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inContact Executive Interview

Mariann McDonagh, Chief Marketing Officer, inContact, inContact

1. inContact provides a highly comprehensive software platform that consists of such applications as workforce management, eLearning, ACD, IVR, hiring, etc.  Are there any specific applications that you emphasize?

Our ACD is the engine of our entire call center platform, but the real value lies in the integration of multiple related tools that help improve the quality of every customer interaction, whether through self-service IVR or optimization of agent skills. This one-stop strategy is one of the features that sets inContact apart, along with the cost and functionality advantages of providing a hosted call center infrastructure solution without the time and expense of on-site equipment installation and maintenance.

2. What applications in your suite are providing the most payback for your users?

You can’t really separate one application from another in terms of payback. All of our applications work synergistically to drive business by providing the tools to deliver better customer service. One of our key values to customers, for example, is the ability to help them determine the right mix of IVR self-service and direct agent contact. Our consultants know what works for self-service and what doesn’t, and striking the right balance is critical so that you’re not either wasting agent time or making consumers angry. Equally important is our ability to deploy an IVR application intelligently and provide pre-built packaged apps such as self-pay applications. Everything works together to help build business and customer retention.

3. There are many companies that provide similar applications to inContact’s. How do you differentiate your offerings from your competitors?

Most competitors still offer premises-based solutions, so our first differentiator is that we provide a cloud-based, Software-as-a-Service model in which our ACD and other services are delivered over a broadband connection with no need for upfront capital investment, maintenance and periodic equipment replacement. In the case of competitors using the hosted model, inContact is the only company that offers a combination of call center infrastructure and a self-owned telecommunications backbone that provides complete control over both connectivity and call routing to ensure quality of service.

Perhaps most importantly, what makes us unique is the integration of multiple agent optimization tools like workforce management, eLearning and quality management that we talked about earlier. This is critical because it ensures a smooth workflow and information exchange among all components that you can’t get with siloed applications. Gartner and other analysts have stated that contact center infrastructure and workforce optimization are going to converge because contact center managers need to remove complexity from their environment.  We are way  ahead of the curve in making that possible.

4. Several companies provide SaaS as well as on premise solutions.   Since inContact provides only a SaaS solution, do you view this as a drawback?

Absolutely not. We believe that premises-based contact center infrastructure is rapidly becoming obsolete. Every day, we talk to customers who want to transition from installed solutions to cloud-based systems like ours. It eliminates capital investment and equipment replacement down the road, offers a more affordable pay-as-you-go pricing model, deploys faster, scales up or down on demand, offers easy support for home-based agents, and so on. The vendors who say they have a hybrid solution may have the communications component in the cloud, but that doesn’t deliver all of these other advantages. It’s half a loaf, and it’s not better than none.

5. The advent of multiple customer touch points, i.e. phone, web, chat, text messaging, email, within the enterprise has become a major management issue for many companies.   In addition, unified communication implementations are becoming more prevalent.  How is inContact handling this relatively new environment?

Good customer service has to be good across every channel of communication. To do that, we help contact centers survey their customers to learn their preferences. Do they want their bills to be emailed? Is online chat important? Once we know the answers, we help tailor the channel mix to provide the touchpoints their customers are looking for. This has really been going on for years, and it’s simply a matter of setting up additional objects in our universal queue.

The next challenge is going to be bringing social media into the mix. Agents may someday be assigned to Twitter duty just as they are now assigned to phone, email or chat. Eventually all these channels will converge. Customers in a chat session, for example, will be able to push a button and turn it into a phone call. Agents will need a seamless blend of multiple technologies to handle a single contact. In fact, according to Gartner, at least 35% of customer service centers will integrate some form of community/social capabilities as part of their contact center solutions by 2013.The market isn’t there yet, but we will be ready when it is.

6. Obviously the economic situation is uncertain.   How has the volatile economy affected the users’ decision making for technology?

In the case of contact center technology, the economy is actually helping drive our business for two reasons: the capex/opex advantages of cloud-based call center infrastructure compared to premises-based solutions, and the need for tools to aid customer retention as well as business growth. One of our customers, for example, tripled their business in two years after deploying inContact’s ACD, IVR and associated applications.

Also, the viral power of social media is prompting more emphasis on customer service issues and, by extension, call center technology, because the fallout of poor customer service is now reaching the board room for the first time. United Airlines breaks a musician’s $3,500 guitar, and the victim’s YouTube music video about the incident racks up 9.1 million views. With risks like that, companies are increasingly willing to invest in technologies that can help keep customers happy – regardless of consumer spending patterns or unemployment rates.

7. What new products and/or services can we expect to see from inContact in the upcoming months?

We have just added new predictive dialer, quality monitoring and screen recording solutions to our platform. The inContact Dialer, for example, is an intelligent campaign-based outbound dialer that determines the optimal balance between wait times and abandoned calls. The inContact Quality Management system provides a holistic view of agent performance that can aid in training, coaching and service recovery. inContact Screen Recording provides a complete view of agent/customer interactions for manager evaluation and regulatory compliance. All three solutions are integrated with various components of the inContact platform to optimize the service experience and simplify day-to-day call center operations.

8. Have you identified or anticipate any specific trends in our industry that we should lookout for?

The new buzz in the industry is going to be service-level differentiation – that is, the practice of delivering a higher level of service to high-value customers. That in turn will require identifying which customers need to be treated differently, determining which parts of the customer service process need to be personalized for that purpose, and freeing agents to handle high-value customers (as well as more complex interactions that require more hands-on support) through the prudent use of self-service.

Cultivating high-value customers in this way is important because they are the most likely to drive growth, both through their own purchases and through referrals of friends and associates. This is a largely untapped strategy that will become increasingly important as companies continue to struggle to build revenue and market share. The airlines and credit card companies learned this long ago with their frequent flyer programs and gold-level cards: nurture your best customers to keep them coming back for more. The contact center industry is now catching up, and it’s going to be a game changer. Stay tuned.

About Mariann McDonagh

Mariann is responsible for strategic marketing and business development for inContact, the world’s largest cloud contact center company. Prior to InContact, Mariann was Senior Vice President of corporate marketing and investor relations for Xtralis, where she led growth strategy for this early threat detection leader. Before Xtralis, she served more than six years as Senior Vice President of corporate marketing for Verint Systems, where her leadership was instrumental in their explosive growth from $150 million to $650 million of revenue in just five years. She played a significant role in the company’s 2006 IPO and nine successful acquisitions. Mariann’s 25 year career in high-tech and software marketing also includes tenures with CMP Media, Computer Associates and Cheyenne Software.

Mariann has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Virginia. She is also a member of Women in Security (WISE), National Association of Female Executives, CMO Council and is the Chairman and Founder of the Greater New York Marketing Executives Council.

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