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Verint Marketing Exec Calls Kana Acquisition a Game Changer

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

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

Verint, a big player in employee optimization and contact centertechnologies, made news earlier this year when it paid$514 million for Kana, a customer engagement company with about one-fifthits revenue. The first fruit of that merger came this week at Kana's Connect2014conference, where the companies released their first jointly developed product-- EngagementAnalytics.

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 focusnow?

Hollenbeck: Kana is a game changer for Verint. We now have anopportunity to lead and define a new market together called customerengagement 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 thingslikeworkforce scheduling, quality monitoring, e-learning and performance management.

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

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 Verintand Kana together is the only solution provider that can offer that combinedcapability. So you might go to a competitor and be able to get a lot of similarcustomer service technology that Kana has and you might go to a separatecompetitor and get the workforce optimization technology that Verint has, butyou can't go to a single vendor other than Verint to get that combinedcapability.

CMSWire: While there are some fantastic global solutions out there, it seems that very fewclient companies use the fullsuite. Many companies tend to build their own by choosingbits 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 workforceoptimization -- go all- in if you will. And equally, Kana has customers that buyeverything. But I do think every customer is on a different journey. So whereaswe 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 tobe able to come in with the right kind of professional services expertise andhelp them achieve their specific journey. We'll find, for example, on the Kanaside, there's a customer that really has the Agent Desktop deployed andoperational and yet they have a different web chat or knowledge managementsystem. There are some innate benefits though. We can do more predefinedintegrations than a competitor could or that you can get from open APIs in themarket.

And the same is true on the Verint side with workforce optimization. Youmight just have workforce scheduling from us, but not quality monitoring, andthere is an integration benefit from having both from one company. That means asmaller footprint, simplified administration, easier graphical user interface tonavigate.

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

Learning Opportunities

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

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

Hollenbeck: On the Verint side, Nice Systems is a formidable competitor. But they havenothing in the way of the Kana capability, so that's a big differentiator forus. And then on the Kana side, there's a company called Pegasystems that is alsoa 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 customerengagement. Now there are other bigger recognized brands like Oracle orSalesforce that we see at times. But they are different types of technologydepending on the competitive bid that we're competing on.

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

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

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

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

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