The software-as-a-service (SaaS) market for contact centers continues to gain momentum through collaboration. LiveOps, a California-based virtual contact center company, recently made its on-demand platform available on Salesforce.com's AppExchange -- so now, agents using Salesforce Service & Support, the company's contact center offering, can leverage LiveOps' telephony platform and computer-telephony integration (CTI) solution.
Azita Martin, LiveOps' vice president of marketing, says that the integration gives Salesforce.com additional features to its already-existing contact center application -- including an agent-desktop contact center offering -- while LiveOps has a telephony platform and the CTI piece of the solution. By combining the two companies' offerings, she says, service providers can finally have access to the pieces of the contact center puzzle that Salesforce.com was missing. "Our solution is basically every piece of the solution that they don't have," Martin says. "It complements the Salesforce.com call center solution very well. Really, it is a natural partnership to take the premier call center application and integrate with a premier on-demand telephony platform and CTI platform."
Martin calls Salesforce.com a growing player in the contact center space, having progressed far beyond any perception of the company as simply a Sales Force Automation (SFA) player. "[Salesforce.com is] known for SFA, but they have a lot of focus on growing other applications -- the second-fastest-growing application Salesforce.com has is the Salesforce call center." By riding the wave of that rapid expansion, she says, the real winners are the customers.
"There's this tremendous need for innovation in the call center," she explains. "One of the biggest challenges customers are facing is having applications where you don't have to rely on IT [for the ability to make] changes on the fly -- by supervisors and business people -- so that the call center can be more agile. We have one key value proposition that is identical for both companies -- both solutions [are] easy to use and fast to implement."
Al Falcione, Salesforce.com's senior director of product marketing, says he agrees that his company is gaining essential pieces for a more robust contact center solution -- a fact he credits to the success of Salesforce.com's AppExchange. "Yes, these are very complementary solutions," he asserts. "One of the advantages of the AppExchange is we can bring on other partners in the community and deliver those applications to our customers." The technologies that LiveOps brings to the table, he acknowledges, "help us integrate better to telephony systems."
However, Falcione bristles at the suggestion that Salesforce.com is a newcomer to the space. After all, he says, its call center application was first released in 2004. "We've been successful for a number of years," he declares. "This is not an entry point for us." He notes large-scale customers who have leveraged the call center offering, including Corporate Express (reported to be a 1,300-seat deployment) and Qualcomm, as well as Salesforce.com's recent mention as a Visionary in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Customer Service CRM Contact Centers.
When it comes to SaaS in the contact center space, however, there are those who question predictions of massive growth. Daniel Hong, lead analyst at Datamonitor, says that the on-demand model hasn't matured enough yet to see rapid adoption -- bit, he adds, it's well on its way. "Salesforce.com is by no means a major player in contact center space right now, but they are gaining traction," he says. "General traction -- and market movement toward embracing the SaaS model across the enterprise -- is finally kind of permeating across the mindsets of the IT decision makers and business-line managers."
Hong also notes that Salesforce.com has had multisite deployments, although he declines to cite specific companies. (Falcione also declines to provide specific examples, aside from the Corporate Express and Qualcomm deployments.) Salesforce.com may continue to expand its reach -- helped along by successful AppExchange offerings such as LiveOps' integrations -- but Hong believes the contact center market is just not ready yet to fully embrace SaaS. More to the point, he suggests, SaaS itself may not be ready to deliver, or to communicate its own poitential.
"There is still some sort of an uphill battle," Hong says. "And it will take time before SaaS penetrates or hits critical mass within the contact center environment."