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Contact center agent experience needs massive overhaul

Gone are the days when it is acceptable to have greater than 40% turnover rates among contact center agents.

Leading organizations are revamping the contact center agent experience to improve business metrics, such as operational costs, revenue and customer ratings; and a targeted agent program keeps companies at a competitive advantage, according to the Nemertes 2019-20 Intelligent Customer Engagement research study of 518 organizations.

The problems

CX leaders participating in the research pointed to several issues responsible for a failing contact center agent experience:

  • Low pay. In some organizations it’s at minimum wage, despite requirements for bachelor’s degrees and/or experience.
  • Dead-end job. Organizations typically do not have a growth path for agents. They expect them to last 18 months to two years, and there always will be a revolving door of agents coming and going.
  • Lack of customer context. Agents find it difficult to take pride in their work when they don’t have the right tools. Without CRM integrations, AI assistance and insightful agent desktops, it is difficult to delight customers.
  • Cranky customers. Agents also find it difficult to regularly interact with dissatisfied customers. With a better work environment, more interaction channels, better training, more analytics and context, they could change those attitudes.
  • No coaching. Because supervisors are busy interviewing and hiring to keep backfilling the agents who are leaving, they rarely have time to coach the agents they have. What’s more, they don’t have the analytics tools — from contact center vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, Five 9, Genesys and RingCentral; or from pure-play tools such as Clarabridge, Medallia, and Maritz CM — to provide performance insight.

The enlightenment

Those in the contact center know this has been status quo for decades, but that is starting to change.

One of the big change drivers is the addition of a chief customer officer (CCO). Today, 37% of organizations have a CCO, up from 25% last year. The CCO is an executive-level individual with ultimate responsibility for all customer-facing activities and strategy to maximize customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction.

The CCO has budget, staff and the attention of the entire C-suite. As a result, high agent turnover rates are no longer flying under the radar. After bringing the issue to CEOs and CFOs, they are investing resources into turning around the turnover rates.

Additionally, organizations value contact centers more today, with 61% of research participants say the company views the contact center as a “value center” versus a “cost center.” Four years ago, that figure was reversed, with two-thirds viewing the contact center as a cost center.

Research shows there are five common changes organizations are now making to improve the contact center agent experience and reduce the turnover rate.

Companies are adding more outbound contact centers, targeting sales or proactive customer engagement — such as customer check-ups, loyalty program invitations and discount offers — and they are supporting new products and services. This helps to explain why, despite the growth in self-service and AI-enabled digital channels, 44% of companies actually increased the number of agents in 2019, compared to 13% who decreased, 40% who were flat and 3% unsure.

The solution

Research shows there are five common changes organizations are now making to improve the contact center agent experience and reduce the turnover rate — now at 21%, down from 38% in 2016. These changes include:

  • Improved compensation plan. Nearly 47% of companies are increasing agent compensation, compared to the 7% decreasing it. The increase ranges from 22% to 28%. Average agent compensation is $49,404, with projected increases up to $60,272, minimally, by the end of 2020.
  • Investment in agent analytics. About 24% of companies are using agent analytics today, with another 20.2% planning to use the tools by 2021. Agent analytics provides data on performance to help with coaching and improvement, in addition to delivering real-time screen pops to help agents on the spot during interactions with customers. Those using analytics see a 52.6% improvement in revenue and a 22.7% decrease in operational costs.
  • Increases in coaching. By delivering data from analytics tools, supervisors have a better picture of areas of success and those that need improvement. By using a product such as Intradiem Contact Center RPA, they can automate the scheduling of training and coaching during idle times.
  • Addition of gamification. Agents are inspired with programs that inject competitiveness among agents, by awarding badges for bragging rights, weekly gift cards for top performance and monthly cash bonuses. Such rewards improve their loyalty to the company and reduce turnover.
  • Development of career path. Successful companies are developing a solid career path with escalations into marketing, product development and supervisory roles in the contact center or CX apps/analysis.

Developing a solid game plan that provides agents with the compensation, support and career path they deserve will drastically reduce turnover rates. In a drastic example, one consumer goods manufacturing company reduced agent turnover from 88% to 2% with a program that addressed the aforementioned issues. More typically, companies are seeing 5% to 15% reductions in their turnover rates one year after developing such a plan.

