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How important are analytics for decision-making?

The last few months have shown us exactly how important it is to have accurate, comprehensive business data that allows predictability into the future. Nearly 5 in 10 companies believe that analytics is now more important than before the pandemic, and interestingly, small businesses are leading the charge. They are investing in analytics for a variety of processes across ops (68%), finance (56%), sales (50%), and product development (45%).

At UC Today, we are always eager to explore how the latest technologies and breakthroughs can help companies steer their communication capabilities forward. Analytics is at the top of our list for 2020-2021, as a major driver for decision-making. We caught up with experts from Deepgram, Xarios, and Vyopta to understand where the industry is headed in 2021.

Deepgram is an AI-powered speech learning, and transcription provider, Xarios offers a next-gen call recording and analytics platform, and Vyopta provides performance & analytics solutions. Here’s what some of the brightest minds from these companies had to say on the subject.

What are the most significant customer trends from 2020?

Every sector has witnessed a shift in customer expectations this year, and analytics is no different. Specifically, the pandemic and its resulting impacts like WFH, employee safety, remote collaboration, and touchless operations were the determining forces. Our experts shared exclusive insights on customer needs, expectations, and opportunities in the current analytics marketplace.

Scott Stephenson, CEO, and Co-Founder at Deepgram:

Deepgram’s Scott Stephenson pointed out that several companies were in for a rude shock in 2020. “We took for granted the ease of in-person meetings or “swivel chair” brainstorms with a fellow team member or even interviewing and onboarding a new candidate – now these in-person discussions have been replaced with virtual meetings, making spontaneous brainstorms or conversations more difficult,” he said.

Apart from this, there has been a growing demand for touchless technology – in fact, touchless could become the default normal even after the pandemic. “In the same way that the app store and omnichannel changed retail, this preference for contactless experiences will continue far after the pandemic has ended, and we will continue to see a demand for more streamlined online customer service experiences,” he said.

These two trends open up new opportunities for analytics players, providing detailed meeting analytics for virtual platforms, and purchase analytics for this new customer base moving online for the first time.

Stephenson also mentioned an interesting shift towards custom-fitted CX solutions vs out of the box products. The latter is often assumed to be more cost and effort optimised – so we were surprised that the industry seems to be moving in the opposite direction. “Customer experience can make or break your business, and as a result, we’re seeing companies taking the time to research and implement the best technology rather than the most convenient,” he explained.

Carlie Adams, Head of Channel Sales at Xarios:

WFH and remote working have pushed up demand for tools that allow employees to work anytime, from anywhere. One of the product categories that Xarios’ Carlie Adams has seen gaining traction in 2020 is the humble softphone.

“The increase in remote working and the move to a more flexible work environment” is the biggest trend in analytics, Adams said. “From this, we have seen a great increase in the demand for softphone licenses that enable people to work from wherever, whenever,” she added.

Indeed, research suggests that the softphone software industry is currently booming, continuing its healthy growth pace of the last five years. Some companies like NEC have even extended softphone licenses for free to tide over this high demand period.

Softphones are critical to any company’s CX technology stack for 2020-2021, and your analytics module must adapt accordingly.

Alfredo Ramirez, President and CEO at Vyopta:

Like Stephenson and Adams, Vyopta’s Alfredo Ramirez agreed that remote work was the dominant trend from 2020. And this has transformed the companies’ data requirements.

“The massive expansion of UCaaS to support remote work has fundamentally changed how teams collaborate and how IT teams support and optimise their investments in collaboration technology. To maximise remote worker productivity and improve business outcomes, IT teams need to have data to track user adoption, service quality levels, and return on investment,” he said.

Your analytics must also capture how technology investments are being utilised across the organisation, which can be difficult to gauge with so many employees working remotely. “For example, sales and customer services leadership need analytics to show how different types of customer engagement (e.g., video, voice, chat) impact new sales and customer renewals,” Ramirez added.

He also spoke about an emerging new market that could take centre stage in 2021: workplace health & safety analytics.

“As workers return to the office, analytics to ensure employee safety standards are met will be critical. Being able to monitor occupancy levels and compliance with social distancing requirements in traditional desk spaces and conference rooms will be a requirement for many organisations.”

