G-Force 2016 – The Calm Before the Storm

G-Force 2016 – The Calm Before the Storm

By Blair Pleasant October 10, 2016 Leave a Comment
Blair_Pleasant
G-Force 2016 – The Calm Before the Storm by Blair Pleasant

As much of the Miami area was preparing for Hurricane Matthew, analysts, consultants, customers, and partners gathered at the famous FountainBleu Hotel for the Genesys G-Force event. G-Force is Genesys’ annual gathering of customers and partners, with lots of demos, announcements, and networking opportunities. Perhaps this year G-Force should stand for Gale-Force winds!

The day before the official kickoff of the event, analysts got to spend the day with the Genesys team, where we got a taste of what was to come at the main event. CEO Paul Segre kicked off the day with a quick review of recent activities over the past few months, including some shuffling of positions within the company, as Tom Eggemeier became President, Merijn Te Booij was named CMO, and Mark Turner was promoted to Global Head of Sales and Field Operations. These are all seasoned Genesys professionals who know the company well and can help navigate through the changing environment, as well as the impending acquisition of Interactive Intelligence. Unfortunately, Eggemeier was not at the event, as he is 100% focused on the integration with Interactive Intelligence, ensuring that everything goes smoothly.

Segre addressed the key question about the acquisition early on, noting that Genesys and Interactive Intelligence have a good cultural fit, as both are primarily software companies that are very focused on their customers and their outcomes and results. IMHO, we’ll have to wait and see how well the two different cultures actually do work together. Having followed both companies for many years, I greatly respect both of them, but there are definitely differences in their people and organizations. There are also many commonalities. Both companies have executives who have been with their respective companies for many years (e.g.; Steve Rutledge and Slava Zhakov at Genesys, and Paul Weber and Gary Blough at Interactive Intelligence), and both companies went through significant changes in their marketing departments over the past year, but seem to be back on track.

Segre highlighted that the acquisition is all about market growth, with the focus of optimizing product lines for distinct market segments. Interactive will be rolled into Genesys (as opposed to being a separate subsidiary), and sales and marketing will be common among the products. While there will be a PureCloud division, it won’t have its own sales and marketing teams.

 

Rather than trying to integrate the two companies’ product lines, Segre made it clear that Genesys will have separate families of products, and they will optimize each product line around their target markets. Genesys is focusing on product synergies over unification, and Segre acknowledges that while it’s hard to scale this, it’s an effective way of “reaching discrete use cases.” In some markets it will be clear which product is appropriate, and in many markets there will be a choice. For example, for smaller deals, Interactive Intelligence’s products will be the right solution, while for larger, more complex deals it will be Genesys. For the midmarket, customers will have a choice as to which product line better serves their needs. I applaud this decision, as it’s generally difficult to integrate and rationalize different product lines, and you don’t always end up with the optimal solutions.

 

The deal won’t close until sometime in December, so Segre was unable to discuss any more details about what we can expect. The big question on my mind that won’t be answered in the near term is how the acquisition will impact Genesys’ relationship with Microsoft. Genesys is a key Microsoft Skype for Business partner, but there is a chance that this may change depending on what Genesys does with Interactive’s PureCloud Communicate and PureCloud Collaborate solutions, which overlap and compete with some Microsoft offerings. We’ll have to wait and see what happens on this front.

Key Market Focus

During the analyst briefing, as well in as his opening session at the general G-Force event, Segre noted that Genesys has segmented its market and the way the company operates into three key areas:

  • Customer engagement, which deals with companies’ relationships with customers,
  • Employee engagement, which includes “everything we do that makes life easier and better for your employees.” This goes beyond workforce optimization (WFO) to also include agent desktops, supervisor interfaces, scheduling, matching customer interactions and agent profiles, and more.
  • Business optimization – Segre referred to this as the “secret sauce internal to the system that isn’t exposed to end customers or internal employees,” but are key to making things work. This includes some of the basics, such as skills-based routing, task routing, SIP, virtualization, analytic tools, intelligent workload routing, etc. Pretty much everything that doesn’t fit into customer or employee engagement!

Genesys is now focused and organized around these themes, and we’ll be hearing a lot more about them.

Genesys has always been about more than just customer service, and Segre rightly pointed out that the “Next gen customer experience isn’t about the contact center – it’s about the entire customer experience and touchpoints – including the digital world and physical world, as well as marketing, sales, service, and support.”

 

Genesys continues to innovate, and Steve Rutledge, SVP, Product Management and Marketing, talked about new tools such as widgets and micro applications to improve the digital experiences, enabling companies to offer specific types of live help or search capabilities on their webpages, for example, using rules and context. Rutledge also discussed using journey analytics for journey understanding. Based on what you know about a customer and where they are in their buying cycle, for example, are there things you recommend to them or ways to ensure that they don’t abandon their shopping cart?