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Managed security services, professional services to top $35B

Escalating cybersecurity threats and a shortage of in-house talent are driving double-digit growth rates in the managed security services and professional security services market.

Market research firm Frost & Sullivan expects the global market to expand from $21 billion in 2018 to $35.6 billion in 2023, growing at a 11.1% compound annual growth rate. The top five providers are already experiencing even higher growth. Accenture, Deloitte, EY, IBM and PwC — a group which accounts for 42% of the global market — grew 27.6% year-over-year in 2018, according to Frost & Sullivan.

The market researcher’s report cited an “overdue need for a new chapter in security practices” along with rising risk levels and staffing limitations as the main factors propelling the demand for managed and professional security services. Digital transformation and customers’ heightened recognition of cyberthreats also contribute to increasing demand.

High growth services

Detection and response are the fastest growing offerings in the managed security services market, followed by DDoS protection and threat intelligence, research, detection and mitigation (TIRDM), noted Jarad Carleton, global program leader of cybersecurity information and communication technologies at Frost & Sullivan.

“We are noticing a strong demand across several areas in the managed security services space from our clients globally,” said Harpreet Sidhu, managing director and managed security services lead at Accenture. “One of those areas is definitely for detection and response as companies seek to add next-generation solutions to their security capabilities.”

Cybersecurity skills shortage chart
The cybersecurity skills shortage has helped fuel demand for managed security services.

Sidhu said managed detection and response (MDR) capabilities include security automation and orchestration and come with predefined playbooks. MDR, which uses technology to scale, “can help drive significantly faster analysis and improved responses,” he noted.

Chris Gerritz, chief product officer at Infocyte, a cybersecurity incident response platform provider in Austin, Texas, said detection and incident response is becoming more important for managed security services providers (MSSPs), which traditionally have focused on network monitoring.

“Generally, they are starting to add on endpoint capabilities and starting to add on response capabilities,” he said.

Gerritz said customers are telling MSSPs “I don’t want just 100 notifications that I have been attacked. I want you to actually do something about that.”

Infocyte this week launched its Response Ready program for its certified incident response partners. The program aims to help those partners scale up their incident response businesses and boost recurring revenue.

Assessment and advisory offerings, meanwhile, stand out in the professional security services market segment, according to the Frost & Sullivan report. Professional security services represent the biggest slice of the security services market, overall, with a 61% share.

Sidhu said Accenture is seeing consulting and professional services demand across several areas such as identity, cloud, cyber defense and application security, along with strong demand for assessment of those capabilities.

Breaking into the market

The market’s five largest players are generating considerable revenue growth, which Frost & Sullivan attributes to “their massive size, global reach, consultative strength, industry expertise, and established relationships with large enterprises and government agencies.”

Yet, smaller service providers also have the potential to grow — with a few caveats. Managed service providers are looking to add security services as more customers expect them to provide protection from cyberattacks.

The key for MSPs trying to break into the MSSP market is providing right-sized security services for small- and medium- sized enterprises.
Jarad CarletonGlobal program leader, cybersecurity information and communication technologies, Frost & Sullivan

“The key for MSPs trying to break into the MSSP market is providing right-sized security services for small- and medium- sized enterprises,” Carleton said.

Regional MSSPs, as well as MSPs offering security services, will find demand for security services among regionally-focused SMBs, he noted.

MSPs, however, must take care to properly scope their services and keep their own security house in order.

“What we have seen is that far too many MSPs are promising more than they can actually deliver in terms of managed security services, and that is damaging to the industry,” Carleton said. “What is even more damaging to MSPs trying to break into the MSSP market is that MSPs themselves have become targets of cybercriminals. If you cannot manage your own security, frankly you have no business selling managed security services to a customer.”

HCL unveils Google Cloud unit

HCL Technologies, a global technology company based in Noida, India, has launched a Google Cloud business unit, which will eventually house more than 5,000 Google Cloud specialists.

HCL currently has more than 1,300 Google Cloud platform professionals. The company’s Google initiative targets a range of fields, from containerization to machine learning. The HCL business unit will also build Google Cloud-specific Cloud Native Labs in Dallas, London and in India’s national capital region.

