Call Center, CTI Pioneer Kuhn Offer Perspective on Industry Trends

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  November 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Envision is a pioneer in delivering team coaching and performance improvement products and services to the contact center. The company’s Click2Coach integrates quality monitoring and management, e-learning, automated coaching, and analytics and performance management capabilities. Click2Coach and Envision Workforce Management are offered via that Envision Centricity web-based workforce optimization platform. 

CIS magazine recently interviewed Envision Founder and CEO Rodney Kuhn, who is a pioneer in the field of CTI (News - Alert) and call center technology, about the company and his thoughts on industry trends. Kuhn launched Envision in 1994 when he unveiled SoundByte Enterprise. Prior to founding Envision, Kuhn helped define computer telephony standards while developing CTI-enabled voice messaging products for Active Voice, a manufacturer of voice processing systems.   

What kind of demand are you seeing for performance management/workforce optimization, recording and analytics solutions?

Kuhn: At Envision, we see accelerating demand for more value-added features. Customers are replacing first-generation, simple recording solutions that were positioned as QM solutions with a full-featured WFO product suite. Customers are also adopting more advanced WFO product features, such as speech, to aid in everything from coaching to customer intelligence.

Are the markets for performance management/workforce optimization, recording and analytics tools maturing? Or, are there still plenty of greenfield opportunities – and, if so, in which industries? Also, what role does the move from TDM to VoIP play in all this?

Kuhn: The switch from TDM to VOIP is creating opportunity for growth, not limiting it. The massive forklift infrastructure upgrade is giving companies a reason to also look at their application stack and determine where additional value can be derived. The integrated suite, lower TCO and ROI opportunities, as well as the fact that many of the piecemeal WFO solutions are fully amortized make this a great time to be in the space.

What feature sets are most in demand?

Kuhn: Customers continue to see extreme value from scheduling, coaching and e-learning with our suite. Many are also beginning to realize value from analytics – particularly speech analytics – which can be used to assist in everything from FCR to coaching.

Analytics have been heralded as an excellent solution for contact centers. Yet some have voice concern about the high costs and ROI relative to analytics. What do you think?

Kuhn: There’s no question that analytics can be a valuable tool for an organization in achieving its goals. The expense can be high, which is why we at Envision have produced a right-sized speech analytics solution that a customer can install affordably, then determine the value of speech to their organization and scale the solution according to their requirements.

Social media has emerged as a new channel that contact centers are beginning to support. How is the social channel impacting contact centers?

Kuhn: Having the contact center manage the social media channels for an organization creates many opportunities and challenges. For a contact center to handle this new channel of customer communication, it must ensure that agents are effective in handling social media interactions. Coaching was vital on a 1-1 basis when agents were dealing with a single customer. With social media, agents may respond, and many customers will see that response. This creates many opportunities for the contact center to handle multiple inquiries with a single response, but also creates tremendous risk if the agents are not receiving ongoing coaching on how to respond. Envision’s solutions ensure that communications and training are easy and effective across the contact center, supporting the proper handling of the challenges and opportunities that social media interactions can create.

Analysts and observers have been calling on enterprises and contact centers to obtain an integrated multichannel (including self-service as well as social media) view of customers and their interactions. Yet too many of them still have siloed channels and performance. Are these silos coming down?

Kuhn: The silos still exist. At Envision, we’re working with customers to give them a complete view of the customer experience and the tools to help drive and improve that experience. It will require a combination of technology, commitment to change, and culture shift for many of these organizations to achieve this. A trusted partner is critical in this endeavor.

Third-party hosting has emerged as an increasingly popular alternative to buying and installing licensed software. Also, vendors increasingly are incorporating PM/WFO, recording and analytics solutions into their platforms. How will these trends affect the demand and sales for OEMs like Envision?

Kuhn: As infrastructure providers take over the recording and archiving of telephone conversations, it allows Envision as a software developer and provider to focus on application value to our customers. Our recording architecture fits this model today, where a separate appliance from Envision can be installed to collect calls and our Click2Coach and Centricity suites can be used to evaluate, coach and train agents, as well as help improve customer experience.

What are Envision’s differentiators in the marketplace?

Kuhn: As a trusted partner and solutions provider for over 17 years, Envision is in a position to not only provide value-added, road-tested solutions and services, but thought leadership as well. We have the benefit of being a part of the evolutionary process of the contact center industry and have witnessed and helped shape many of the trends and industry standards we see today. Realizing that the needs of the contact center will never stop evolving and changing as consumer needs, wants and desired modes of communication continue to shift, we have developed a mindset of agility, nimbleness and continual learning that help us best support our clients’ changing needs. This attitude – combined with superior, tried-and-true technology, customizable solutions and services that fit a range of contact center sizes, shapes and needs – make Envision unique. The purpose of our work is to be here for our clients to make their jobs easier and more effective, increasing end-customer satisfaction and the bottom line. We continue to work with our customers to develop solutions that provide maximum ROI. We are different in that we truly take a partnership approach with our customers, helping assure ongoing performance with our Click2Coach and Centricity solutions.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi