The contact center infrastructure (CCI) market has seen considerable consolidation recently, but it's not from vendors engaging in the usual mergers and acquisitions. Rather, the new CCI consolidation is in how companies are deploying and using the technology.
For starters, many companies operating multiple contact centers are looking to centralize their infrastructures around single Internet-based communications and collaboration platforms, according to research firm Gartner. Others want to unite their customer-facing CCI systems with their current or planned unified communications architectures.
Then, companies are increasingly adopting broader contact center solutions as tightly integrated suites that offer significant functionality beyond basic call routing and prioritization. Vendors are expanding their solution portfolios to incorporate interactive voice response systems, outbound dialers, email response management, live and prerecorded video, desktop collaboration, Web chat, analytics, mobility, and workforce management and optimization, according to Gartner.
DMG Consulting credits the cloud deployment model with single-handedly leading to an "all-out rebirth" of the CCI industry. It predicts that the number of cloud-based seats will grow by 20 percent this year, by 18 percent in 2016 and 2017, and by 16 percent in 2018.
DMG concluded in its "2014 Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Market Report" that all of this activity "results in vendors racing to build differentiated solutions that deliver real value, giving buyers unprecedented choice and leverage in negotiating purchases."
In the past year, Aspect Software has aggressively increased its size and its solution portfolio through acquisitions and partnerships. "Aspect had a good year," observes Sheila McGee-Smith, principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics. "Many legacy customers recommitted to the brand, and the company expanded its cloud offerings dramatically."
That, undoubtedly, contributed to the company's score of 4.2 in depth of functionality. "Aspect continues to offer a proven, solid solution that has retained its industry demand over the years," adds Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree Research. He calls Aspect an "exceptionally well-managed company that provides customers [with] a sense of security."
Genesys broke away from Alcatel-Lucent in early 2013, and uncertainty about whether it could function on its own kept it from the leaderboard last year. Its strong move to the cloud, a number of significant acquisitions, and several key strategic partnerships have laid those fears to rest.
As usual, Genesys' strength lies in its depth of functionality, as evidenced by its score of 4.3 in that area. Also true to form, the company continues to struggle with cost perceptions. Its solutions are still seen as more costly to implement and maintain than those of its competitors. Genesys only scored a 3.4 in cost, far behind its competitors.
Genesys has also been hurt by several unsuccessful attempts to appeal to small and medium businesses. "While continuing to be successful at the top end of the market, midmarket players are yet to feel threatened by a broader market play by Genesys," McGee-Smith says.
Interactive Intelligence in 2014 continued to grow its installed base and to increase sales and brand recognition. It also was one of the first CCI providers to go all-in with the cloud. All of these factors no doubt contributed to its company direction score of 4.2 and score of 4.1 in customer satisfaction.
Its cloud leadership position hasn't come without a price, though. Interactive Intelligence "has hit some challenges, as is common among those who are the first to do anything," Stockford says. "They seem to be clearing the jungle for the rest of the industry...but their execution has suffered somewhat."
As in years past, analysts again credited Cisco Systems with having the most robust CCI offering by far, accounting for its industry-leading score of 4.4 in depth of functionality. It also pulled in scores of 4.1 in company direction and customer satisfaction. Cisco, Stockford says, "has rapidly ascended to the top of the heap and shows no signs of slowing down." Furthermore, the company "is demonstrating innovation and a market responsiveness that is not common among big companies," he adds.
One to Watch
InContact made some significant moves in 2014, including its acquisition of Uptivity, and was rewarded with scores of 4.0 in company direction and 3.9 in depth of functionality and customer satisfaction. It has "a very strong cloud contact center offering and is making strong progress in market share," says Ken Landoline, principal analyst at Current Analysis. Its cost score of 4.1 was at the top of the industry in that area.