Aspect is a company willing to take risks to ensure that it is ahead of the curve in developing new solutions. 

I consider myself a bit of an authority on millennials.  I raised two of them so I feel I have the inside track when it comes to understanding the psyche of the millennial generation.  Most of these self-congratulatory assumptions I made about myself and how well I understood millennials were recently confirmed by the results of a study conducted by Aspect in conjunction with Jason Dorsey, who calls himself the Gen Y Guy.


The results of the study were released during the SXSW conference in Austin, TX earlier this month.  As a former resident of Houston and a member of the generation that embraced outlaw, Americana and Texas music, I was familiar with the SXSW event as an alt-country, indie-music sort of affair, which is what it was back in 1987 when SXSW began and I was a carefree, millennial-free graduate student.

My history with legacy Aspect goes back to the earliest days of the company. Jim Carreker, who was the founder of Aspect, had an office directly across the street from Dataquest in San Jose when I worked there from ’89 – ’93. I have followed Aspect as an analyst practically since the company’s inception.

While I have always greatly admired Aspect and the impact it has had on the worldwide contact center industry, the company has also had its share of ups and downs over the years. For example, toward the end of the ‘90s Aspect jumped on the CRM bandwagon and proclaimed itself to be a CRM company. That strategy backfired and Aspect had to go through some gyrations to get back on track.

I have to admit I experienced creeping uncertainty when I got word about the management changes at Aspect a couple of months ago.  Not only were the new managers unfamiliar names, they were for the most part not from the communications industry and one of the new execs was an M&A guy.  Would Aspect be broken up and sold in pieces or was this going to be a wholesale sell-off to the highest bidder?

 

Turns out it won’t be any of those things if I can base my assessment of Aspect’s future on the words I heard from the new executive management team this week.  In a fairly atypical industry occurrence, Aspect executives gathered this week with a small group of analysts in an all day, no-holds-barred meeting to make clear the company’s commitment to corporate growth and industry influence in the future.  I left the meeting a believer.

 

When I say the meeting was no-holds-barred, I mean that the discussion was frank and honest, not peppered with the usual flowery marketing drivel.  Mistakes were made in the past and admitted to.  The much-hyped Aspect relationship with Microsoft was put into perspective and I finally understood where it fits into Aspect’s growth strategy.  While it makes sense from a market perspective, I hope Aspect tones down the marketing perspective.  Contact center professionals simply aren’t that enamored with Microsoft, at least not to the degree that some other industry professionals are.  Aspect’s relationship with Microsoft doesn’t do anything to win the heart and mind of the customer service professional.

 

What does win friends and influence people in the contact center industry are innovations in technology solutions that industry people know they need, like workforce optimization, mobility solutions and social media management tools.  Without giving away secrets, I’m convinced that Aspect is on the right track to win new friends.  To back up the talk, they’re walking the R & D walk with significant new investment in this area in dollars for both people and technology.  I see this level of commitment in product development as a strong proof point that Aspect as we know it is here to stay.

 

Financially, Aspect is in a relatively strong position.  Just this week they paid down another $50 million in debt leaving their outstanding debt, by order of magnitude, about a tenth of Avaya’s debt and around half of Genesys’ debt.  I discovered that Aspect’s new CFO is a fellow grad school alum, so that subjectively boosts my confidence in the company’s fiscal responsibility.

 

There are very few companies in the contact center industry that have the confidence to put their top executives in front of analysts to answer questions without a marketing or PR buffer.  Aspect is now part of this elite group and I believe the confidence Aspect has shown in itself will translate to strong and responsible growth for the company.  Aspect is well-positioned to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Last week Aspect announced a partnership with Nexidia to provide the speech analytics component of Aspect’s Unified IP workforce optimization (WFO) solution.  I didn’t think much of it until I dug a little deeper into what this new partnership can potentially bring to the table for Aspect, and for the contact center industry as a whole.

 

Speech analytics comes in a couple of flavors.  One of the most popular flavors requires the recorded speech to be transcribed into text before the speech analytics engine searches the text for any critical phrases as defined by the user.  The other flavor translates a bit faster in that the actual voice recording is searched using phonetic indexing, which looks for key words and phrases using phonemes, the smallest discreet units of human speech.  Both flavors have their strengths and weaknesses, but Nexidia has taken speech analytics and bumped it up to the next level.  This is bound to capture the attention of the contact center industry.

 

Although there hasn’t been any flag waving or chest pounding on the part of Nexidia, they have developed technology that allows the analysis of a voice conversation in real time.  What this means for the contact center is that all conversations, not just select or random conversations, can be monitored as they are occurring.  It will be possible to conduct root cause analysis and trigger alerts as the call is in progress.  This is pretty heady stuff.

 

Consider, for example, the integration of real time speech analytics with agent screen pops.  In this case, anytime a word related to a particular topic is spoken it triggers an agent screen pop reminding the agent of the procedure for these types of calls.  Or, perhaps the call is from an important customer and a keyword is spoken that automatically triggers a real time alert and bridges the call to an account manager, or it notifies the supervisor that this important customer call is in progress and offers an option to silent monitor the call.  Given a little imagination, the possibilities for real time speech analytics in the contact center are endless.

 

The problem for Nexidia has been that although they have the real-time speech analytics engine, it’s not much of an application by itself.  That’s where the Aspect partnership comes in.  Aspect has the applications and the experience to take real-time speech analytics, make it an integral part of their workforce optimization suite and potentially shake up the industry.  Aspect will be tasked with taking this new technology from Nexidia and creating applications with a practical use in the contact center.  It will be a complex undertaking but if history is any indicator, Aspect is up to the challenge.