Acquisitions in the customer experience arena are reshaping marketing communications as consumers grow more powerful, more demanding.

Consistency in communication across all channels is now a key factor in satisfying individual customers. Today, companies realize their employees must be in sync on the latest promotions when they connect with customers through mobile, email, contact centers, websites, in-store or other media.

Verint, a big player in employee optimization and contact center technologies, made news earlier this year when it paid $514 million for Kana, a customer engagement company with about one-fifth its revenue. The first fruit of that merger came this week at Kana's Connect2014 conference, where the companies released their first jointly developed product -- Engagement Analytics.

Focus on the Customer

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We sat down with Ryan Hollenbeck, Verint's senior vice president for marketing, to discuss the impact of that acquisition in the broader marketplace.

CMSWire: How has Kana changed since the acquisition? What is the focus now?

Hollenbeck: Kana is a game changer for Verint. We now have an opportunity to lead and define a new market together called customer engagement optimization. That combines the Kana customer service solution suite -- things like knowledge management, web self-service, email and chat technology -- with what Verint's workforce optimization capability. That includes things like workforce scheduling, quality monitoring, e-learning and performance management.

CMSWire: How is this different from what a lot of other companies are doing? A lot of companies are focusing on parts of this. Is anyone focused on the full spectrum?

Hollenbeck: That's key. There's a lot of companies that can focus on part of it, and that part is important obviously. But what we believe we have with Verint and Kana together is the only solution provider that can offer that combined capability. So you might go to a competitor and be able to get a lot of similar customer service technology that Kana has and you might go to a separate competitor and get the workforce optimization technology that Verint has, but you can't go to a single vendor other than Verint to get that combined capability.

CMSWire: While there are some fantastic global solutions out there, it seems that very few client companies use the full suite. Many companies tend to build their own by choosing bits and pieces that make sense for their environments. Is that your experience?

Hollenbeck: There is some of that. We also have customers that do deploy all workforce optimization -- go all- in if you will. And equally, Kana has customers that buy everything. But I do think every customer is on a different journey. So whereas we might love for them to have all of the combined Kana and Verint capabilities, it's fair to say sometimes they have legacy technology in there and we need to be able to come in with the right kind of professional services expertise and help them achieve their specific journey. We'll find, for example, on the Kana side, there's a customer that really has the Agent Desktop deployed and operational and yet they have a different web chat or knowledge management system. There are some innate benefits though. We can do more predefined integrations than a competitor could or that you can get from open APIs in the market.

And the same is true on the Verint side with workforce optimization. You might just have workforce scheduling from us, but not quality monitoring, and there is an integration benefit from having both from one company. That means a smaller footprint, simplified administration, easier graphical user interface to navigate.

CMSWire: Doesn't it usually mean higher cost, too? That's something I think every CMO wrestles with.

Hollenbeck: It's typically more expensive to buy all these different systems. They can be more purpose-built, and there can seem to be a benefit from that. But if you have a unified solution, there's clearly going to be some economies of scale to that.

CMSWire: Given the range of services, who do you see as your major competitors on the Verint or Kana side?

Hollenbeck: On the Verint side, Nice Systems is a formidable competitor. But they have nothing in the way of the Kana capability, so that's a big differentiator for us. And then on the Kana side, there's a company called Pegasystems that is also a formidable competitor -- they have very good technology.

CMSWire: Why did you pick those?

Hollenbeck: I picked those from the point of view of understanding process of customer engagement. Now there are other bigger recognized brands like Oracle or Salesforce that we see at times. But they are different types of technology depending on the competitive bid that we're competing on.

CMSWire: In your customer engagement strategy, I hear a lot of the often heard messages about cross-channel, consistent messages, applying data and that sort of thing. But you didn't mention Adobe or Sitecore among your competitors. How do you differ from companies like that?

Hollenbeck: If you think about customer engagement, you really can't talk about it, and you really can't talk about optimizing it, unless you spend some time talking about the employee -- what you are going to do about employee engagement and making your employees more engaged. That naturally will result in a better customer experience, more effective customer engagement, drive loyalty and all those things.  I think Kana and Verint are very uniquely positioned to help with that challenge.

It's not that we don't also have tools for customer engagement directly -- things like web self-service and technologies like that, but we're very uniquely positions around employee engagement. Not only do we have things like performance management dashboards and quality monitoring -- we all hear "this call may be monitored for quality purposes" and most of the time, that's Verint technology -- we also have the agent desktop, we have e-learning software. It's a really unique set of capabilities that help that employees not just understand how to interact with a customer based and how you want to do that, but equally help the customer learn to use the tools at the desktop.

CMSWire: Do you see yourselves as a marketing technology company?

Hollenbeck: We sell a lot to chief marketing officers and VPs of customer experience, who a lot of times in the retail industry would report into the marketing organization. But we're not a purpose-built marketing technology company.