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The 2017 CRM Service Leaders: Contact Center Infrastructure
For the rest of the April 2017 issue of CRM magazine please click here

THE MARKET

While the market for contact center infrastructure has seen its share of turmoil in the past few years, it remains a vibrant sector. In fact, research firm Technavio points out that global category spending in 2016 was $306.3 billion. The firm expects it to grow at a compound annual rate of 9.4 percent over the next five years, reaching $479.9 billion by 2021.

Perhaps the greatest market influencer has been the cloud, with vendors that have traditionally offered on-premises systems struggling to introduce cloud and hybrid options to keep pace in an increasingly competitive market. DMG Consulting reported that the number of cloud-based seats grew by 20.9 percent in the past year and expects numbers to increase by 23 to 24 percent every year for the next five years. Also disrupting the market is the growing emphasis on omnichannel customer engagements, with modern systems needing to support multiple media formats, including web chats, social media, email, and text messaging.

Bundling of services, including the addition of maintenance, call recording, workforce optimization, and analytics, is also a continuing trend, according to Technavio. The firm warns, however, that buyers should assess vendors’ abilities to provide cross-functional services before making any commitments.

THE LEADERS

Five9 is a newcomer to the leaderboard in the highly fragmented contact center infrastructure industry, benefiting greatly from the uncertainty swirling around its closest competitors, inContact and Interactive Intelligence, both of which were acquired in 2016. Five9 has emerged, though, as a strong competitor on its own, with analysts giving it the top scores in company direction (4.3) and cost (4.1). Beyond that, it “established excellent relationships with [workforce optimization] providers and effectively addresses the unique needs of the cloud contact center,” Paul Stockford, president and principal analyst at Saddletree Research, says.

Following its acquisition of Interactive Intelligence in August, it’s no surprise that Genesys cemented a position on the leaderboard again this year. The company has always been strong in the high end of the market, but Interactive Intelligence now puts it in a position to dominate the mid-market as well. Even before the acquisition, which brings a wealth of cloud capabilities to Genesys, the company’s greatest asset has always been its depth of functionality, and this year was no exception. The company scored a 4.3 in that area, and an industry-leading 3.9 in customer satisfaction.

While its acquisition by NICE in May fueled a lot of questions about its future, inContact has emerged stronger than ever, having completed three major upgrades to its Customer Interaction Cloud. The company pulled down scores of 4.0 in company direction and cost, 3.9 in depth of functionality, and 3.8 in customer satisfaction, all of which were near the head of the pack. Its challenge, now, is to not lose that momentum as it works with NICE to build toward a fully public cloud offering with a combined solution set, according to Sheila McGee-Smith, founder and president of McGee-Smith Analytics.

West has shifted its focus squarely on its contact center technology business since divesting itself of its outsourcing business, which it sold to Alorica in January 2015. Now, two years after that deal, the move is paying off. The company has seen its depth of functionality scores rise steadily in the past two years, and this year that number sits firmly at 3.8. It is likely to climb even higher if the company continues to advance its Cloud Contact Center, as it did this year with the addition of multichannel capabilities, network-based queuing, and inbound and outbound call blending, as well as preview, predictive, and progressive dialing modes that provide artificial intelligence to manage dialer pacing in real time.

THE WINNER

Cisco Systems has won the category year after year, and 2017 is no different. The company’s customer satisfaction score of 3.8 was on a par with many of the other industry leaders, but its rivals couldn’t compare on depth of functionality. Its score of 4.5 in that area was a full quarter of a point ahead of its nearest competitor. Stockford calls Cisco “the clear leader in the infrastructure market,” noting that it combines strong leadership, products with a solid reputation, and a history of innovation that keeps it on the leading edge. 

ONE TO WATCH

It’s been a year of huge change for Serenova, which started 2016 as LiveOps Cloud. But in October, the contact center–as–a–service (CCaaS) provider completed a nearly yearlong separation from its former parent company. The company also launched CxEngage in March 2016, built from the ground up as an API-first solution leveraging Amazon Web Services. With this technology, agents can engage with customers via any channel and pivot to another channel while maintaining all of the context.



[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.]

 

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