Back in July, WEF noted that AI solutions like big data analysis can help maintain social distancing in physical workplaces, allowing factories, offices, shops, and airports to reopen safely. Ramirez’s last insight confirms this trend.

What will be the top challenges facing end customers in 2021?

Next, we asked our experts how this landscape might change in 2021.

Overall, the challenges and opportunities that cropped up this year will still hold true, with a few changes. And, one important addition we expect is the extension of remote/flexible work to those who were outside its ambit this year.

Here’s what our experts had to say.

Scott Stephenson, CEO, and Co-Founder at Deepgram:

CX excellence will continue to be critical for businesses in 2021, and the right communication technologies can help to get there. New opportunities could open us as customers become more accustomed to digital interactions – in some cases for the first time.

“In 2021, customer experience will continue to be a make or break factor among companies. Furthermore, as companies adopt more contactless experiences, customers will need to be more comfortable using other methods for authentication – this could include email, text, and even our unique voice as a multi-factor way to verify identity. This will enable safer, more intuitive customer experiences,” Stephenson shared with us.

Companies can leverage analytics in two ways to address this.

First, there is a clear opportunity for converting and retaining customers on digital channels, backed by a data-driven personalisation engine. Second, companies must use analytics responsibly as customers become more comfortable sharing their data and expanding their digital presence over multiple channels.

Carlie Adams, Head of Channel Sales at Xarios:

Xarios’ Carlie Adams predicts that heavy equipment or bulky collaboration kits will no longer be an impediment to remote work in 2021. Companies should focus on “figuring out how to make flexible working manageable without dragging kits back and forth,” she mentioned.

This can be a hurdle for those looking to implement round-the-clock, segmented shifts in a bid to bring down the number of people in a physical workspace at the same time. In 2021, hybrid working could be the new normal, with individuals switching from WFH to office premises as per shift requirements. One’s bulky collaboration setup shouldn’t get in the way of this.

“One of the biggest challenges facing businesses is going to be how to implement flexible working with employees who require large amounts of equipment from day to day,” Adams added.

Alfredo Ramirez, President and CEO at Vyopta:

Ramirez, too, reaffirmed the need for adaptive hybrid working models.

According to him, the no.1 challenge in 2021 will be “supporting high quality and secure experiences for staff using UC technology from multiple vendors in highly variable “work from anywhere” environments as well as traditional office environments.” This is far more complex in a WFH world, as organisations do not have your typical degree of control over standardisation and security.

“Problems with UCaaS vendors, home Wi-Fi performance, and laptop CPU utilisation are just some of the issues that need to be addressed,” Ramirez said. Essentially, the issue stems from a complex, mixed environment that makes governance difficult.

Expectedly, customers/analytics users will turn to technology to solve problems and add value.

Which technology will deliver the greatest value to customers in 2021?

In the last few years, advanced analytics technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), automated insight generation, and cloud-based analytics have really come off age. These will have their moment in the sun, as companies continue to speed up digital transformation in the wake of COVID-19.

Here are our experts’ views.

Scott Stephenson, CEO, and Co-Founder at Deepgram:

Deepgram’s Scott Stephenson firmly believes that AI-powered speech recognition is the one technology customers will look to extract value. He said:

“AI will revolutionise the customer experience overall, by improving internal productivity for support, sales and recruiting professionals”

This is particularly relevant due to the current social distancing norms that bar in-person customer support on a regular basis.

“With in-person customer support not likely to be a possibility until social distancing mandates subside, AI will ensure that the customer has a personalised experience, regardless if they call over the phone or via online channels,” Stephenson mentioned. AI can convert customer voice interactions into structured, meaningful data that adds genuine value.

As Stephenson said, “Businesses will be able to use that information to make the experience more efficient for the customer as well.”

Carlie Adams, Head of Channel Sales at Xarios:

2021 will also see the maturing of cloud-based products as well as new features like call data available via the cloud.

