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The 2010 CRM Service Awards: Service Leaders -- Interactive Voice Response
For the rest of the March 2010 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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THE MARKET

Last year, in a cost-conscious business climate, we noted interactive voice response (IVR) was returning to its call-deflection roots. The recession helped make that prediction a reality. Further innovations in speech recognition—and even large-scale traditional IVR deployments—have been placed on the backburner until capital budgets recuperate. Companies offering hosted IVR, however, saw a boost in business. “It was such a slow year,” admits Sheila McGee-Smith, president of McGee-Smith Analytics. “If anything, it was a good year for hosted in the voice portal space. It’s not surprising; it’s a function of the economic environment.”

THE LEADERS 

Another year, another leaderboard spot for Avaya—posting strong scores in company direction (3.6) and depth of functionality (4.3). McGee-Smith says the vendor is stronger this year, functionally speaking, than it had been previously. Avaya Aura architecture, for example, makes voice portal one of the initial applications that can be utilized across multiple sites due to its compatibility with session-initiated protocol. Avaya made a strong comeback this year in company direction, its score second only to Voxeo’s. McGee-Smith notes Avaya’s Intelligent Customer Routing product and notion of IVVR—including voice and video—show thought leadership. Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research, says Avaya “is getting better at telling [its users] how to augment or replace its current offering.” Streamlined messaging to current and prospective customers may raise Avaya’s low customer satisfaction score next year. 

After ducking off the leaderboard last year, Intervoice clawed its way back with a strong second-place customer satisfaction score (3.8). Last year, analysts were unsure how the company’s acquisition by Convergys in 2008 was going to shake out. “It was a tough year to have that kind of transition take place,” McGee-Smith says. “The company didn’t lose anybody, which was good…. Intervoice had a large [user] base.” Intervoice still struggled in company direction (3.2) and functionality (3.5), scoring last among leaders in each. One analyst says that Intervoice Voice Portal—now a part of Convergys Interaction Portal—has not yet become a stronger, next-generation solution as a result of the acquisition, adding that “it’s less than status quo after the past year.”

Voxeo, our One to Watch last year, makes a strong showing on 2010’s leaderboard, its scores in depth of functionality (4.4) and company direction (4.3) leading the pack. “Voxeo is the darling right now,” Miller says. What kept the company off the leaderboard last year was its lack of market penetration; that remains a work in progress, but the acquisition of VoiceObjects in December 2008 is paying off. “Voxeo extended functionality through investment and a rich developer environment with VoiceObjects, expanded its install base, and had major wins with a different category of customers, including telecom,” Miller says. The only weak point is in customer satisfaction, with a 3.4 that was second-to-last among the leaders. If the company proves its ability to scale for larger customers, analysts expect to see this score rise as well. If the company can bolster customer satisfaction, it may contend for the top spot next year. 

THE WINNER 

Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories now has “one for the thumb” in IVR, leading the pack for the fifth consecutive year. Scores of 4.3 for both depth of functionality and customer satisfaction helped keep the vendor on top. “Genesys is doing some of the most leading-edge stuff in terms of that dream of marrying IVR with the computer-telephony integration workflow,” Miller says. McGee-Smith notes, however, that there hasn’t been a hallmark IVR launch since the well-received Voice Portal release in June 2008. “The company continues to highlight [the offering] with marketing, seminars, and helping companies understand best practices,” she adds. “Genesys hasn’t lost anything, but hasn’t sprinted ahead this year.” Another point of concern is company direction, which dropped from 4.4 in 2009 to 3.6. “It’s hard to know exactly what Genesys is doing right now,” one analyst says. The company will likely have to do something if it hopes to stave off fast risers such as Voxeo and steady leaders such as Avaya. 

ONE TO WATCH

Despite making the IVR leaderboard last year (and this year’s expanded number of slots), Cisco Systems finds itself back as a still-respectable One to Watch. Pundits were unclear as to just how much emphasis has been placed on its IVR business, which led to lower scores in customer satisfaction (3.2) and functionality (3.6). “Voice Portal is one of its strong contact center offerings,” McGee-Smith Analytics’ McGee-Smith says. “That said, the contact center hasn’t had a lot of investment over the last few years.” 


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