Continued from Part I
The editors recognize the top-three leaders in CTI, IVR, quality monitoring, Web self-service, workforce management and optimization, contact-center outsourcing services, and agent-facing universal desktop applications. The Service Leaders rankings are derived from a weighted formula that includes financial performance as well as analyst ratings for depth of functionality, reputation for customer satisfaction, and corporate and management direction.
Edited By David Myron
Workforce Management and Optimization
Staffing a contact center requires properly trained individuals and a robust communications platform. Staffing a contact center well often requires technology that can quickly provide solutions for the best allocation of scarce support resources into an ever-broadening demand for services. This year, reflecting the industry's trends, CRM merges the categories of workforce management and workforce optimization, and considers the problem of efficient contact center staffing holistically.
Aspect Communications, last year's Service Leader and still the largest player in the space by revenue, remains a force to be reckoned with in the workforce management and optimization space. However, the company may have taken its eye off the ball. Our analysts did not feel that Aspect has been aggressively expanding its capabilities in the discipline, focusing instead on building out self-service capabilities. "I don't think workforce management has been center stage [at Aspect] even though it is an important part of their revenue," McGee-Smith Analytics' McGee-Smith says.
Although in no danger of falling from grace with still-strong marks for direction and customer satisfaction, watch Aspect carefully for signs of taking seriously the changing needs of the contact center. "I think they could definitely use some help in regards to being more forward-looking and bolstering up in the workforce management space," says Mark Smith, a senior vice president at Ventana Research.
Blue Pumpkin has recently been acquired by quality monitoring specialist Witness Systems, and the oft-decorated provider of scheduling and skills analysis will have a challenge ahead of it this year as it works to maintain customer confidence during the growing pains of assimilation. "How research and development will survive going forward, and how much synergy they'll get from the Witness solutions are question marks," McGee-Smith says. Ventana's Smith says the buyout gives Witness greater depth and Blue Pumpkin customers more certainty. "For customers, clearly, Witness brings call center infrastructure that makes a lot of sense."
Blue Pumpkin remains the overall category leader for depth of functionality, long the strength of its bragging rights in workforce management. The Blue Pumpkin/Witness pairing will be challenged to prove that it can provide true value to customers, rather than simply a functionality connector 18 months down the road.
IEX earns our top recognition in workforce management and optimization this year, on the strength of a resurgent revenue stream and the critical acclaim of our panel of analysts, who lauded the company for its dedication to customers. The company has built a reputation for maintaining its loyal core customer base, and is often praised for its focus. "IEX says, 'We are a workforce management vendor, and that's what we do best,'" Gartner's Davies says. Already the property of a larger, publicly traded company (Tekelec), IEX has built from within and partnered for capabilities it does not already have, such as strong performance management. "Being under the financial umbrella of the larger company, there is no real pressure," Davies says.
Recent improvements to the company's TotalView product suite have focused on both scheduling flexibility and ease-of-use matters, such as streamlined sign-on and thin client operation. Tekelec recently acquired Steleus, a performance management specialist for the telecommunications industry, but the move seems unlikely to disrupt IEX's operations. "They're building out in a pragmatic fashion, and have a good set of capabilities," Smith says. --Jason Compton
Workforce Management and Optimization One to Watch
With call center management and optimization solution providers converging over the past year, we suspect the next 12 months will be characterized by newer, envelope-pushing solutions. Performance management is a specialized discipline of workforce optimization, concerned with the measurement and attainment of both company-wide and agent-specific goals. Our analysts feel Merced is the most strongly positioned specialist in this space, and the company is already looking to distance itself from the pack by taking on a joint marketing relationship with category leader IEX. We see Merced and the performance management subcategory driving much of the workforce management thought leadership for 2005. --J.C.
Call center outsourcing providers are like field goal kickers on a football team: They don't receive much attention unless something goes wrong.
Stability is the name of the game, and the market leaders emphasize their capacity to help companies take better care of their customers.