A Focus on Employee Engagement

As mentioned, one of Genesys’ segment areas is employee engagement, which has been a focus of mine recently. Rutledge told us about new tools for digital engagement that will help improve the customer experience as well as the agent experience, and I was thrilled to hear Rutledge end his session by noting that “happy employees can drive customer satisfaction.” I used those exact words in an article I recently wrote about employee engagement and its importance in the customer experience.

This theme was continued later in the day when Stefan Captijn, Sr. Director, Product Marketing, and Cam Smith, Global Director, WFO Solution Strategy, discussed how Genesys is moving from focusing on workforce optimization to employee engagement. As they define it, employee engagement focusses on making each employee the best they can be through schedule flexibility, coaching and training, and analytics. The key is to provide employees with tools and information to improve their work-life balance and deliver exceptional customer experiences. Genesys’ approach is totally in line with the way I view employee engagement. As I wrote in my previous article, “Some ways of engaging contact center agents are by providing proper coaching and training as well as providing feedback through agent dashboards.”

Genesys is working to answer questions such as:

  • How can we get agents more engaged?
  • What happens if employees are more engaged?
  • How do we get the best out of them? Can we improve their work-life balance?
  • How can this drive better outcomes?

Some of the ways Genesys helps its customers drive employee engagement include providing:

  • Accurate omnichannel forecasting to balance the workload, avoid stress and boredom;
  • A single omnichannel desktop to unify the workflow and provide access to knowledge;
  • Effective and relevant coaching to benefit from best practices or identify opportunities to improve performance; and
  • Insight in to individual & team performance metrics.

During the event I had the opportunity to speak with Scott Kolman, Vice President, Product Marketing, about how Genesys views employee engagement, as well as how companies can realize true omnichannel engagement.

Push to the Cloud

Another theme of the event was Genesys’ continued push to cloud. The company’s CCaaS revenues increased by 26% over the first half of 2015, and they’re expecting 30% growth for 2016/2017 (this does not include Interactive Intelligence sales). The key priorities in terms of the cloud are focused on operational improvements, such as improving the delivery process, reducing the time to deploy, reducing case resolution time, and working with channel partners to drive growth.

Similar to Interactive Intelligence, Genesys’ cloud offerings are based on Amazon Web Services, making it easier to scale, deploy and provision customers, and reduce costs.

Automation’s New Role

We’re living in the age of bots, and during the event, as well as in Segre’s opening address to the entire G-Force audience, the concept of automation and automating tasks using chatbots and self service was key. Segre noted that “Automation will be the front door and entry point to most or all journeys your customers take.” Tasks or work that hit contact center agents will be more complex since “all the easy stuff will be automated.” As customers increasingly use self service and automation for simple interactions, the interactions that get to live agents are more complicated. Agents need elevated skillsets, as well as more intuitive interfaces.

I had a chance to speak with Chris Connolly, Global Director of Digital Solution Strategy, and Lisa Abbott, Senior Director, Product Marketing about how Genesys views automation. In this video interview, Connolly discusses automation, as well as and how Genesys is using micro applications and widgets for customer engagement to improve the omnichannel self-service experience, enhance personalization, and improve customer experiences.

Looking Forward

As various markets, such as customer experience, contact center, CRM, WFO, etc. converge, Genesys is setting its sights on the bigger picture. Genesys is creating end-to-end use cases that look at problems companies are trying to understand and solve, and has developed 50 use cases to date. These use cases go beyond customer service and the contact center, expanding to marketing, sales, and related areas. As these formerly separate markets converge, Genesys is now competing with a more expansive set of players, including CRM vendors such as Salesforce. While companies like Salesforce and Zendesk expand to provide some customer experience and contact center capabilities (listen to the UCStrategies podcast), companies like Genesys are building on their strengths, experience, and expertise to expand their market coverage as well.

Genesys has some big challenges ahead as it integrates Interactive Intelligence into the organization. Genesys has acquired many companies in the past, but this is the biggest one to date, and it will take a lot of work integrating the companies, sales teams, channel partners, support staff, etc. The company will also have to determine where PureCloud Communicate and PureCloud Collaborate fit into the business, as the buyers and users of these services are different than Genesys’ traditional market. As I mentioned earlier, Genesys will need to walk a fine line as it moves forward with its Microsoft relationship. And as companies like Salesforce encroach on its turf, Genesys will need to be able to provide competitive cloud offerings that go beyond what these companies can offer.

 

Genesys has come a long way since its early days as a CTI vendor, and is poised to capitalize on a shifting market. Let’s see how well the Interactive Intelligence integration progresses and how well the new and expanded company can fulfill its mission of “powering the world’s best customer experiences.”

 

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