by George Demou
In my last post, I introduced Interaction Connect as "The Client of the Future" for users of PureConnect (CIC). At the same time, I raised the primary concern that many organizations have about it, feature parity. So in this month's entry I will face that concern head-on by taking a look at the CIC Client Comparison Guide. This document should be your first stop if you're considering making the switch to Interaction Connect. It provides a rough history of clients going back to IC 3.0 (remember those days?), gives you detailed descriptions of all developed features, and indicates whether they are included in the various releases of clients.
The History of Clients
Before jumping right into it, let's review a little history (I can hear my wife's eyes rolling). Why? Because depending on how long you've been exposed to PureConnect/CIC, you may call things by different names. My intent is to clarify what is what so that there's no confusion. I'll make it quick:
- IC/CIC/Interaction Center/Customer Interaction Center/PureConnect - These are all the same thing. In the simplest terms, it's the server that's running all this fantastic functionality. Over the course of time and with marketing nudges here and there, the name evolved, but old habits die hard. If you were used to saying IC, it was challenging to switch to CIC. And now with the evolution to PureConnect, I'm sure it's even tougher for some. If you're confused, just think of all of these letters/names as…."the platform" or "the server".
- Thick client/installed client/.NET Client/Interaction Client .NET Edition - This was the client (the thing users used) to connect to the platform and do their work. This used to be the only client for the system so it wasn't really confusing back in the day (except the name changes). This was the prevailing client through IC 3.0, CIC 4.0, and then into the new versioning scheme CIC 2016 R1.
- Web Client/Interaction Client Web Edition - This was the first version of a web-based Interaction Client. It had a similar look and feel to the installed client, but wasn't really able to match the functionality of it. It made its first appearance in late IC 3.0 (maybe 4.0?), but was finally retired as of CIC 2017 R4. The main reason I bring this up is because today, if you say "web client" while referring to Interaction Connect, it might confuse people. And because it has just recently been retired, there's a good chance it's still in the PureConnect consciousness. That's why I will typically qualify what I'm referring to by saying, "Interaction Connect, not the old web client".
tl:dr - up there are a bunch of old names that I should more or less ignore. He's about to discuss the names I should pay attention to now.
Ok with all that business out of the way, let's get to today. There are two client choices for anyone running a current version of PureConnect (meaning later than 2016) - Interaction Desktop and Interaction Connect. Interaction Desktop is the latest installed client, and Interaction Connect is the latest web client. When I discuss whether a feature is included in Interaction Connect, I'll be comparing it to Interaction Desktop.
On to the CIC Client Comparison Guide!
If you open the CIC Client Comparison Guide, you'll notice there's a lot going on. You get a condensed history of the clients (that stuff I wrote that you didn't read earlier), a listing of every documented feature that the clients offer, and an indicator of whether the client in question has the feature. For my purposes I'm sticking to Interaction Desktop and Interaction Connect. Why? Because these are the two clients in active development, and we're looking to "the future".
Features are subdivided into categories: Communications, Media Types, My Interactions, etc. I'm going to start with Media Types on page 2. I'm starting here because in my past experience, this is one of the first places a person's mind wanders to if they've had any experience with a CIC/PureConnect web client in the past. I've typically heard, "We can't switch because it doesn't support emails and chats", and that's a great reason. If you look at the chart you see back in 3.0 calls were the only interaction type supported, and it took a long time for them to be supported in 4.0. But today, Interaction Connect handles everything that Interaction Desktop does except IPA work items. In fact, if you watch the video I did in the first post in this series, you'll actually see most media types in action. If you don't run IPA then what I'm saying is, "This should not be a blocker to switching to Interaction Connect". If you do run IPA, then work items are the bread and butter of your business process automation. There is a standalone IPA work item client that you can use to supplement Interaction Connect if you're willing to go that route. If not, you would be advised to stick with Interaction Desktop. For those who route custom objects like CRM cases, Interaction Connect also has generic object support.
