Nextiva, Competing Around the Customer Experience

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Nextiva has crossed our research radar lately, not only because it’s listed among the top 10 largest Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) providers in North America (per IHS Infonetics’ 2018 UCaaS North America Vendor Scorecard), but more so because of some  differentiators that caught our attention.

First, Nextiva offers an all-in-one communication software bundle which combines business phone service, a range of built-in customer relationship management (CRM) features and some impressive leading-edge analytics that make use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML), along with additional Nextiva patented technologies.

Secondly – and perhaps more importantly – Nextiva’s customer service, which the company refers to as “amazing,” seems to be a stand-out versus competitors in the UCaaS space. Nextiva prides itself on 100% in-house customer service. Of its 1,000 employees, 400 focus solely on customer experience. We can attest to Nextiva’s attentiveness since every time we visited the website, we were greeted (via chat, then email) by multiple representatives who were friendly, knowledgeable and very open with sharing content and materials to help with our inquiries. This level of openness is always refreshing to those of us in the analyst community, and no doubt much appreciated by potential customers seeking information about the Nextiva services.

Nextiva is on to something. Technology and products no longer seem to be the “silver bullet” when it comes to winning new business. Competition now centers on the customer experience.

The Evolution

Nextiva, based in Scottsdale, AZ, has been offering business communications services to businesses in the United States since 2008.  The company started as a hosted telephony provider, but has evolved to offer a suite of business management services that now includes multi-channel customer support software (CRM), live customer chat software, online survey software, business intelligence software (analytics), email marketing automation, cloud virtual fax software and cloud storage/backup.

The underlying voice call control platform is based on BroadSoft (now Cisco) technology, which Nextiva explains allows them to focus development efforts beyond telecommunications and toward developing their own advanced solutions, particularly in the area of analytics. This includes sentiment analysis, customer journey tracking, predictive actions, customer benchmarking and even gamification to motivate employees. Nextiva continues to offer its voice and non-voice services as standalone plans, but in spring of 2018, Nextiva rolled out the NextOS all-in-one software that bundles its communications related services – Business Phone Service, CRM features, Chat, Survey and Analytics – for a single per-user monthly fee.

Nextiva highlights enterprise-grade reliability for its cloud-based services and highly secured data centers located across North America, including seven Points of Presence (POPs) that are geographically-dispersed and located on multiple power grids for protection against natural disasters. Nextiva cites 99.999% uptime for its services for the last five years.

Nextiva is growing and now delivers services to more than 150,000 businesses nationwide (up from 100,000 in 2016), including some well-known brands such as Nissan, Burger King, Delta, Target, Acura, IBM, All State and Papa Johns. The company has also doubled its staff from 500 in 2016 to now 1,000 employees.

NextOS All-in-one

Nextiva introduced its NextOS (Nextiva Operating System) all-in-one platform in May 2018 to offer businesses a unified solution, rather than purchasing its communications related services a la carte. NextOS has three main components: NextDB (a single database to capture and store customer and employee data), NextIQ (technology for learning, adapting and predicting customer behavior; uses ML and NLP) and NextStep (automates the next steps to take based on information from NextDB and NextIQ).  Nextiva’s newly developed Analytics provides users with a single dashboard and a suite of trend analysis tools for a “holistic” view of the customer journey and smarter decision-making.

Users will have just one screen for all communications, with easy access to a centralized database and a unified dashboard/overview for a comprehensive view and management of all customer interactions, across all channels. Users can communicate with colleagues and customers using voice, email and chat, with support for social media (initially Facebook) and Short Message Service (SMS) channels coming next.

With NextOS, business users can select from three bundles (Basic, Pro and Enterprise), each with a varying level of business phone features (Nextiva Office), Nextiva’s CRM, Chat, Surveys and Analytics capabilities. Package pricing is per user, per month and billed annually:  Nextiva Bundle Basic ($35), Nextiva Bundle Pro ($45) and Nextiva Bundle Enterprise ($55).

  • Business Phone
    As mentioned above, the underlying voice call control is based on BroadSoft (now Cisco) technology. Cloud telephony features, voicemail-to-email forwarding, virtual fax and other popular voice features are included across all user plans. Some capabilities like conference bridging, call recording and mobile applications are bundled into the higher-level user plans (Pro and Enterprise).
  • CRM + Chat + Surveys
    All user plans include capabilities for managing customer relationships and accounts categorized under Productivity (call pops, task scheduling, automated email notification, etc.), Case Management (priority management, watch notifications, escalations triggers, etc.), Account Management (histories, notes, analytics, etc.) and Collaboration (calendar integration, internal team chat). All communications, whether voice, email or chat, are converted automatically into cases and tied to an account or contact. The Basic bundle includes a good complement of CRM, Chat and Survey features, while a few of the more advanced capabilities require the Pro and Enterprise plans.
  • Analytics
    Analytics are built-in and provide insights around data collected not only from voice, but also from CRM and customer survey interactions. Nextiva’s NextIQ analytics includes the company’s patented SmartTopics technology (all plans) for categorizing case subjects and automatically calculating changes in customer experience scores. A number of advanced analytics are in development and listed as “coming soon” for Pro and Enterprise user plans, namely Customer Journey Tracking, Customer Health Score Analysis, Sentiment Analysis, Predictive Actions, Customer Benchmarking and Proactive Next Issue Resolution.

The Ultimate bundle is a current promotional offer that deserves special mention because of its value for the price. For as low as $24.95 per user, per month, this bundle includes the full Nextiva Pro Plus Office business phone feature set, Chat, Call Recording and Analytics, plus a free Polycom VVX phone and access to the company’s new CoSpace team collaboration application.

What’s Next from Nextiva?

Additional functionality around improving customer relationships and customer service is in development, including two new channels for customers who prefer to communicate via social media (Facebook coming first) and SMS text messaging. New marketing automation software will add drag-and-drop email and campaign builders, templates, reports and management. Additional advanced analytics for NextOS Pro and Enterprise user plans will make use of machine learning and natural language processing technologies for solutions like customer journey tracking, sentiment analysis and predictive actions. Stay tuned.

Sandra Gustavsen