Little more than a buzzword a year ago, social media is now changing how customers help themselves. Allen Bonde, managing director of Evoke CRM Partners, says Web self-service (WSS) is turning into “user-centric service,” which relies on peer-to-peer assistance as much as on customers accessing resources directly. Where does Web interaction management end and WSS start? (At least one analyst suggests it’s time they unite) Depth of functionality here now requires a social component, says John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA). “I’d give a 5 to [companies] that had both search and a forum,” he says.
Consona is a Leader for the second year in a row, boasting a 4.1 in depth of functionality. Its reputation for customer satisfaction (3.3), however, was the lowest among the leaders, which analysts attribute to the company’s lack of a unified message. “It’s never been clear,” says Ian Jacobs, a senior analyst at Ovum. The industry is unsure if Consona should be seen as a provider of CRM, enterprise resource planning, or knowledge management. It’s one thing trying to be a one-stop shop and messaging as such, but Jacobs considers this more of a scattered approach. “The fact that I can still go to www.supportsoft.com [a support automation software company acquired by Consona last June] is a problem,” Jacobs says. While Bonde says the technology is strong, he calls the amount of consulting resources required a “brain drain.” “It’s a state-of-the-art product,” Bonde says, “but, like a sports car, you’ll need a good mechanic.”
Missing the leaderboard by just a few tenths of a point last year, InQuira makes a splash with the highest score in depth of functionality (4.2). The company, Jacobs says, understands how enterprises want to digest its products and delivers packages that correspond to those needs. “They’re a very smart company,” he adds. Improving nearly half a point in company direction to 4.1, the company has done well understanding the social aspect of knowledge management, Jacobs says, and is at the leading edge of enabling social networks to become a source for the knowledge base. This is made all the more possible by InQuira’s granular and intelligent search solution, he says. Ragsdale says he’s concerned by the fact that the company doesn’t offer incident tracking, noting that purchases of InQuira typically require the additional purchase of a CRM tool.
After disappearing for a year, nGenera climbs its way back with a slight improvement (3.5) in company direction over last year (3.4), when it was still absorbing its acquisition of Talisma. “Now that [Talisma] is owned by this Web 2.0 think tank,” Ragsdale says, “they seem to be making very smart decisions about where to invest this year.” In 2008, the company incorporated best-of-breed search capabilities from Autonomy, which helped beef up nGenera’s weaker depth-of-functionality score this year (3.3). Bonde says he’s spoken to customers and they’re largely a happy group, but he notes some mixed feelings (the company earned a 3.4 in customer satisfaction) following the transition from the Talisma product and brand onto the nGenera platform.
RightNow Technologies holds onto its top position this year as the only vendor to earn an overall score above 4.0. Though its depth of functionality score of 4.1 doesn’t set it far apart from competitors (especially InQuira and Consona), RightNow differentiates itself from the rest with the highest score in customer satisfaction (4.1). More important, the company’s new “customer experience” mantra has earned it an eager 4.6 for company direction. Last September, the company spent $6 million to acquire HiveLive, a provider of social networking tools, a move that feeds further into analyst and consumer expectations for expanded social capabilities (and, of course, earns RightNow a 5 from Ragsdale).
ONE TO WATCH
Parature has done well for itself this year, moving up from a 2009 Rising Star (see CRM’s April 2009 issue) to the One to Watch in this category, snagging a 3.1 in depth of functionality and 3.2 for company direction. The company has typically been strong in niche markets (most notably, gaming and interactive media), which speaks to having the second-highest score in customer satisfaction (3.6). Still, analysts says Parature’s early recognition of social media in customer service—“online games are inherently social,” Ovum’s Jacobs points out—has given it an advantage at tackling this new trend. “They understood that they needed some way to tap into those social interactions and expand out to other markets,” he says. “They’ll take what they know and apply it.”