Google and HCL said joint investments to support customers’ digital transformation projects will cover several areas:

  • SAP workload and application migration to Google Cloud Platform. In August, Google launched a partnership with DXC Technology that also focuses on enterprise migration of SAP applications to public cloud.
  • Hybrid and multi-cloud deployments using Google Cloud’s Anthos. Google partners cited Anthos as a business opportunity and one of the key developments during Google’s Next ’19 conference.
  • Adoption of Google Cloud data, AI and machine learning offerings in areas such as e-commerce, supply chain and marketing.
  • Application and data center modernization.
  • Workplace transformation and collaboration via G Suite.
  • DevSecOps and service orchestration.

Tech Data buys government channel partner DLT Solutions

Tech Data has agreed to purchase DLT Solutions, a Herndon, Va., company that aggregates technology for public sector clients and channel partners.

The deal, expected to close by Jan. 31, would make DLT a wholly owned subsidiary of Tech Data, a distributor based in Clearwater, Fla. DLT’s government contract vehicles include the General Services Administration Schedule 70, the Defense Department’s Enterprise Software Initiative, The National Institutes of Health’s Chief Information Officers — Commodities and Solutions and NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement V.

DLT had been a Millstein & Co. portfolio company. The private equity firm acquired DLT in 2015. TZP Group owned DLT prior to that deal, having acquired the company in 2009.

The DLT transaction will expand Tech Data’s value proposition, “especially in government solutions,” according to a bulletin from Martinwolf, a merger and acquisition advisory firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Martinwolf advised DLT on the TZP deal and then advised TZP on the Millstein acquisition.

Evercore, an M&A advisory firm based in New York, is representing DLT on the Tech Data deal.

Axcient launches X360 backup platform

Data protection company Axcient unveiled Axcient X360, a converged backup platform for MSPs.

The Axcient X360 platform offers single sign-on and centralized management of Office 365 backup, sync and share, and business continuity and disaster recovery. The platform also provides unlimited storage and retention and supporting services such as billing, training and certification, co-branded collateral and market development funds, the company said.

David Bennett, CEO of Axcient, speaking with SearchITChannel at MSP software vendor ConnectWise’s IT Nation conference, said the platform is designed to ease the backup burdens of MSPs. “Anything that puts a burden on an MSP’s business in terms of people and time is costly,” he said.

Bennett said Axcient X360 aims to be easy to learn, to the extent an MSP’s tier-1 technician could quickly train and operate the platform.

The X360 platform also documents backups for customers in regulated industries such as healthcare and financial services, Bennett added.

Axcient currently works with about 3,000 MSPs and integrates with ConnectWise.

Other news

  • Cloud distributor Pax8 inked a deal with Nerdio, an Azure solution provider for MSPs. Under the agreement, Pax8 will offer Nerdio for Azure in three packages: Core, Professional and Enterprise.
  • Intermedia, a cloud communications provider, joined ConnectWise’s Invent partner program for integrating with the ConnectWise MSP platform.
  • Webroot said ConnectWise partners can buy licenses for its security awareness training offering at 50% off from Oct. 30 to Nov. 30. The offer is available only through ConnectWise and to partners that are not currently purchasing Webroot’s security awareness training.
  • MSP360, formerly CloudBerry Lab, said MSP interest in its multi-cloud data backup and recovery portfolio helped boost Q3 revenue 60% over the same period last year.
  • Synechron Inc., a digital consulting firm based in New York, launched Digital Ecosystem Accelerators for the financial sector. The company described the accelerators as “solution prototypes” targeting such fields as retail banking, wealth management, corporate banking and capital markets.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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Adoption of IIOT applications rising but full value yet to come

Manufacturers are adopting industrial IOT technology at high rates and the vast majority are satisfied with the results, yet it appears that most are not yet taking advantage of benefits like advanced analytics.

These were some of the results gleaned from a new survey from Bsquare, a Bellevue, Wash., firm that provides IIOT services and products. The 2017 Annual IIOT Maturity Study examines the adoption attitudes and progress of IIoT technology across three industry segments — manufacturing, transportation, and oil and gas — according to Dave McCarthy, Bsquare senior director of products.

The main impetus for conducting the survey was to determine how companies are adopting IIOT applications and the overall satisfaction with the results, McCarthy said.

