Let Us Guide You

Select Industry
Select Business Problem
Find Solutions

News In The News: Paul Stockford: The View From The Saddle

The Endless Summer 

By Paul Stockford
Saddletree Research

If you took a dive into this column thinking you were going to read about filmmaker Bruce Brown’s epic 1966 movie about two guys who go on a surfing trip around the world, I’m afraid you’re in for a letdown.

It was a good movie, though. My favorite Bruce Brown movie was “On Any Sunday,” but “Endless Summer” is right up there with it. “The Endless Summer” was about two guys who follow summer around the globe, flying from one exotic locale to the next so summer never ends and they can go surfing year-round. Endless summer. Get it?

Let’s talk about another type of endless summer—my endless summer, the type of endless summer that is the reality of living here in the high Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

They say Arizona only has two seasons: summer and Christmas. While most of you reading this are probably feeling the chill of a fall day in the air and breaking out your woolies ready for the winter ahead, I’m still wearing shorts and a polo shirt. Here in Arizona, it still feels like summer and it probably will for another couple of months. Last year, I was walking my dogs between football games on Thanksgiving Day and had to politely wait for a rattlesnake to cross the road in front of us before we could finish walking off dinner. It barely gets cool enough here for the reptiles to go into hibernation before it warms up and they’re out again.

The almost-constant heat is a fact of life in Arizona. For winter visitors, it’s paradise. For those of us who live here year-round, the heat can grate on you a little. As an early Arizona settler once said, “If I owned both hell and Arizona, I’d live in hell and rent out Arizona.” 

Usually industry award announcements are big yawners, but this summer there was an award announced that caught my attention right away. On September 8th, Nexidia announced that it had won an Emmy® Award for Technology and Engineering Achievement. Yeah, that kind of Emmy.

I believe this is an industry first. This is the real deal. We’re not talking rubber-chicken banquet ceremonies at trade shows hosted by some self-proclaimed industry celebrity in a baggy rented tux. We’re talking red carpet. We’re talking Hollywood, paparazzi, movie stars, gift bags full of thousands of dollars’ worth of swag, and the chance to have your picture taken with a Kardashian.

Turns out the Hollywood crowd uses Nexidia technology to scour media archives and find assets that would

have otherwise gone undiscovered. The industry then has the opportunity to repurpose or monetize them once again. Nexidia software also checks the validity of closed captions and automates alignment of closed captions by adjusting the timecodes in the caption file along with many, many other applications.

As exciting as the Nexidia announcement is, Nexidia was not alone this summer with provocative announcements. Verint also announced the acquisition of Telligent, providing them with the ability to add social community channels to their Customer Engagement Optimization platform. Also this summer brought the introduction of Interactive Text Response from Aspect. The service tasks you’ll be able to accomplish on Twitter in the near future will forever change the way you understand social media applications as they apply to customer service. 

This past summer felt like an endless summer to me for two reasons: first was the constant triple-digit temperatures here in Arizona; and second was the non-stop activity in the contact center industry. The temperature I can deal with and it wasn’t noticeably different from the previous 20 summers I’ve spent in Arizona. Despite the heat, summer is a season I usually look forward to because activity in the contact center industry typically slows to a crawl and I can get caught up on my reports and other deliverables before the flurry of fall-season industry activity picks up again. That wasn’t the case at all this year. In fact, there was so much going on that I thought summer was never going to end.

There were more new product, partnership and acquisition announcements this summer than I can recall from any previous summers in the contact center industry. Innovative ideas, provocative products and nonstop activity took the place of the expected “Out of Office” greetings that used to dominate the industry summer.

The contact center industry loves to congratulate itself with awards. If you don’t believe me, just follow the trail of press releases that dominate the business wire during awards season. Most of the awards are handed out around one of the trade shows or sponsored forums and usually require the company “winning” the award to pay some sort of fee in exchange for consideration, or to be able to market the fact that they’ve “won” a particular award. This is not true of all awards, of course. There are still a few awards that are bestowed upon companies based upon actual merit, and input from objective third-parties, but they are rarities in today’s contact center industry. 

2015 was clearly not your typical lazy industry summer, but I still wasn’t sure what was driving it all so I started looking for answers.

When I need an industry reality check of my own, my go-to person is and always has been Renee Maler of Philosophy PR & Marketing. I’ve worked with Renee on various contact center industry projects for many years and she always has her finger on the pulse of the industry. So, what’s happening in the contact center world that shook things up this summer?

“Many, if not most, of the industry traditions and behaviors that have been the norm for years no longer exist,” said Maler. “Market conditions are changing faster than ever before given the emphasis on the customer experience versus customer service and other factors, such as changes in the regulatory environment, are forcing companies to remain vigilant when it comes to regulatory compliance.

“We’ve talked about it for years,” Maler continued, “but contact centers are finally being recognized for the strategic asset that they really are to the enterprise and, as a result, are reluctant to let their guard down, even for the summer, in their fight for the customer. And don’t overlook the impact of social media. A poor customer experience isn’t just a word-of-mouth issue affecting a handful of people anymore. The ability to spread the word about a poor customer experience on social media keeps contact centers on their toes regardless of the season.”I guess my days of kicking back with a cold drink and writing research reports all summer, undisturbed by industry activity, are over. It will be worth it to me, though, if Hollywood puts its recently discovered application of Nexidia technology to good use and brings back a repurposed and monetized “Gilligan’s Island.” 

Paul Stockford is Chief Analyst at Saddletree Research, which specializes in contact centers & customer service. (pstockford@ saddletreeresearch.com)