National Association of Call Centers


NACC Blog (18)

Xerox CEO Interview and American Jobs

Xerox CEO Interview and American Jobs
May 23, 2012
By: David L Butler, PhD
Executive Director, National Association of Call Centers

This morning on the National Public Radio show Morning Edition, the CEO of Xerox was interviewed. At the end of the interview the following exchange took place.
"MONTAGNE: You know, Xerox now...


Cisco Wins Contact Center Industry Award the Old Fashioned Way – They Earn It

The 9th annual CRM Magazine Service Awards winners were published in the March 2012 issue of the magazine.  I like these awards.  The reason I like these awards is because no money changes hands before awards are bestowed.  I also like them because there’s only one winner in each category.  Although this may rub against the grain of the Millennials who grew up with a collection of “Participant” trophies lining the shelves in their bedrooms, I think it’s entirely appropriate for the contact center industry.  It’s a good way to recognize exemplary company performance in terms of product offerings and service to the industry.
The CRM Magazine Service Awards is one of the few award processes I’ll participate in these days.   I used to participate in the “Best of Show” award processes many years ago at trade shows like ICCM.  No money exchanged hands there either, except I suppose the money the show organizers received selling booth space.  But when it came to judging it didn’t matter if you had a tiny booth in a dark corner or a two-story extravaganza a la Nortel trade show booths back in the day.  Companies were judged on the merits of their products, not whether or not their check cleared the bank.  CRM Magazine upholds this same standard, which is why I participate and why these awards are significant achievements and not just marketing fluff.
For the second year in a row Cisco has been awarded a CRM Magazine Service Award in the Service Leaders category.  After being named the “One to Watch” in the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) category in 2010, Cisco captured the top spot in 2011.  This is particularly interesting in that Cisco didn’t even place in this category in 2009.
A year or so ago I heard Cisco’s John Hernandez specifically point to IVR as a market Cisco had targeted for industry leadership.  I wasn’t sure how they were going to accomplish this feat but as Cisco’s Web 2.0 strategy, which underlies the Customer Collaboration Suite, became clearer, so did the reasons behind Hernandez’s assertion that Cisco could capture IVR market leadership.
Competition will remain tough for Cisco in the IVR market and there are companies nipping on Cisco’s heels, but the fact that Cisco has made such noteworthy advances in its IVR strategy that it convinced the panel of objective judges to award this recognition is a significant accomplishment in itself. 
The CRM Magazine Service Leader is one of the few industry awards worth having.  Most of the contact center industry awards floating around the industry today aren’t worth the plastic they’re molded out of.  Any company that receives an award given by a panel of unbiased judges has a reason to be proud.  Cisco should be proud to fall into this category.


Aspect + Nexidia = Next Gen Speech Analytics

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.


Employment Streak Continues for U.S. Contact Center Industry

The numbers are in and the good news is that employment continued to grow in the U.S. contact center industry during the third and fourth quarters of 2011, extending the industry growth record to 11 consecutive quarters. Employment growth in the second half of 2011 nearly tripled employment growth in the first half.

During the third quarter of last year the industry added 18,965 net new jobs and in the fourth quarter the industry added a net of 13,539 new jobs. Not surprisingly, outsourcers led all vertical markets in both hiring and downsizing as the volatility of the outsourcer market segment often creates wide swings in both expansion and contraction.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, the retail and entertainment segments made significant gains, representing a reversal of fortune for these verticals following deep contractions during the worst of the Great Recession. Insurance and telecommunications also had strong showings in terms of hiring during the fourth quarter.

Financial services led the downsizing categories during both the third and fourth quarters, likely due to the volatility in that market driven by investor uncertainty and world economic conditions. It’s interesting that in terms of companies downsizing headcount, third party outsourcers didn’t make much of an appearance during the fourth quarter. Perhaps this is indicative of some stabilization in that market segment.

 The U.S. contact center industry has an employment record that is the envy of just about every other industry in the U.S. Despite the black eye that the industry sometimes has to take from under-informed journalists in various media, the contact center industry has proven it’s resilience in the worst of economic times. We expect to see the U.S. contact center industry continue to strengthen as our economy stabilizes and returns to growth mode. Overall, this is a pretty good industry to be part of.

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