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Nice expands contact center AI offering with ContactEngine buy

Nice acquires ContactEngine conversational AI technology to support customer self-service and live agent conversations across multiple digital channels.

By acquiring ContactEngine, contact center technology vendor Nice added natural language AI to automate customer self-service and route calls to agents when needed.

The acquisition, which closed earlier this month, was made for an undisclosed sum. Nice added ContactEngine's contact center AI tools to its CXone suite of customer experience applications, which were renamed CXone SmartReach.

ContactEngine's specialty -- which made it appealing as an acquisition target for Nice -- is its ability to anticipate customer questions and reach out proactively in certain situations with outbound texts, said Gartner analyst Drew Kraus.

Such a proactive, automated SMS text message or social media ping can head off more expensive communications, such as a call to a contact center or, for field service organizations, sending a technician to a home or business when it turns out the recipient of the call won't be available. Nice CXone's existing data collection and analytics tools, combined with ContactEngine's process orchestration capabilities, will enable such proactive communications.

"It's all about leveraging customer data," Kraus said. "It's all the context that you have about that customer that enables you to anticipate what do they need to do. What's the best way to reach out to them, at what time, through what channel, with what message. The analytics behind that requires deep levels of customer data."

The contact center AI tools that Nice will spin off from the ContactEngine acquisition can ultimately benefit users in both call centers and field service, Kraus said. But solving more costly field service management snags is the "low-hanging fruit" for automating customer communications by confirming site visits -- and rescheduling them in an automated fashion according to customer needs and technician availability.

Chris Bauserman, vice president of Nice CXone, said the acquisition of ContactEngine call center AI builds on two other acquisitions made earlier this year, technology from which Nice continues to integrate into the CXone platform: MindTouch, a knowledge management tool, and Brand Embassy, which connects social media to virtual agents for customer self-service.

Nice continues an active period of acquisitions as competition in the cloud contact center platform sector heats up. Last week, Zoom acquired Five9 for $14.7 billion, and cloud communications infrastructure companies such as Twilio and 8x8 expand their contact center-as-a-service offerings.

"Consumers are looking for virtual agents to make their lives easier and getting answers faster; businesses want a more personalized experience with customer service," Bauserman said. "These recent moves really give us all a leg up on the next generation [technology]."

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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