Kana is rapidly broadening its CRM footprint and making some big inroads into Customer Experience (CX).
To understand this company’s trajectory it helps to look at their past events and growth strategy. Kana’s origins began in 1996 as a customer service email solution that eventually morphed web self-service, knowledge management, live chat, co-browse and multi-channel management to promote what the company calls Service Experience Management.
Following the company’s acquisition by private equity firm Accel-KKR in late 2009, and the subsequent change from public to private, Kana pursued a dual growth strategy of organic growth and growth by acquisition. In November 2010, Kana acquired Belfast-based, G2C (Government to Citizen) publisher Lagan Technologies. While Lagan operates largely as an independent entity, its CRM case management and 311 (non-emergency) solutions deliver a deep vertical contact center niche for Kana.
In April 2011 Kana acquired Overtone, a social media listening platform that when integrated with Kana enables customer service representatives to monitor social conversations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks.
In April 2012, Kana acquired Netherlands-based Trinicom, a provider of customer service cloud solutions. Trinicom was a very small company but well placed in the EMEA market, well positioned to help Kana increase SMB market share and with technology that may aid Kana’s migration to the cloud.
Most recently, Kana acquired Sword-Ciboodle in July 2012. This move is intended to strengthen the market position for customer service solutions across agent, web, social and mobile experiences. While the two companies have some overlapping software to rationalize, the vast majority of applications software brought together is complimentary. This acquisition brings Kana contact center CRM application depth, BPM (Business Process Management) automation, additional social tools (communities) and a team of talented professionals – and accelerates Kana's much needed technology refresh.
The Build To Customer Experience
The collection of acquired companies has given Kana an impressive portfolio of tools and applications and a real opportunity to elevate its customer value proposition. In fact, Kana Enterprise is in progress of evolving its message of Service Experience Management (SEM) to a more pronounced and strategic message of Customer Experience Management.
Kana is not lost on the fact that CXM has top of mind awareness and is an overwhelming priority by boards and business leaders. As part of the company’s increased intellectual property portfolio, application branding is also transitioning from Kana SEM to Kana Enterprise, or Kana Express for the midmarket solution.
In a conversation with James Norwood, Kana CMO, he described the real-world challenges in succeeding with CX. Green field customer IT infrastructures are rare. Instead, customers manage many disparate applications, most of which are not integrated, yet must come together to share the information needed to deliver knowledge and content at the points of customer interactions. Additionally, CX strategies are diverse. For example, luxury brands such as Tiffany’s are all about delighting customers, while value-based brands such as Walmart are about satisfying customers with cost-effective goods and easy in/easy out/quick access. While some brands strive for excellence, other brands know that for their customer experiences, good is good enough.
Unfortunately, there’s no fixed formula for customer-centric transformation. CX success is not born from a packaged solution, template or replicable configuration. Instead, customer-centric business strategy must be crafted according to the preferences of any given customer market and supported with enabling technologies which integrate new technology with legacy systems and orchestrate the design and automation of business processes across channels and with context.
Kana has pulled together the technology assets to listen to the customer journey across channels – using text analytics, social monitoring, next back actions and more. The company recognizes that simple keyword-based social listening tools are ineffective as social spheres put out far too much noise, and therefore context is required to manage customer conversations without scaling resources to an unrealistic level. And to close the loop, the company now possesses the applications and tools to review, route, respond and resolve customer needs with efficiency.
CX transformation must be able balance CX objectives with the costs of services delivery. To this end, enabling technologies must be able to leverage lower cost channels, such as web self-service or peer-based support communities, where they make sense.
In the grand IT scheme to support CX strategies, Kana is rarely the customer system of record, but instead the orchestrator responsible for integrating and indexing otherwise disparate applications, consolidating data for a comprehensive view of the customer, and merging data for process automation and delivery at the exact time and place where it can impact a customer experience.
Kana’s Next Steps
Keeping customers is the name of the game in a down economy. Brands can no longer take customers (or customer retention) for granted. Switching costs have declined and competitors are one click away. To keep those customers, brands must meet customers where those customers congregate – and where they discuss their brand preferences and experiences. Implementing customer experience strategies is not an optional exercise, it’s a mandate for those brands who wish to survive.
Kana aims to enable those brands and CX strategies with an agile platform and supporting technologies. The company is clearly one of the more focused CX publishers in the CRM market. They are assembling the intellectual property and global distribution needed to vie for a market leader position. However, while the upside is clear and within reach, obstacles are also evident.
The competition is fierce. CRM publishers such as Pegasystems (Pega) are showing tremendous success in winning the largest customers in this market. Oracle is aggressively launching dual complimentary fronts in the cloud contact center market (primarily with its RightNow Technologies acquisition) and the customer experience market with its Oracle CX (itself is a collection of many acquisitions and organic development). Cloud pure-plays, including Salesforce.com, are doing very well in the SMB contact center space.
Growth by acquisition also has its hitches. Beyond the technology challenges of migrating Kana knowledge management, social listening, SEM and other tools into the new Sword Ciboodle underlying platform, the more immediate challenge for Kana is to execute on the cultural divides (and learning from Overtone to do better with Sword Ciboodle) and other post-acquisition integration hurdles that impede so many roll-ups—and they must move quickly as the competition is also moving at top speed. Any delay will certainly cede market share to competitors who secure early market advantage.
Shortly the dust form the Sword Ciboodle acquisition will settle and I hope a clear product roadmap with date-based milestones will appear. It’s also my hope the company will adopt a more agile development and release schedule, delivering less substantive but more frequent updates. More iterative development releases directly put more innovation in the hands of customers. It’s a change that has become commonplace in the cloud apps market, but has not yet been endorsed by Kana.