• February 1, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

SIO Emerges as a New Contact Center Segment

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Frost & Sullivan has identified a new but fast-growing contact center software category: support interaction optimization (SIO), which it defines as a suite of products that combines customer Web self-service, remote support, guided resolution, analytics, and performance management applications.

The analyst firm valued the SIO market at $1.3 billion globally in 2014 and expects it to double to $2.6 billion by 2020.

"It's a market that is ripe right now," says Ashwin Iyer, senior director of Frost & Sullivan's unified communications, collaboration, and customer contact practice. "More consumer technology is coming to the market faster than ever before, and the explosive growth in the market is creating the need for more success with technical support."

SIO, the firm maintains, allows companies to manage and solve customers' technical support issues in less time, with consistent service and improved agent performance through step-by-step guidance and automated technologies integrated with knowledge bases and interaction analytics. SIO solutions also ensure agent compliance with policies and procedures, identify process bottlenecks that can cause average handle time (AHT) spikes, and detect product errors and malfunctions. As a result, SIO can reduce AHT by as much as 50 percent, according to the research.

Still, despite its potential, the market is very fragmented, according to Iyer. "At this point, the market has not grown to the point where one solution is available from one vendor," he says. "There's not one vendor that offers a complete solution set. Now [SIO] involves best-of-breed products from multiple vendors."

Perhaps furthest along is Support.com, which recently updated its Nexus Service Delivery Platform with more guided resolution capabilities and several other features. Among the additions are tighter interaction analytics and reporting; data capture for specific products and devices, such as operating systems, installed applications, battery life, memory configurations, and more, to help agents diagnose problems; and agent performance analysis dashboards. A remote connection feature enables automated support for mobile phones and tablets on multiple platforms, and remote configuration enables agents to set up Wi-Fi networks and email accounts, review and uninstall apps, push URLs, and more, all from their work stations.

Support.com's president and CEO, Elizabeth Cholawsky, says Nexus represents her company's attempt to expand more into Web self-service.

Beyond that, Cholawsky sees huge opportunities to do more with virtual agents, guided resolution, and support knowledge bases.

"There's a lot more that can be done with live interactions in real time," she says.

SIO, as she envisions it, "will close the gap between customers' desire to use self-service and the quality of self-service available today."

But, while Support.com is at the front of the SIO curve, Cholawsky says that will not last forever, anticipating that it will take about a year for the industry to "adopt [SIO] and for more vendors to have solutions in this area," she says.

Iyer agrees, noting that "we're in the early days of a more holistic approach that connects the dots," he says. "There's a huge opportunity for companies to look at one integrated solution down the line."

Among the vendors with strong capabilities in some areas of the SIO space are NICE Systems, Verint Systems, Cisco Systems, Citrix, eGain, LogMeIn, Microsoft, and Oracle, according to Iyer.

Currently, the self-service component represents $650 million, the largest portion of the $1.3 billion total, with remote support at $300 million and interaction analytics at $200 million. Guided resolution, the smallest component, is expected to be the fastest growing, with 20.2 percent growth, according to Frost & Sullivan's research.

North America represents roughly two-thirds of the total market, largely because of all of the consumer technology being sold around home automation, healthcare, connected cars, and the Internet of Things, Iyer says.

Another huge area for SIO solutions is retail, particularly in mobile and Web commerce, which Iyer says is being infused with many more technologies that will require technical support.

"Technical support in general is an interesting market right now," he states. "There is so much happening."

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