- My verdict: Interaction Connect = Interaction Desktop (unless you run IPA)
Ok now that Media Types are out of the way, let's move to the next category, Directories (bottom of page 5). Why Directories? Because this is the second most common reason in my experience that organizations are unwilling to switch to a different client. If their user base has processes they follow to get things done, and those same mechanisms aren't available in some new thing you're trying to get them to use, they'll dismiss the new thing. As an ex-developer/ex-product manager it was hard for me to get my head around Directories being such a big deal. But all it took was to sit with someone who was trying to run the old web client next to Interaction Desktop to see how challenging it was to do their work without Directories functioning the way they were used to. The challenge wasn't that Directories weren't available, it's that they couldn't be customized to show the columns desired, or sorted the right way. This made it difficult to find a person internally or externally. And if you are a user who makes heavy use of Speed Dial (I'm not, but now see that a lot of people are), it was infuriating to lose that functionality if forced to move to the web client.
Looking at the CIC Client Comparison Guide you can see that outside of one small caveat, anything related to Directories you can do in Interaction Desktop you can do with Interaction Connect. So what's the caveat? It has to do with call control buttons on the Directory Toolbar. Interaction Connect does not include the Consult or Conference buttons. This doesn't mean that you can't do consult transfers or conferences with users. It just means that you have to use the main toolbar and/or drag-and-drop to initiate these actions. In my opinion, this is a negligible caveat at best. But in all transparency I have never been a person who uses the Directory Toolbar very often. But I have heard anecdotes from people who utilize it heavily. That's why I at least point it out.
- My verdict: Interaction Connect = Interaction Desktop (unless the two toolbar buttons are critical to you)
You may be asking, "Why isn't Transfer included in My Interactions or call controls or something like that?" It's because more blood has been spilled over transfer being difficult or not working the way people expect it to than anything else in this world. Yes that's overstating it (a little), but Transfer is a crucial feature of day-to-day life for PureConnect users and it needs to work "right". Let me take another moment to underscore the reason for its importance.
There are a couple psychological reasons that transfer needs to work easily. First, transfers that take too long to complete are the fastest way to anger a caller. They've called to ask a question or get something solved. They've probably gone to Google and that led them to your site. They probably didn't find it there. Now they've called, waited in queue, gotten to an agent, and you...have to transfer them. If it takes too long or doesn't work right - it's bad.
And then let's face it, as a user of the system, making a transfer means two things: "I'm not the right person for this" and "I will get this off my plate". If it's hard to do, confusing, or doesn't work right - it's bad. PureConnect has taken great care to make transfers easy in Interaction Desktop. And the thing is, "transfer" sounds like an easy thing. Just send a call from one person to another. But that assumption can get you into trouble. Take a look at the bottom of page 6 of the guide. There are six features listed there related to transfers. If you take a look at the old web client, you can see that it only covered/covers 3 of them. It's got basic(blind) and consult covered, and to be honest, if you didn't know much about it you'd think that would be good enough. But it's not. It's not enough to just have the ability to achieve the transfer, you need to be able to do all the steps easily. The ease of drag-and-drop with a live interaction is one of the things that makes transfer easy to accomplish in Interaction Desktop. It's intuitive to "grab" the call you're on and "drop" it onto the destination. It makes the call feel tangible; like you're actually doing something with it. And once you get used to that it's really hard to give it up. This is the primary reason users didn't like doing transfers in the old web client. It took too many steps and didn't feel the same.
The only feature that isn't available for transfers in Interaction Connect is the one where you can right-click the interaction and select the option from a contextual menu. Even though that is a common feature of installed applications, it's only somewhat common to have that ability in web applications; right clicks usually give you the browser context menu instead of the web application. That said, I'm a heavy right-clicker and have to admit that I do it often when running Interaction Connect and get just a little miffed when I remember that I can't do it. So take that for what it's worth.
- My verdict: Interaction Connect <= Interaction Desktop (depending on your affinity to right clicking)
I'll wrap it up here today. In the next post I'll continue this discussion by getting into the often-overlooked, but vitally-important miscellaneous features. As a teaser - there's not a lot missing from Interaction Connect, but some of them may be important to you.