Interactions 2012 kicked off last week with much fanfare – more than 1,500 customers, partners, consultants, analysts, and media – joined software company Interactive Intelligence and Latitude Software at the JW Marriott Indianapolis for a week of networking, knowledge-share, and interaction in the quaint (and pleasantly quiet – by New York standards) Circle City.
“Our corporate culture is casual, and our conference is no exception,” read a pre-conference program, which set the stage for the sort of creative casualness that I would encounter all week in Indiana. Between the surplus of sessions and scheduled dinners, I found the time to meet many an Interactive team member and customer – from sales engineers to those simply seeking a solution to better their business.
The crown jewel of the conference could very well have been a guest keynote led by Clayton Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and esteemed author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” Christensen is one of those rare speakers who really gets you thinking on a primal level – the sort who brings you to a place of “aha!” in such a way that makes you feel as if you came upon the idea yourself (when, in reality, it was due to his gentle goading.)
The message Christensen delivered on day one was simple – the thing that causes us to buy a product or service is how well that product or service gets a “job” done. Each “job” has functional, emotional, and social dimensions that avail “opportunity” to a customer/user. Christensen told the story of his morning commute and how he sought a breakfast item that he could a). enjoy and b.) eat without ruining his auto interior.
When Snickers bars (too sticky), bagels (too much cream cheese), and doughnuts (too crumbly) failed, he tried milkshakes. And yes, the milkshake did the “best job” for that particular situation or work order. As a company that sells a product or a service, you must look at “what experiences in purchase and use must we provide to do a job perfectly.” In short – make it hard or impossible for your competitors to emulate you by catering clearly and effortlessly to the job or task you’re looking to perfect.
This train of thought echoed a speech delivered by Joe Staples, Interactive Intelligence’s chief marketing officer, in which he touted the company’s customer-centric focus. “We recognize that fact that you don’t buy, sell, or recommend products for your own benefit,” he said. “We want to help our customers help their customers.”
And numbers don’t lie. Company CEO Don Brown noted that Interactive has increased its sales from a touch over $50 million in 2005 to an expected quarter of a billion dollars ($250 million) this year. Seventeen percent of that revenue is plugged back into R&D efforts. “We’ve gone from no customers (in 1994) to over 4,000 customers.”
Gartner keynote speaker Drew Kraus, a research vice president for enterprise communications applications, spoke of the migration to the multichannel contact center – and the associated challenges that arise from tailoring this to self-service.
While best practices for social media and video usage in the contact center “are still emerging,” companies continue to eye social media in a service capacity and are working toward integrating it with more traditional service channels. During a breakout session on improving customer-facing processes using business process automation, Meredith Hargis, manager of customer experience solutions at Roche Diagnostics, said that “mobile customers really desire the option for self-service,” and as a result, the company has started providing support through Facebook and Twitter pages.
Interactive Intelligence formally rolled out the Interaction Mobilizer in-conference, which Brown deemed as “one of our most impressive efforts in time to market yet.” Simply put, “mobile devices have fundamentally changed the way we do customer service in the contact center,” Brown said. The mobile customer can opt in-app to receive a callback from an agent if they please, and gauge how long it will take to connect to a live person and receive periodic updates along the way. For users who don’t want a phone call, agents can provide SMS support. On the flip side, the contact center agents get full context around the mobile service experience.
During “EMEA Contact Center Market Update, Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics, spoke of the inherent effect of multiple service demographics. “Nobody wants to deal with best of breed anymore,” she explained. Now, it’s all about “the single, integrated desktop app supporting all channels – inbound and outbound…in 2000, it was about getting self-service better.” But come 2010 and beyond, “it’s about customer experience.”