Holistic Omni-Channel Customer Experience Spotlighted at KANA Connect

I couldn’t make it to the KANA Connect 2013 conference this September, but the marvels of modern technology allowed me to follow the event in real time through social media streams, and to have a debriefing with Jim Norwood, KANA Software’s chief marketing officer (CMO). In a nutshell, last year’s conference was about KANA delivering an end-to-end customer experience (CX) offering, whereas this year was about customers kicking the tires of the vendor’s new products and sharing experiences and case study stories with other attendees (600 in total this year).

KANA Refresher
Based in Silicon Valley, California, with offices worldwide, KANA Software knows full well that a good (or bad) customer experience can be just a click, a phone call, or an email away, and  that every interaction through any channel through which a customer communicates with a company can positively affect or damage the company’s brand. The vendor's on-premise and cloud CX software suites are used by call centers and businesses with e-commerce Web sites. KANA’s capabilities include customer service interaction through live chat, e-mail, phone, and Web self-service (WSS) portals as well as knowledge-based applications that assist agents in their conversations with customers.

KANA serves about 900 companies in the communications, financial services, retail, health care, and technology industries, as well as government clients in cities such as Boston, Brisbane, San Francisco, Sheffield, Toronto, and Vancouver.

KANA has had a heck of a year, to put it mildly. The economic downturn has created a massive focus on the customer experience and brand loyalty. However, the slow recovery of the economy is still driving replacement and decommissioning of aging systems, with associated sales cycle compression. Moreover, the “everyone serves” and “no service, no business” mantras have been driving C-level executives’ backing of customer experience (CX) enterprise business transformation projects. In the public sector, the “channel shift” initiatives are growing, as governments seek to offer better services at a lower cost.

Having had its last acquisition about 18 months ago, KANA has since been able to converge those once diverse products onto a unified platform as required. KANA can provide on-premise and cloud solutions for large enterprises and mid-market organizations both in the commercial and public sectors—a CX software breadth and depth most competitors in the space cannot compete with.

The flagship KANA Enterprise suite is hailed as the only enterprise class omni-channel CX suite in the market on a single code line. Competition is fierce, but not many can deliver this unified context and the scale that KANA can deliver. For example, Pegasystems lacks native knowledge management (KM) capabilities, Moxie Software and eGain are often more expensive for similar capabilities, and Oracle’s current CX products feature rich a Outlook-like client (although the nascent Oracle Service Cloud will certainly fix that usability issue). Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud, Desk.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Zendesk, Emailtopia, LiveCom, and Infor Epiphany lack support for some of the channels and/or scalability.

Consequently, KANA has lately experienced a major traction with many substantive wins. In total, 60 customers have recently been added globally, and 25 of Fortune 100 companies are now KANA customers. There are about 40 percent cloud deployments amongst KANA’s total customer installs. The 50 percent license compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) during the last three years has resulted in 180 new employees hired during just the last year to date.

KANA’s Major Product Lines
Over the last year or so, KANA has developed and shipped 20 product releases, including the single end-to-end code line within the aforementioned KANA Enterprise suite, which now includes the former Ciboodle CRM/CX software (acquired in 2012) and Overtone social media monitoring software (acquired in 2011). The latest KANA Enterprise 13R1 release from April 2013 features the following omni-channel customer service capabilities:

  • Advanced WSS and secure Web portal

  • Embedded Natural Language Processing (NLP)-based knowledge management

  • Embedded and enhanced email management

  • Enhanced live chat and mobile chat application programming interface (API)

  • Embedded co-browsing capability

  • Improved dynamic case management and workflow

  • Experience Community (a social community platform)

  • Experience analytics (social listening and responding, coming from Overtone)

  • Uplifted and enhanced user interface (UI)

  • Packaged and certified computer-telephony integration (CTI) adaptors

  • Campaign and whitemail management

  • HTML5 mobile applications platform

Recently publicly announced KANA Enterprise customers include Garmin, Salmat, and Bally Total Fitness. The flagship offering has nearly 500 corporate customers in total, including many of the Fortune 500 companies.

LAGAN Enterprise for the Public Sector
While the commercial sector is certainly more vibrant globally (especially in North America) for KANA, the public sector is more measured. On the one hand, austerity measures in Europe and North America are taking their toll, but the balancing act is the need for governments to do more with less, where CX software can help. As Figure 1 depicts below, KANA offers a solution for the public sector based on the 2010 acquisition of Lagan Technologies.

