As customers increasingly expect personalized, high-quality, and consistent interactions, and with channels such as social media, community pages, forums, chat services, and connected devices becoming more prominent, companies must be equipped to handle multichannel interactions. Investments in customer case management technologies will ultimately reduce costs, boost agent productivity, drive customer satisfaction, and reveal opportunities for further growth.
Yet John Ragsdale, vice president of technology and social research for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), notes a lack of differentiation among this year's leading vendors: "Functionality is [now] pretty much on par across solutions, and they all tend to look alike." Success, he notes, is coming to depend more on customer processes than the technology itself.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM steps down from the top spot this year, but high scores indicate that its direction remains strong and its customers satisfied. (The 4.1 for company direction comes despite the resignation of the company’s top CRM executive, Bob Stutz, late last year.) Jacobs notes the company’s strong focus on usability and its "reputation for a better cost structure than much of the competition." Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder at ThinkJar, says that the company's support product is still incomplete but "lots of work is being done" to change that. Ragsdale adds that "embedded search, knowledge, and social capabilities are putting Microsoft on the short list for more major enterprise deals."
Microsoft Parature remains a leader this year, largely thanks to Microsoft's dedication to preserving the brand’s identity. Despite acquiring the smaller company early in 2014, "Microsoft has maintained the core Parature development and marketing [teams]," Ragsdale says. Other analysts are skeptical. Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, for instance, comments on the "mixed messaging" Microsoft has sent on Parature's future.
Still, Microsoft has enabled Parature to expand its reach; last year Parature had its largest release yet when it updated its customer care solution. No surprise, then, that it earned a high mark for direction (3.8). "Customers have not had any disruption in releases or support levels" and "their community-oriented support platform continues to impress," Ragsdale says.
Oracle regains its spot on the board after being bumped to One to Watch last year. It posted a healthy score in depth of functionality (3.9), and its Service Cloud offering, Jacobs notes, does well for "B2C organizations that offer robust Web self-service and omnichannel customer services, as well as with companies that emphasize the value of customer experiences." The vendor posted its lowest score in customer satisfaction (3.2), but Jacobs says that clients benefit from a maturity model that enables them to "plan out investments in a sensible and purposeful way." Ragsdale lauds its industry-specific versions that cater to the needs of different verticals, with prepackaged fields and capabilities that can cut implementation time and cost.
Zendesk makes its debut on the leaderboard, helped by its transition upmarket. The company scored weakest in depth of functionality (3.0), but analysts agree that recent moves will help. "Although Zendesk still has a way to go in core case management, it has pioneered the very promising idea of embeddable technology, including integration into Facebook Messenger," notes Ian Jacobs, senior analyst at Forrester Research.
The company has also been "introducing more sophistication, while keeping [its] user interface highly intuitive," Ragsdale adds. High scores for cost (4.3) indicate that affordability continues to set this company apart.
Salesforce.com reclaims the CCM title this year after a two-year hiatus, amply demonstrating that it's heading in the right direction—it scored a 4.5 in that area. "Salesforce.com has the most comprehensive vision and is able to paint the art of the possible," Leggett notes. Salesforce.com "is one of the few players that provides strong support for both B2B and B2C business models" and offers a "full omnichannel lineup especially strong in…social customer service and chat tools," Jacobs adds. Customer satisfaction has been boosted as a result of newly added capabilities, Ragsdale points out: "Salesforce continues to push into hot new areas, one example being [the Internet of Things], which is emerging as a critical element of case management."
ONE TO WATCH
Kana (a Verint Systems company) fell off the leaderboard this year, and according to Kolsky, it hasn't benefited from Verint acquiring it in 2014. "The Kana product has had some negative reference from very large customers," Leggett says. And Jacobs says that while "Verint delivers comprehensive case and channel management capabilities that guide agents through process flows," there "have been some grumblings from customers about complexity and stability."
[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.]