Give NICE credit: call centers are not a boring topic when this company takes the stage.
Amidst extravagant pyrotechnics on the NICE Interactions 2019 keynote stage, NICE staked their claim to being "the global leader in cloud contact center software."
Of course, the backstory is more complicated - NICE has a product portfolio so vast that their marketecture slides are dizzying. And: many of their customers are not yet running on NICE InContact CXone, their 1.5 year old cloud call center platform.
But with a record 3,000+ attendees at NICE Interactions, and 30 percent growth rate on CXone, it's no wonder NICE is feeling confident.
NICE pushes a new opportunity and buzzphrase - Predictive Behavioral Routing
But it doesn't stop at cloudy call center software. With important analytics and AI acquisitions under their belt, we can count NICE amongst those pitching a CX transformation message. The most provocative aspect - at least for me - was the emphasis on Predictive Behavioral Routing, or PBR for short:
Lots of talk so far at #NICEC2019 about Predictive Behavioral Routing (PBR - fun new acronym)
"Intelligent"/automatic match between customer and service rep.
-> I just interacted with a number of brands that are not using that yet :)
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) April 16, 2019
NICE says they can get this done via personality type matching, where a customer is "intelligently" routed to the call center rep best suited to handle their personality type. There are six personality types in this approach, from advisor to connector to dreamer.
I actually took this in-depth personality test on-site (I was classified as an "advisor"). I have some issues with personality assessments. That skepticism led me into spirited debates with NICE executives on-site. But: I talked with customers who find this approach appealing. NICE has also compiled stats indicating that matching personality types with the right customer service reps improves customer satisfaction.
But PBR is just one scenario. NICE has staked its future on two beliefs:
- That there is a "CX divide" between companies changing customer experience and those that aren't, and this gap is widening.
- Solutions like NICE CXone, which apply analytics, AI, and automation to the CX problem, give their customers a chance to widen that gap, and get on the winning side.
We can debate this vision and whether NICE can get there. But it's more revealing to hear from customers directly. And on that front, NICE did something smart in both of their keynotes: they turned the stage over to their customers for in-depth presentations. On day one, it was MoneyGram and Macy's.
Like what #NICEC2019 is doing here, with customers (Moneygram) doing full keynote presso on challenges for call centers . how they responded. Not a sound bite "chat" but in-depth learnings.
-> "let's get the technology right, then we'll look at changing rep training/behavior" pic.twitter.com/2FGO7GPe9k
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) April 16, 2019
Both presentations were effective; both included something fundamental that for some unfathomable reason, we rarely see on stage: customers presenting their own tangible results. Macy's:
MoneyGram shares their pain points - and how they responded
Doug Klees, Head of Global Customer Care at MoneyGram International, took pains to describe the problem of "before." As Klees told attendees:
One of the challenges we had with our old platform is we really had a mix of owned and outsourced technology... So calls would come into our platform, then they would pass over to the outsourcer's platform.
The missed data was concerning:
Really we lost a lot of information. [Maybe it] was a poor recording; we weren't really sure how things were going.
Klees says that wasn't the only obstacle:
- MoneyGram had four different quality applications between internal and outsourcers. That was especially concerning in a fraud situation where the call records needed to be located quickly.
- Call routing was difficult, especially across multiple languages.
- Reliability during peak periods was a problem: "Before I came on to work, the old application was down for 24 hours right around the holidays."
- Integrations with their old platform were tough and expensive to manage, due to being a managed service.
The second-largest money transfer company in the world, MoneyGram handles 13 million calls annually across ten global contact centers. They staff for 32 different languages. Whatever the solution, it had to be able to scale. That means quickly connecting customers to the right agent with the right skills and language - on a global basis. So MoneyGram moved to CXone:
CXone was the first fully-cloud platform within MoneyGram. My boss was happy about that.
Klees' team implemented NICE ACD (Automatic Contact Distributor) and IVR (Integrated Voice Management). They did quality management, eliminating the four prior quality management apps down to one quality application within NICE Engage. They added more NICE apps, including the ECHO survey platform. MoneyGram kicked off with a couple of pilots in 2017. In February 2018, they completed the final cut over:
We did about a thousand agents on one day, and we just cut over everybody at that point. We're very successful from that perspective.
MoneyGram's CX progress report - results to date
Wins so far? Start with more efficient call routing - a big issue when you have multiple languages in play.
It was a really big win for us, and the power of the CXone platform allowed us to do that from a language perspective.
One thing that struck me? MoneyGram's approach to change management. As Klees explained, they started by tackling the tech:
I really wanted to get the technology right first. A lot of companies say, "Oh, we're gonna try to fix the reps, we're gonna try to patch things together." We took a different approach.
Now Klees can work on getting the reps to fully buy in:
There's no discussions around, "Well the recording's not right" or, "This tool doesn't work" or, "I can't do this." I wanted to eliminate all these conversations and really focus on the technology side. I think it's been really successful from that perspective.
Reps were able to get up to speed on CXone quickly, and with minimal training. But nothing replaces visiting reps in the field:
When I was out touring the sites recently in the Philippines, it was great to actually sit with a rep. She had her own little avatar there, she was seeing her data update in real time, she was tracking things. It's actually allowed us to do some contests also from a gamification perspective. So again: unified platform, reps are using it, the supervisors are using it, and I can use it from an executive perspective.
Quantifiable results? Klees cited:
- 30% reduction in handle time within MoneyGram's offline channel.
- 5% reduction in transfers within the application within the platform.
- 10% to 15% increase in IVR containment.
- Moved from 30 different IVR applications to three.
I was able to reduce my cost by seven percent, with increased capabilities.
More importantly, Klees says they are now able to focus on call quality (issue resolution), rather than tech headaches:
We spend less time fixing things - now we're just focused on the consumer and their experience.
Of all the lessons Klees shared with attendees, the one that jumped out for me was:
Focus on building new, rather than lift and shift.
Hearing customers speak to tangible results with generally available products is more than some vendors with next-gen offerings can say. NICE is also provocative in important ways, pushing with "personality match" topics like PBR, as well as forcing the issue of automation and call center staff reduction.
It's essential for NICE get this exciting narrative across more visibly; when you do Google searches, you still run into two-year-old headlines about the NICE-Verizon data breach, a one-time issue long since addressed.
I give NICE credit for not sugarcoating the staff reduction aspect. Most vendors heavily-invested in AI are falling back on the reassuring blandness that "AI just makes workers lives better by enabling higher value focus." NICE executives acknowledged to me that workforce reduction savings are part of this CX mix.
Another customer said offstage they were able to reduce service staff ten percent via attrition. Klees also cited a modest labor savings, based on a regional staff reduction from 40 to 10. Those incentives are real, and a wake-up call for call center professionals to push their own skills enhancements, so they stay on the winning side of the CX divide as well.
NICE will also face challenges getting customers to the latest and greatest, and/or balancing support for on-premise releases - a classic issue I heard customers asking NICE about during a portfolio presentation session.
NICE's narrative is more challenging when you consider that some of their most impressive moves are not (necessarily) tied to call centers. Today I interviewed Baker Tilly, who attested to the results gained from NICE's RPA solution, which they bill as "industry leading" - something the Baker Tilly executive I spoke to certainly agreed with.
All told, it's a compelling story - one worthy of more analysis.