Tuesday, 28 May 2013 15:34

The ACE up Aspect’s Sleeve

Last week I attended Aspect’s ACE 2013 customer gathering in Scottsdale, AZ.  This was Aspect’s second ACE, which stands for Aspect Customer Experience, since putting the program on hiatus four or five years ago.  If absence makes the heart grow fonder, it was certainly apparent at this event as the enthusiasm of Aspect executives was matched equally by the enthusiasm of the several hundred Aspect customers in attendance.

The mark of a good customer event is, in my opinion, the accessibility of company executives with their customers.  With a spate of new executives, Aspect ensured at the start of the event that executives were not only available, they were individually identified in the main session so attendees could find them if desired.  Aspect CEO Stew Bloom kicked off the event with an overview of Aspect that described in detail what the company has been doing to address the re-invented customer experience in a world where the relationship between consumers and organizations is undergoing radical changes. 

Stew also provided an overview of new solutions that Aspect expects to release to the market in the near future.  Although I can’t specifically discuss these solutions yet, suffice it to say that they address real industry problems and that they are or will be in high demand from contact center professionals according to the research that Saddletree has conducted in association with the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) at The University of Southern Mississippi.

While adequate coverage was given to emerging technology solutions such as cloud-based contact centers, conference sessions for the most part were firmly rooted in reality.  Concentration on social media, mobility issues, customer interactions strategies, and workforce optimization (WFO) ensured that Aspect customers left the conference with practical customer care knowledge that they can immediately put to use in their contact centers.

I continue to be impressed by the caliber of executives representing the relatively new Aspect management team.  I believe the diversity of the executive staff has invigorated Aspect in terms of strategy and ability to execute while recharging longtime Aspect employees who have steadfastly stuck with the company through the various changes of recent years.

I want to say that Aspect is like a whole new company, but that’s not really true.  This is clearly an enthusiastic company, reenergized by a new management team, encouraged by renewed investment in research and development, and optimistic about the future.

Revitalized is what the company really is.  That’s the ACE up Aspect’s sleeve.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Interactive Intelligence’s Interactions 2013 global conference held at the JW Marriott hotel in Indianapolis.  I have attended one previous Interactive Intelligence analyst/customer conference several years ago and I didn’t find it to be useful in terms of getting the information I need in order to do my job.  I was hoping for a better experience this time.

I don’t have much of a relationship with Interactive Intelligence, business or otherwise, so my knowledge of the company is limited to the few phone briefings I’ve had with them over the past year.  Interactive Intelligence seems to have their favorites and Saddletree Research isn’t one of them, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received the invitation to attend this year’s analyst/customer conference.

Overall I was favorably impressed by the event.  The venue was first class with excellent meeting facilities and exceptionally generous meals, refreshments and accommodations throughout.  I think the meeting planners at Interactive Intelligence did their best to pack as much information into the analyst day as possible although some of the presentations only skimmed the surface and left me wanting more in-depth detail.  While the subject matter was a mile wide it was only about a foot deep, but I give Interactive Intelligence credit for their efforts to make the day as diverse and interesting as possible.

If you took to heart the Interactive Intelligence conference marketing message you would get the impression that the entire contact center industry is in a mad scramble to move all their customer care solutions from the premises to the cloud.  Our research has shown that this is simply not the case.  Saddletree Research clients have in hand our April 22, 2013 report entitled “Finding the Silver Lining in the Contact Center Cloud” that details the demand and lack of demand for cloud contact center solutions by vertical market and size of contact center.  At this point the data doesn’t mesh with the Interactive Intelligence marketing message.  I got the impression that Interactive Intelligence has invested heavily in cloud solutions and now expects the market to respond, thus their conference emphasis on the benefits of the cloud-based contact center.

When I visited the conference exhibit floor it was packed with Interactive Intelligence customers and a variety of interesting exhibitors.  Among the most intriguing of these exhibitors was a company called OrgSpan (www.orgspan.com).  OrgSpan is a startup founded by a former Interactive Intelligence software engineer and funded by Interactive Intelligence founder Dr. Don Brown.  OrgSpan offers a cloud-based (what else?) employee directory and customer support tool designed to help organizations of any size find and connect with the right person at the right time.  Besides offering internal enterprise support for finding personnel resources it can also be used to allow customers to find the best customer support representative to help with their service need.  It’s something like LinkedIn for enterprise and customer support.  It’s worth a look.

My impression of Interactive Intelligence remains positive, reinforced by the company’s demonstrated commitment to the continued development of their platform solutions.  Interactions 2013 was a well-planned, well-executed and worthwhile event.