Importantly, cloud-based analytics is already a fast-growing market, crossing $65 billion by 2025 at an above-average growth rate of 23%. Adams suggests that cloud-enabled capabilities will allow CX organisations to work more efficiently, be it from home, from office, or in a hybrid environment.

“We’ve already seen the rise in demand for cloud-based products, such as call analytics. As businesses begin to work from multiple locations being able to access live call data is imperative to business success and customer satisfaction”

Alfredo Ramirez, President and CEO at Vyopta:

Like Stephenson, Vyopta’s Alfredo Ramirez emphasised the potential of AI in obtaining deeper analytics insights from available datasets. Here’s how he termed this opportunity: “Accelerated investment in artificial intelligence (AI) powered unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) intelligence – automated insights generated by machine learning.”

AI adoption has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years – however, most companies haven’t seen adequate results at scale. McKinsey found, for example, that there is a huge gap in AI’s value realisation between leaders like hi-tech or telecom and laggards like service providers and infrastructure companies. Ramirez agreed with this trend, noting that AI remains under-utilized in several promising use cases.

“Despite the increased adoption and investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), AI/ML-based solutions have not yet revolutionised many parts of businesses including troubleshooting and managing collaboration and communication technology,” he said.

In 2021, AI could unlock more easy-to-understand (and action) insights from collaboration and communication data. “What we are seeing when it comes to automated insights in the UC space is a focus on insights to improve user experience, drive adoption, optimise costs and provide business function and vertical-specific insights,” said Ramirez.

What is your prediction for the biggest game-changing trend for 2021?

2021 will be an interesting year for the analytics industry and for unified communications specifically. Our experts spoke about a wide range of possibilities from AI-based omnichannel CX to sophisticated calling technologies that replace in-person meetings, and everything in between. Read on for the full insights.

Scott Stephenson, CEO, and Co-Founder at Deepgram:

As AI takes centre stage as the technology that will “deliver the greatest value”, companies will be able to strengthen their omnichannel CX capabilities. Deepgram’s Scott Stephenson predicts a major role for AI-powered voice transcription and analysis, helping customers to better understand the end-users need.

“As customer communication preferences continue to rely on digital and phone calls and less in-person, an AI-omni-channel approach is a do or die for Enterprises in 2021”

In 2020, McKinsey found that the market capitalisation of physical retail space fell by over 35%. This indicates a clear push towards digital customer experiences. And those winning the CX race can bring in 3x times higher returns for shareholders than their laggard counterparts, making AI intervention a true game-changer at every level.

“Specifically, transcriptions will be a game-changing technology that leading businesses will use to understand their customer needs and better serve them with automated experiences,” Stephenson went on to say.

Carlie Adams, Head of Channel Sales at Xarios:

Adams’ prediction encapsulates a trend we have seen for a while now: the rise and rise of conferencing and video call technology.

“The biggest trend we expect to see [in 2021] is going to be the rise in conference and video call technology, enabling what would have once been a face-to-face meeting to go ahead remotely from any location,” she said.

And it goes beyond meetings only – across all of this year, we have witnessed the major global event, and community conferences pivot to a virtual format, powered by advancements in communication platforms and analytics capabilities. While the return of face-to-face meetings and in-person events is inevitable, a second “all virtual” channel could co-exist side by side from now on.

Alfredo Ramirez, President and CEO at Vyopta:

As unified communication becomes integral to your business stack (and not just IT), UC analytics will have a whole new role to play. Vyopta’s Alfredo Ramirez put it succinctly as five discrete impact areas.

1. Supporting remote work – Analytics to help UC teams support geo-dispersed workers, scale existing systems and drive adoption of new technologies

2. Optimising UC investments – Intelligence to evaluate existing tools, optimise costs (licensing, maintenance, etc.) and scale help desk support

3. Ensuring security and compliance – Insights around potential compliance and security threats

4. Increasing employee productivity – Collaboration insights to measure team engagement and morale over time, compared to benchmarks

5. Ensuring the safe return of workers – Data-driven planning, informing policy (i.e. compliance reporting on usage vs booking)

Find the original article and full details on UC Today : https://www.uctoday.com/contact-centre/analytics/uc-trends-2021-analytics-round-table/