To effectively resolve customer service calls, it is as vital as ever that contact center agents are equipped with tools that allow them to conveniently find the right information at the right time. Fortunately, the leaders in this year's category are helping agents do exactly that. Though the cost of maintenance remains a problem for these top vendors, analysts suggest that the price of not having the appropriate tools on hand is far greater.
Coveo is back on the leaderboard again, after spending a year as One to Watch. No surprise, given its emphasis: Mitch Kramer, senior vice president and analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, considers the company to be a specialty "search engine company, focused on search technology."
The company posted its highest score—and higher than any other vendor in this category—in customer satisfaction (4.2). John Ragsdale, vice president of technology and social research for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), praises the company's "impressive customer results" and ranks it as the "top unified search platform," noting that its machine learning features will "introduce a new paradigm for proactive support." While the company didn't score as high as others in functionality, Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research, lauded Coveo's performance in that regard.
Perhaps a controversial pick, as the company still hasn't declared itself a contact center search provider, IBM Watson made it on the list for the second straight year. IBM posted exceptional scores for depth of functionality and direction. According to Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research, the company has great potential in this space. The challenge, she notes, is "to productize the technology." Leggett points out that at this point the company is involved in a "very limited number of implementations." Fortunately, Wettemann predicts more partnerships in the company's future.
Kana (a Verint Systems company) stayed on the leaderboard after making its debut in the category last year. The company earned its highest score for functionality (3.8); Kramer commends its support for various types of search and navigation, and its "contextual capabilities are very nice, especially implied search from case creation." However, analysts are not without criticisms for the vendor. While Kramer says that "Kana has always had very satisfied and very loyal customers," Leggett notes that some of them have "recently expressed dissatisfaction with the product."
Oracle Knowledge and Inquira share a spot on the leaderboard this year, as Oracle has incorporated much of the technology it acquired from the smaller vendor in 2011. Offering strong on-premises and cloud-based products, Oracle provides what Leggett calls a "high-powered solution for complex contact center search." This is reflected in its scores—the company posted a 4.5 in depth of functionality. But while there is a lot to work with, customers are often aggravated by the elaborate nature of the tools, Kramer notes, and the dedication required to get the most out of them. "Customers love the power and hate the complexity of Oracle Knowledge," Kramer says of the cloud-based solution. Nonetheless, "Oracle Knowledge is getting a lot of visibility and showing up on more short lists," Ragsdale adds.
Salesforce.com reclaims the top spot after losing it last year, scoring an impressive mark in direction (4.6). The high cost still "annoys customers," but "they deal" with it, Kramer says. While the product is robust, customers must license an assortment of add-on pieces from the app store to get the depth of functionality they require. Fortunately, the company is continually improving the Service Cloud in significant ways, Kramer says. "Search in Service Cloud can help agents find any Salesforce information," Kramer adds, and while the company doesn't provide the most powerful search engine, it addresses contact center search requirements. "Automatic, contextual search within case creation facilities suggests knowledge items that may address the reason for creating a case and avoiding it," Kramer says.
ONE TO WATCH
eGain returns as a One to Watch, after falling off the board altogether last year. The company scored highest in functionality (3.5). "I applaud eGain for creating their own intelligent search platform instead of OEMing a partner solution," Ragsdale says. The company, he adds, provides a "one-stop shop" for a full-fledged knowledge management, customer service, omnichannel platform. Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder at ThinkJar, is more critical, however, noting that the product is dated and needs revamping. Indeed, the company earned a low mark for direction (2.8). "They're introducing a new version in March," Kolsky says. "We will see."
[Editor's note: The overall award rating is based on a composite score of analyst ratings for customer satisfaction, depth of functionality, company direction, and cost. For the cost score, analysts gave the highest marks to vendors with the lowest expected costs. Company revenues were also factored into the overall score, but these numbers are not included in the chart above.]