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The 2010 CRM Service Awards: Service Leaders -- Contact Center Search
For the rest of the March 2010 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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THE MARKET

As the link between contact center agents and critical consumer information, contact center search (CCS) never goes out of style. However, says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research, “the ‘Google-ization’ of the world has made quality and effectiveness of search not just demanded but expected.” Worse, CCS has only grown more complex as information channels multiply. In short, CCS vendors are now expected to deliver higher-quality performance, leading some analysts to predict that CCS providers may step away from their own search engines entirely, concentrating on the desktop and partnering with search experts such as Google and Microsoft to fill in the gaps.

THE LEADERS

Autonomy etalk traditionally has garnered praise as a pure-play search vendor. As its best-in-category rating for depth of functionality implies, however, the vendor has recently been expanding its offerings—so much so, in fact, that an October 2009 study from research firm IDC claims it “has diversified to become a search-based software vendor.” What’s more, says John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), a partnership with nGenera is giving Autonomy “play in new areas of support and new verticals.” New customers have been a boon to Autonomy’s revenue stream, but Alan Hubbard, communications industry guru at Jazd, says that, on the search side, the company is “really feeling the pinch from Google.”

On this leaderboard for the first time, Coveo Soutions won attention in the CCS space after magnifying its focus on enterprise search to encompass the customer service market. Ragsdale credits the company’s “large library of Coveo Connectors to centrally index and provide unified search into virtually any enterprise system or knowledge base.” In October 2009, Coveo released its Customer Service Knowledge Console, leveraging its Enterprise Search 6.0 Platform for contact center customers. Coveo’s contact center–targeted product also includes a social media search component, a trend analysts expect to become significantly more common. 

Despite its relatively small size, analysts say InQuira is one of the best-performing search platforms available for contact centers. Partners—such as Oracle and Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories—have helped the vendor stretch across a wide range of verticals, and now the company is “in a lot of big accounts,” says Ray Wang, a partner at Altimeter Group. “[It’s] been doing a good job with partnerships and focusing on [its] core technologies.”  The vendor has also created a strong Web 2.0 story, and has pushed advancements in multilingual search and analytics. One analyst, however, says InQuira may now be struggling due to its narrow focus, which may make the firm an acquisition target for larger vendors. 

THE WINNER

Despite being a new face in our CCS category, RightNow Technologies is certainly no stranger to the Service Awards (see Web Self-Service, page 28; Web Interaction Management, page 29; and Enterprise Feedback Management, page 32). “RightNow continues to deliver consistent value to customers,” Wettemann says, “and continues to focus not just on developing software but on thought leadership to help its customers get more value from their software investments.” This statement was reflected in the company’s excellent customer satisfaction rating of 4.5. The September 2009 acquisition of HiveLive has helped move RightNow further into the social networking space, but some analysts say that the vendor better start searching for ways to build out its search capabilities if it wants to hold on to the top spot. 

ONE TO WATCH

Despite some notable moves—such as acquiring SupportSoft last October—last year’s winner, Consona, has slipped off the leaderboard. “Consona has a unique vision of being the only end-to-end CRM vendor focused solely on the customer support market,” says TSIA’s Ragsdale. Despite this strong focus, Consona saw its rating for customer satisfaction eclipsed by every member of the leaderboard. “Customers at this point feel that Consona needs a lot more investment in terms of products across the board,” says Altimeter’s Wang. Analysts also suggest the firm intensify its focus on customer needs. 

As “Google” and “search” have become increasingly synonymous, it’s no surprise that the Silicon Valley behemoth is making moves in CCS. While not a traditional CCS vendor, we listed Google last year as an “unofficial One to Watch.” With the Google Search Appliance for customer service gaining traction and proving itself through positive case studies, there’s nothing unofficial about it anymore. Jazd’s Hubbard says that other vendors are “looking at Google to set the pace…. People are really looking over their shoulders.” 


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