented a 24-foot long journey map in its CX Zone. Since then, it has been refined to be more customer-centric, with key stages broken out in separate pods.
Here’s a example for the “Procure a Solution” stage. Nancy Porte, Verint’s VP of Global Customer Experience, says they identified a point of friction during contract negotiations, due to legal issues. Instead of complaining about lawyers as “sales prevention” experts, Nancy engaged with the lawyers and worked out CX improvements without compromising Verint business interests. Well done.
I love the fact that Verint is showcasing its CX efforts to customers and inviting feedback. Transparency goes a long way to saying “I care” to customers and stimulating employees to really understand the complete experience and key obstacles. Nancy Porte has been sharing progress reports and key learnings in her Advisor column A CX Practitioner’s Playbook. Read it!
SAP’s acquisition of Qualtrics accelerated what I expect to be a wave of consolidation activity in the coming months and years. Verint is making a good case for being one the last VoC vendors standing when the dust settles and has some advantages in multi-channel VoC to build on.
In the meantime, Verint is growing nicely and proving that “engagement” is an effective positioning to deliver both CX and cost benefits.
Disclosure: Verint provided a free pass to attend this conference and paid my travel expenses. My comments should not be taken as an endorsement of Verint or any solutions. Verint has been a sponsor of CustomerThink, and Nancy Porte serves as a CustomerThink Advisor writing a monthly column.