To select the top providers of call center outsourcing services, results were weighted by company direction, including anything done over the past 12 months to improve the customer experience--acquisitions, facility upgrades, and new services. We also gauged them by reputation for customer satisfaction, depth of services, and market share.
The competition in call center outsourcing is tough, and the leaders added an array of services and capabilities to meet customer demand and keep one step ahead. "The top-ten vendors all provide a broad array of services from advanced self-service to business process outsourcing and rightshoring," says Katrina Howell, strategic analyst and program manager at Frost & Sullivan.
Many of these companies' efforts were driven by cost-cutting initiatives by the firms and their customers, which is largely why they have been seeking new low-cost regions to offshore their operations. This may spark some more merger and acquisitions in the call center outsourcing space as these companies seek to buy technology and facilities rather than build them. Additionally, outsourcing companies have been aiming to play more of a business intelligence role, as customers are increasingly using technology like Web self-service to lower costs.
Analysts gave EDS mixed reviews when it came to company direction and customer service, and it also received higher-than-average scores for its reputation for depth of services. One of the reasons for the mixed reviews is partly due to preferential treatment. According to META Group's Ussher, EDS reserves its best call center outsourcing services to companies that are EDS customers through and through.
While analysts praised TeleTech for its company direction, the company received a lackluster rating in reputation for customer satisfaction (3.4), according to the analysts polled. TeleTech signed a five-year agreement with Avaya to provide hosted contact center infrastructure and applications, as well as professional services to midsize and large enterprises worldwide. The companies said their joint offering, called Intelligent Systems on Demand, provides a suite of contact center solutions for businesses that contract out their customer service operations. This flexibility should win TeleTech new business and perhaps raise satisfaction levels, particularly from those interested in paying as they go.
Convergys is this year's call center outsourcing market winner. Most analysts surveyed agreed that Convergys was the best-rounded company among the top outsourcing providers. Convergys has shored up its BI potential in 2004 with smart acquisitions, such as the company's recent acquisitions of Encore, DigitalThink, and Finali, which accounted for approximately one third of its 2004 revenue growth.
"We are looking at a lot of business intelligence solutions," says Bobby D'Arcy, a marketing communications rep for Convergys. "The acquisition of Encore improves our collections management and credit management, and we are always looking to add to our offshore piece."
Convergys views Australia as a natural growth opportunity for outsourcing, as most of its residents speak English and are waking up just as their North American counterparts are tucking themselves into bed for the evening. --David Jastrow
Outsourcing Services One to Watch
ClientLogic abides by a simple philosophy: Think like a customer. Doing so helps the company deliver on the things that matter to customers like around-the-clock customer service and support, order and payment processing and fulfillment, and customer acquisition and other marketing programs.
ClientLogic fared well in customer satisfaction, earning a 3.8 and besting TeleTech, according to analysts surveyed. Some of its big-name clients benefiting from its customer service capabilities include Microsoft, Sony Electronics, DirecTV, and TiVo. This outsourcing company added 20 new clients and more than $150 million in new contracts, renewals, and extensions last year. Expanding its rightshore service options (providing clients with outsourcing services in the most appropriate of its 55 facilities in 14 countries) is a key component of the firm's growth strategy. "ClientLogic has met with success in a challenging market because of the soundness of its business and client strategies," says Ryan Powell, analyst at Datamonitor. --D.J.
Agent-facing Universal Desktop
When frustrated customers call customer service and support departments, they want answers immediately. One hiccup from the agent, the process, or the technology and an angry customer will only get angrier. To prevent this, however, a lot needs to happen instantly in the background--the right information needs to be retrieved in a timely manner, and then relayed to the customer in the most appropriate way. One solution helping agents keep some semblance of sanity while all of this is happening is the agent-facing universal desktop application.
