Verint Engage Conference: Adding Emotional Connections Is a Key Differentiator

LAS VEGAS — What can a room full of contact center executives learn from a former graffiti artist? A lot, as it turns out. At Verint's Engage conference this week, Erik Wahl, businessman turned artist turned speaker and author, told Verint customers that "stepping back from traditional corporate-speak" would lead to insights that are just as valuable as analytics. "Creativity leads to better engagement and is a potential differentiator," Wahl said.

The analytics solutions business has paid off handsomely for Verint, which has morphed from a pioneer of speech analytics to a pioneer of myriad products it calls actionable intelligence solutions. The company has more than 10,000 customers in 180 countries and $1.14 billion in revenue. Verint has advanced product innovation by spending more than $1 billion in the past 10 years on research and development.  

While at least one dictionary definition of the word analyze is "to examine methodically by separating into parts and studying interrelations," the gap between cold, hard data and human connectedness is not so wide, at least in Verint's world.

Wahl—who calls himself a disruptive strategist—spoke from experience about how shaking up the status quo can lead to positive results. A former executive, Wahl was in the thick of the early days of Internet when the dot-com bubble burst, leading to the shuttering of the company he worked for. Wahl said that the abrupt ending of his job caused a deep depression. Wahl later followed a friend's suggestion to try painting. At 30 years old, Wahl picked up a paintbrush—something he hadn't done since childhood, when he was told that he wasn't a very good artist. Though he no longer sells his work to the public, Wahl's paintings of celebrities, from Bono to Steve Jobs, are highly valued. These days, Wahl raises money for his philanthropic organization by raffling his work at charity auctions.

"[In the past] if it didn't have ROI, there was no interest," he said. "I've always been fascinated about how we place value, ROI, on certain things in our lives."

Wahl advocated taking risks to fuel innovation and said that it's important to "stay foolish" in spite of the fear of failing. "Institutional complacency will be the architect of our downfall," he said. "[You] need to be visibly different from the competition. The art of customer service lies in the science of reprogramming the mind to create emotional connections." 

Wahl argued that it's no longer sufficient to stay the course and that companies need to "unthink" traditional business paradigms to "unleash the mind's capabilities....You need to be emotionally engaged and take risks to emotionally connect."

In Verint's business, making an emotional connection with customers leads to better engagement, and ultimately success. Ryan Hollenbeck, senior vice president of global marketing at Verint, spoke about Wahl's belief that while data and analytics are critical, there needs to be something "in between the notes."

"I thought that was a great way to say, 'Capture the data, understand the data, look at the trends, but also look your customers in the eye and have an interaction with them.' Really understand how to engage with them, with an emotional connection. 

"The customer experience and how you engage and treat your customers might be the very thing that shifts the momentum in your favor."

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