Renamed LAGAN Enterprise, the solution suite has been designed for the digital customer (i.e., citizen) in an “age of austerity”. The latest LAGAN Enterprise 13R1 release from May 2013 features the following enhancements:

  • Advanced WSS and secure Web portal—a “digital first” self-service framework that residents and businesses can use anytime and via any device to find information and initiate and pay for services

  • Enhanced NLP-based knowledge management

  • New employee mobile app

  • Omni-channel integration features

  • Tailored government case management features, aimed at reduced cost of ownership


Figure 1KANA Product Lines (click for larger image)

The suite has more than 250 government agencies as customers. Recently announced LAGAN Enterprise customers include the cities of Boston, Winnipeg, Buffalo, and New Orleans. As for the latter, when KANA was seeking a destination for its 2013 North American user conference, there was little debate that the ideal setting to discuss innovation in customer service and business strategy was the City of New Orleans. Recently named the fastest growing city in America since 2007 by Forbes Magazine, the city has built a reputation as the country's comeback city, staging a nearly miraculous economic revival after events in the last decade. Not counting the Hurricane Katrina devastation in 2005, New Orleans has faced its share of highs and lows even more recently— such as when Hurricane Isaac made windfall there in August 2012, and when the city played host to Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013. Through it all, LAGAN technology from KANA has powered the city’s NOLA 311 system for residents, visitors, and businesses seeking general information and services in New Orleans.

Launched in March 2012, the NOLA 311 service center is a consolidated call center designed to make city government more user-friendly and responsive by providing one telephone number to call for information on city services and to report non-emergency concerns such as the need for pothole repair, traffic signal malfunction, and more than 50 other specific service requests. Customer service agents create service requests in the 311 Service Management system, where they are forwarded to the appropriate department for resolution, and tracked from start to finish, supporting accountability for city department personnel, residents, and other stakeholders. Information and answers to FAQs are also available 24/7 via an online knowledge base. Now the city plans to expand the functionality of NOLA 311 by leveraging the newly launched LAGAN Enterprise solution. KANA customers and media heard about the city’s future plans, toured the NOLA 311 Service Center, and saw LAGAN customer service technology in action during a private tour at KANA Connect 2013.

KANA Express for Midmarket
KANA Enterprise and LAGAN Enterprise for large enterprises are written in Java, and share a fair amount of codeline. Both enterprise class products can be provided in a private cloud (hosted) manner. The final KANA solution, called KANA Express, is a public cloud-based solution for the mid-market written in Microsoft .NET.

Stemming from the mid-2012 Trinicom acquisition, the solution offers flexible cloud service and pricing options for smaller enterprises with a 30-day money-back success guarantee. The August 2013 KANA Express 13R1 release features a slew of enhancements such as a new personalized user interface, Section 508 AA support for mobile screen readers (for the visually impaired), support for 30 languages, user-defined time zones, and international address validation. Automatic presentation of contextual knowledge, a consolidated view of customer profiles, advanced reporting and analytics (powered by QlikView), and a custom key performance indicator (KPI) dashboard designer are other nifty enhancements. The product continues to benefit from intellectual property borrowed from its larger sibling products.

Currently at about 200 customers, KANA Express is the fastest growing product at KANA in terms of new accounts, but not necessarily in terms of revenue (given its much smaller deals in comparison to its Enterprise counterpart). Several recently announced KANA Express customers include 1-800-Flowers, Virgin HealthMiles, and Rent.com.

Global Scale
With changes in global infrastructure, employee growth, and acquisition integrations behind it, KANA can now focus on a significant and growing pipeline with a services backlog and a scale from global and regional systems integrators (SIs). During KANA Connect 2013, Wipro Ltd., a leading global IT, consulting, and outsourcing company, announced that it had entered into a strategic partnership with KANA to form a joint development center to accelerate implementations of the KANA Enterprise customer service suite with an initial focus on the insurance industry. As a preferred strategy partner, Wipro has certified global SI personnel on KANA technology, enabling insurers that select KANA solutions to achieve faster implementation schedules and advance their omni-channel customer experience initiatives.

The partnership with Wipro provides KANA with virtually unlimited SI scalability, anchored by Wipro's presence across 57 countries. Wipro and KANA have trained a team of process, technical, and business analysts for implementation and troubleshooting, achieving initial successes with several insurance and financial services projects. The dedicated Wipro/KANA team, in addition to aiding in deployment acceleration, should benefit clients with more robust implementations through the pairing of KANA’s customer service focus and Wipro's deep integration expertise, and through support for multiple business models, including business process outsourcing (BPO) and managed services.

In conclusion, KANA seems to be in a good spot. Some further expansion both geographically and functionally is expected now that the vendor has largely digested the former wave of acquisitions. More native CX big data/analytics and social capabilities are likely additions down the track.

Related Reading:

Moxie Software—Promoting Social and Multichannel Customer Service (September 2013)
KANA Software and Ciboodle Join Forces for Customer Experience Perfection (July 2012)
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