It's the application that culls customer, product, and scripting information into one source so agents can ask customers the right questions or make the best offers. As improved technology in SFA, marketing, and analytics is enabling professionals to share valuable data across the enterprise, it may come as no surprise that the focus this year for universal desktop application vendors and their customers is on data integration and analytics. "It's absolutely critical--and becoming more so--for call centers to know what's [happening] on the sales side and vice versa. We're seeing more cross- and upselling in the call center, so it's not just a pure service application anymore," says Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research Group.
For years analysts have lauded SAP AG for its focus on both the application and integration layers, which makes the tie-in between front- and back-office applications that much easier. "Integration and cross-enterprise processes are becoming the key to success in CRM. With the front-office/back-office story, Oracle and SAP have the best vision, especially SAP, because it is creating an ecosystem of vendors around NetWeaver," says Forrester Research's John Ragsdale. That's why he adds, "SAP isn't software, it is a religion."
Almost two years after the June 2003 release of mySAP CRM 4.0, SAP plans to provide a sneak peek of version 5.0 at its annual SAPPHIRE event in May. One of the upgrades, according to SAP executives, will be in email response management, which will enable companies to push out autoresponse and autosuggest emails to customers, as well as to automatically take in email requests.
After Oracle finalized its hostile takeover of PeopleSoft in January, some might ask why the two companies are considered separately in our Service Awards issue, rather than combining them into one entity. Our decision to evaluate them separately this year is based on Oracle's plans to operate PeopleSoft as a wholly owned subsidiary and its intention to release PeopleSoft Enterprise 8.9 this year, followed by Enterprise 9 and EnterpriseOne 8.12 next year.
PeopleSoft received the highest marks in customer satisfaction (with an average rating of 3.8) and the second highest marks in depth of functionality, according to analysts polled. Still, hurting the company is its direction, or lack thereof--that's why analysts saddled PeopleSoft with the lowest score in company direction. "We have to believe what Oracle is saying about being committed to PeopleSoft CRM, but having been in this industry for 10-plus years, Oracle can't have both Oracle CRM and PeopleSoft CRM," Ragsdale says.
The residual dissatisfaction from the many failed CRM implementations of yesteryear is still hurting Siebel Systems when it comes to customer satisfaction. And analysts' scores reflected as much, penalizing the company with an average score of 3.4 for customer satisfaction, the lowest on the leaderboard. "Customer satisfaction is always a struggle for Siebel, partly undeserved in my opinion, but it is what it is," Ragsdale says.
Keeping Siebel atop the leaderboard this year, however, were its scores in company direction (4.4) and a near-perfect score (4.9) in depth of functionality, according to analysts polled.
Several factors helped Siebel's scores in company direction: For starters, Siebel strengthened its commitment to serve the small-and-medium business market by releasing version 6.0 of its Siebel CRM OnDemand product line in January. Additionally, the acquisition of edocs, an e-billing and self-service software provider, in the same month will undoubtedly complement its application. Also, the company released Siebel 7.7 in June of last year. Siebel's focus on usability, ease of installation, and faster performance with this version resulted in nearly 800 companies either selecting or upgrading to version 7.7 within six months after its release. --David Myron
Agent-facing Universal Desktop One to Watch
In a surprising turn of events, In a surprising turn of events, Oracle fell off the leaderboard to become this year's One to Watch. Hurting Oracle the most is its low average score of 2.5 in customer satisfaction, the lowest of the leaders. It also scored the lowest in depth of functionality, with a 3.0 from analysts surveyed. Not surprisingly, due to many unanswered questions surrounding the PeopleSoft acquisition, Oracle didn't do much better than PeopleSoft in company direction (Oracle received a 3.3, compared to PeopleSoft's 2.6). "It'll be interesting to see what Oracle does on the acquisition front over the next twelve months. [Oracle CEO Larry] Ellison made comments that he's still in an inquisitive mode. It's an interesting question to figure out where he might go next," says Denis Pombriant of Beagle Research Group. --D.M.