NICE Mpower: Is It Really the “Holy Grail” of CX?

Customer experience analysts share their take on the new NICE Mpower offering

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NICE Mpower: Is It Really the “Holy Grail” of CX?
Contact CentreLatest News

Published: June 25, 2024

Charlie Mitchell

Earlier this month, NICE launched the “world’s first and only CX-aware AI platform”: NICE Mpower.

Heaping praise on the solution, one NICE exec referred to it as the “Holy Grail” of CX.

Yet, that messaging is a little confusing. After all, the announcement actually marks the bundling of NICE CXone and Enlighten, the vendor’s AI suite.

That’s it. There’s no new platform for CX nerds like me to drool over; it’s a new offering.

The bundle will cost $249 per agent per month, pairing the full capabilities of CXone with Enlighten, NICE’s AI platform, which includes Enlighten Actions, Autopilot, and Copilot.

Enlighten XM is another notable feature, as that’s what makes the offering “CX-aware”.

The XM solution – added to the Enlighten platform in March – helps integrate conversation data, metadata, and analytics from the contact center ecosystem.

With this, service teams may better understand each customer’s journey and preferences, allowing them to build better customer profiles.

Moreover, it enables businesses to create a unique memory graph for each customer. That memory graph informs the LLM behind each contact center GenAI use case to bolster and personalize its outputs.

By pulling this solution into the fold, NICE underlines its prowess and contact center innovation.

Yet, the contact center is only one part of the customer experience, and – for most brands – their CCaaS offering isn’t their central CX solution.

As Simon Harrison, Founder & CEO of Actionary, says in an upcoming BIG CX News Update:

CCaaS is a technology that the c-suite wishes it never needed to buy, staff wish they never had to engage with, and customers wish they never had to use.

In this sense, labeling a CCaaS offering – albeit a highly proficient one – as the “Holy Grail of CX” is perhaps a little misleading. Similarly, branding Mpower as a “platform” when it’s a bundle is confusing.

Nevertheless, NICE is excellent at delivering CCaaS technology. Just read the relevant Gartner Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave reports.

Moreover, NICE Mpower will support contact centers in simplifying their CCaaS and AI expenditures.

In hindsight, that’s perhaps a more compelling message to share with the C-suites that NICE wants to engage with.

NICE Is Addressing the CCaaS Pricing Challenge

Until now, NICE offered six packages for CXone. Its most comprehensive – the “Complete Suite” – costs $209 per agent per month.

Yet, users of that suite may have also leveraged elements of Enlighten à la carte, pushing up prices even higher.

The problem with this à la carte model is that many contact centers – every so often – add a new AI feature to their operations. After three or four additions, prices surge and CIOs despair about how much they’re paying for a CCaaS offering.

Thankfully, MPower can simplify AI procurement and make the costs much more predictable.

That said, alongside the $249 per agent per seat pricing plan for Mpower, there is an additional usage-based charge for every Autopilot or Copilot session.

Nevertheless, the pricing model still promises greater cost predictability for contact centers.

With this new model, NICE follows in the footsteps of fellow its CCaaS stalwart Genesys, which recently released a token-based AI pricing strategy.

Making this observation, Rebecca Wetteman, CEO & Principal Analyst at Valoir, stated:

All these folks are looking at: how do I bundle this packaging so I can get people to try AI, without tying it to agents in seats?

“After all, those seats aren’t going to drive the volume of workflows moving forward.”

As such, NICE is getting ahead of the curve, ensuring not only cost predictability for customers but also sustainability for its business.

Expect many more similar pricing plans from other CCaaS providers in the coming months, with this AI pricing conversation still in its infancy.

The Potential Problem: Are Contact Centers Ready?

NICE has earned its reputation as a CCaaS visionary and leader. That’s again evident in the Enlighten XM element of the Mpower offering, alongside the new pricing strategy.

The potential problem with this release is that most enterprise contact centers are far behind NICE’s innovation curve.

