Contact centers rely on search to resolve service calls in a timely manner, which can, in turn, translate to customer satisfaction, retention, and added revenue. While the cost of maintenance for the tools that allow companies to find the information and data they need remains a problem, operating without such tools can prove to be even more costly.
Across the board, this year’s leaders performed well in depth of functionality. And, while the market remains populated by familiar industry names, experts pointed to NICE, Freshdesk, and Microsoft as noteworthy up-and-comers in the space. One analyst even called Microsoft’s products innovative, lauding the vendor for taking a platform approach and offering on-premises solutions to its customers. The same analyst called Freshdesk’s product “great, competitive, and dynamic” but in need of more market presence. It’s possible these vendors will make future appearances on the leaderboard.
Coveo earned the category’s best score for depth of functionality (3.9). The company has a “very strong product” that is “suitable for customer service scenarios,” says Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. She lauds the vendor for its excellent search, analytics, and machine learning capabilities, which make search more intelligent over time. However, she also says that Coveo has struggled with messaging and market positioning. Still, her outlook on the vendor is hopeful: “Its renewed focus on internal and external customer service and its new crisp messaging should help them out.”
eGain makes it back on the leaderboard this year, having spent last year in the category’s One to Watch spot. Of particular note this year is the company’s try-before-you-buy program, according to Leggett. That innovative approach was reflected in its 3.9 score for cost, far outpacing all competitors. While its customer base remains small, it is a loyal one, she says. Other analysts, though, weren’t as high on the company, saying it is not competitive and lacks innovation.
Oracle posted its highest score in depth of functionality (3.8), just behind Coveo’s. Leggett points out that the company offers two types of search within its Service Cloud as well as a stand-alone product (Inquira). “Service Cloud comes with keyword search, lacking advanced search and knowledge retrieval capabilities,” she notes. “Customers who find these capabilities limiting can opt to purchase Oracle Service Cloud and Advanced Knowledge. Oracle Knowledge [Inquira] is a stand-alone product, available on premises and in the cloud.” Another analyst, who asked to remain anonymous, said that while Oracle’s products are old and reliable, the company is “missing the future of the market.” The vendor did post its lowest score in company direction (3.2).
Verint Systems (Kana) has a good vision for the future, is competitive, and offers a complete product, according to analysts this year. Indeed, the company also scored highest in depth of functionality (3.7). It has built out its portfolio with acquisitions, including the Kana deal for $514 million in 2014, and product enhancements. Despite earning its lowest score for company direction (2.8), Verint offers promise with its February 2016 acquisition of Contact Solutions, which brought in new self-service capabilities that should allow Verint to enhance its contact center search offerings.
Salesforce.com’s knowledge and search capabilities are being “bolstered by strong system integrator relationships, a large developer network,” and a large marketplace via its AppExchange store, according to Leggett. One problem, however, is that Salesforce remains one of the most expensive solutions on the marketplace, and “many customers complain about unexpected or ‘hidden’ costs,” Leggett says. But enhancements in the Salesforce Service Console, as well as investments in Einstein, “are making Salesforce’s product evolution very interesting to watch,” says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research. “We’re seeing significant ROI from customers.” —Oren Smilansky
ONE TO WATCH
IBM Watson slips off the leaderboard and lands in this year’s one-to-watch slot. While Leggett says it “has the most exhaustive search capabilities in the marketplace,” she adds that “it is very much a tool set that needs developer overhead to implement and configure.” Wettemann, though, says IBM “has made investments to make Watson much more accessible and useful to search users.” The key in the future, she adds, will be “truly productizing Watson for search to accelerate time to value.”
[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.]