The 2016 Speech Industry Star Performers: Aspect
Aspect Flies Toward the Cloud with a Burst of Products and Improvements
While, superficially, Aspect’s financial restructuring in March may have seemed to signal difficulty, savvy watchers of the CRM and speech technology provider will have noticed a company in the process of reinvention. Following the $320 million debt reduction, the company has embarked on its objective of transitioning from a “legacy technology company” to a cloud-based customer relations management and workforce optimization provider at a full clip.
The story of Aspect is the story of a pedigreed company redefining itself. Aspect has been in operation for more than 40 years, providing customer service automation and management solutions originally on-premises for its customers. In 1973, the company notably powered Continental Airlines’ first call center flight booking system with the flight industry’s very first intelligent automatic call distributor (ACD). The public company was later incorporated in 1985, and it expanded its reach into the international market in 1990. Company growth was consistent until the late 1990s, when Aspect—historically a telecommunications company—began to note an increase in competition in the traditional markets and began to pivot toward new technologies, including CRM software. Now, it is pivoting again.
In February, Aspect updated and released its 15th iteration of its Customer Experience Platform (CXP), enhancing integration with its Unified IP platform and—most notably for Speech Technology readers—increasing the speed of its interactive voice response (IVR) and interactive text response (ITR) features while improving the ease of implementation. Aspect CXP 15 made the implementation of these two features modular, so that they could be built once and deployed across any number of locations or CRM environments that a client requires.
Following this, Aspect concurrently revealed Mila, its new intelligent assistant, and Via, its cloud customer engagement center (CEC), in May of this year. Mila is an integration of the CXP and the company’s own natural language technologies. When used with Aspect’s EQ Workforce Optimization suite, Mila—which is part chatbot and part IVR—enables client employees to complete workforce optimization tasks in an intuitive and as-needed process.
Aspect Via makes good on Aspect’s goal of bringing CRM to the cloud. The CEC, custom-built to operate in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, has a unified user interface and includes native interaction management as well as self-service capabilities and the indispensable IVR function CRM customers expect. The platform provides an omnichannel view of customer engagement, as well as a customizable role-based user experience that has been streamlined for speed of delivery and use. With Mila, Via is equipped with ITR in addition to the classic IVR functionality.
Finally, in June of this year, Aspect released version 8.2 of its EQ Workforce Optimization (WFO) into general availability. The new iteration includes gamification features and accurate labor forecasting for its non-voice channels that Speech Technology readers may hope will extend to the IVR in future releases. It also includes recording and speech-and-text analytics for CRM managers looking to get deeper insight into speech exchanges between employees and customers. These tools, available from the WFO’s Quality Monitoring evaluations page, allow automated categorizations of interactions as well as ad hoc searching on interactions using keywords. Additionally, the new WFO product allows CRM managers to blend staff from disparate groups on both voice and digital channels.
Aspect chairman and CEO Stew Bloom has said that Aspect’s transition to a “contemporary and comprehensive provider of contact center and workforce optimization solutions in the cloud” is a multiyear process, so watchers of this company can expect trends toward cloud integration and delivery to continue in the upcoming year, with related adjustments and optimizations of its IVR and ITR technologies to follow suit.