Now, that’s not always the case. For an organization with the available data, access, and people ready to embrace the operational AND cultural shift of CCaaS, NICE Mpower may be the best-placed solution.

As Liz Miller, VP & Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, said: “When that perfect storm happens, it’s a solid platform to put those hopes and dreams on.”

However, she caveated that by stating:

I think the challenge is that a lot of customers aren’t ready for that dream.

Indeed, NICE reportedly wishes to attract companies making a “complete transformation”, targeting legacy buyers with numerous poorly integrated contact center systems.

Yet, there’s a chasm there. These legacy contact centers may want to undertake that dream transformation, but – still on premise – they haven’t yet figured out the fundamentals of contact center data management discussed for 20+ years.

Some may have tried specific AI tools as an experiment three to five years ago but have kept their use in isolation, relying on makeshift hybrid environments.

“It’s this disillusionment around cost, AI, and consumption going into this weird hybrid stagnation where we don’t ever realize the goodness of what’s about to happen,” summarized Miller.

As such, NICE may wish to expand its messaging from selling “Holy Grails” and the CCaaS dream to supporting clients in getting there.

Where Will NICE Go Next?

To switch its focus from the CCaaS dream to the CCaaS journey, NICE may de-emphasize “platform” and shift the focus to “suite”.

Look into the broader cloud CX space; many vendors – from Oracle to SAP – have made that shift. Yet, that’s not the case for many of the leading CCaaS providers.

As Miller stated: “In CCaaS, everyone seems to be going back to this idea of: “We’ve done the plumbing for you, ergo, you just want to buy the whole thing that drops in, and it’s perfect.” [Yet,] when was the last time anyone said that working in the cloud?”

Indeed, a CCaaS migration that allows the contact center to become a key cog within the customer experience ecosystem comes with a lot of burden. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Now, CCaaS vendors – including NICE – must go further to take such burden away from customers.

Sharing an example of how they may do so, Harrison suggests evolving the relationship between CCaaS and CRM platforms. He said:

I want to hear not just about how CCaaS vendors are integrating with CRM applications, but I also want to hear about how they’re obsessed with taking on the burden of making sure businesses realize the combinatorial benefits of the two and AI.

NICE’s competitors are taking such steps. AWS, Five9, and Genesys are co-innovating with Salesforce. Meanwhile, NICE hasn’t updated its Salesforce-related offerings since 2019.

Beyond Salesforce, Genesys also recently announced a combined offering with ServiceNow.

Taking similar steps to establish the role of CCaaS within the broader CX ecosystem seems a critical next step for NICE – as perhaps is increasing its focus on the “suite”, composability, and orchestration.

The Bottom Line: NICE Is a CCaaS Powerhouse, But the Jargon Is Jarring

NICE is a powerhouse of CCaaS innovation. Practically any industry report will verify that.

Meanwhile, the vendor often receives glowing customer reviews, with NICE leading the way in the recent Gartner Peer Insights “Voice of the Customer” for CCaaS report.

Yet, the hyperbole behind this announcement distracts from its substance.

After all, while NICE Mpower is a significant release from a pricing perspective, it’s a new CCaaS bundle. It’s not the “Holy Grail” of customer experience.

Others have picked up on this jarring jargon, as the following LinkedIn post highlights.

And, while such posts may seem harsh, more clear-cut messaging could be oh-so helpful as businesses navigate the complexity of CCaaS migrations, AI pricing, and orchestration.

That message extends beyond NICE, too. As Wetteman concluded:

Alongside “Holy Grail”, I always get alarm bells with terms such as “first and only”, which means they either don’t know the market or there’s not a market.

While that’s perhaps not always the case, as CX vendors increasingly use these terms, getting under the hood of their solutions will only become more difficult.

Capture more insights from Simon, Rebecca, and Liz on Mpower and much more as they join Michael Fauscette, Founder, CEO & Chief Analyst at Arion Research, Martin Schneider, Head of Research at Annuitas Research, and myself on an upcoming episode of our CX BIG News Update. 

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