Bsquare conducted the 2017 Annual IIOT Maturity Study in August 2017 with more than 300 respondents from companies with annual revenues of at least $250 million, according to McCarthy. The respondents were evenly divided among the three industry groups and all were senior-level personnel with direct operational responsibilities. The survey made no mention of Bsquare or its products and services.

The survey indicates that enthusiasm for IIOT applications is very high, but the majority of projects are still at a relatively low level.

According to the survey, 86% of the respondents are currently adopting IIOT applications and 84% of the adopters believe that the applications are very or extremely effective. Further, 95% responded that the IIOT applications are having a significant or tremendous impact on their industry.

However, the higher-level benefits that IIOT promises may not yet be realized. The survey shows that 78% of IIOT projects are focused on connecting devices and machines, while 83% involve data visualization. Projects that involve higher-level functionality are in the minority, with only 48% of respondents doing advanced analytics on the data collected by IIOT devices, and just 28% are automating the application of insights derived from analytics.

People feel that they have to collect this [IIOT] data even if they don’t know what they want to do with it.
Dave McCarthysenior director of products, Bsquare

McCarthy believes that satisfaction from IIOT applications may be high because more than half of the 84% who believe the applications have been effective are less than one year into the IIOT implementation.

“This could mean that they’re in the honeymoon period because they’re doing some things that they’ve never done before and even if they are very simple things it seems like they’re a huge step forward and they’re happy about it, or they’re doing things in a POC or pilot environment where it’s always easier to do things in a lab than at scale,” he said. “But there’s a huge drop in people who are collecting data and people who are using it in some way with a dashboard or monitored activity. People feel that they have to collect this data even if they don’t know what they want to do with it.”

Other key findings from the survey:

  • Of the 86% of organizations that are adopting IIOT applications, most are in construction and transportation (93%), followed by oil and gas (89%) and manufacturing (77%).
  • The organizations are using IIOT applications primarily for connecting devices and forwarding data (78%), real-time data monitoring (56%) and advanced data analytics (48%).
  • The majority of the respondents (73%) plan to increase their investments in IIOT over the next year, while at the same time almost all acknowledge the complexity of IIOT deployments.

Don’t start the 4th Industrial Revolution without me

The 4th Industrial Revolution is happening right now, driven by leading manufacturing organizations and largely enabled by cloud technology, according to a new report from Plex Systems, a provider of cloud ERP systems based in Troy, Mich.

The third annual “State of Manufacturing Technology (SoMT) Report” surveyed more than 150 manufacturers on their attitudes about and how they are actually using next-generation technologies in their manufacturing processes, according to Andrew McCarthy, Plex Systems vice president of communications. The survey participants represented manufacturing companies in a variety of industries, including automotive equipment, industrial parts and systems, aerospace, high technology, plastics, and food and beverages.

“What we found from the survey is that as a result of the cloud, this promise of ubiquity or universal connectivity that’s often talked about as out in the future is stuff that these organizations are doing today,” McCarthy said. “There are simple examples like the deployment of consumer mobile devices on the shop floor, all the way to things like wearable technology in the shop floor environment, and using location-based services to get contextual information from a piece of equipment.”

Some of the reasons for this increased adoption include lowered barriers to connectivity and the rapidly decreasing costs of next-generation technology and equipment, McCarthy said.

“We find that customers are experimenting with those capabilities to figure out how to stand up a new stack because they don’t have to make a material investment in them,” he said.

Overall, the survey indicates that next-generation technologies are very important to manufacturers today, primarily enabled by the cloud; however there are also significant challenges to be overcome, including a widening skills gap for manufacturing workers.

Some of the specific findings from the survey:

  • Eighty percent of respondents said the technology was either important or very important to their ability to innovate.
  • Ninety percent said that they are using cloud-based applications in some form, which is twice the number as the 2016 survey.
  • Seventy percent said that the cloud has made it easier to manage fluctuating customer demand.
  • Forty-five percent said that the cloud contributes significantly to new product research and introduction.
  • Thirty percent are focusing on implementing a digitally connected supply chain now, and another 30% expect to implement it in the next five years.
  • Thirty-five percent believe that a shortage of skilled workers will be the biggest challenge to organizational growth in the next year, and the most needed skills are lean manufacturing (68%), mechanical engineering (48%) and data analysis (48%).