Contact Centers Aren't Yet Ready for Web 2.0
The market for CRM customer service contact centers continues to mature, but is "not yet at a revolutionary point," according to Michael Maoz, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst. This year's Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Service Contact Centers has virtually all of the same players as last year's report -- in all the same places -- with only tiny exceptions.
Despite the static nature of the vendor field, Maoz says that there are still some facets of the market that continue to surprise: A great deal of value for the contact center, he notes, is coming from vendors not included in the Gartner report, such as eGlue or InQuira, and these vendors still serve an essential purpose. "What we're trying to get to on an agent desktop is more knowledge of who the customer is, what [her] most likely intent is, and launching traction," he explains. "Most of that insight is coming from secondary vendors [that supplement] the Magic Quadrant."
This year's report did reflect a few subtle changes: Amdocs, for example, which landed on the niche player/challenger border last year, is this year's only vendor listed in the Challengers Quadrant. Maoz says Amdocs' shift to become a provider of business applications -- and focusing product sets more on the customer experience -- prompted the promotion. "The understanding that customers would like you to support an end-to-end process is very big," he explains. "This holistic view of the customer is something that Amdocs -- if it hasn't fully delivered the products or intentional customer experience -- [it] at least [has] rallied [its] R&D dollars and marketing dollars to build products that work that way and make [its] customers -- large service providers in telecommunications -- aware that this is something important."
While Amdocs has advanced, don't expect anyone to move into the Leaders Quadrant with Oracle's Siebel Systems anytime soon. Maoz says it will take at least four years for any companies to try and match Oracle's breadth across multiple geographies and multiple business types. Other than Amdocs, Maoz says that the only two vendors even capable of possibly challenging Oracle are Salesforce.com and Microsoft, the two occupants of this year's Visionaries Quadrant.
"They at least also have their eye on many industries," Maoz asserts. "But the wherewithal to pull together product sets to do that -- which Siebel did over the course of eight years through acquisitions and development -- [is] something that's going to take quite a long time."
As in last year's Magic Quadrant, the majority of included vendors fall into the Niche Players Quadrant which, according to the report, "offer solid products for [customer service and support] functionality components or vertical subsegments." The report also identifies Niche Players as possibly offering complete portfolios but "demonstrating weaknesses in one or more important areas."
Maoz says that the reason 12 of the 15 vendors in the Magic Quadrant report are qualified as Niche Players is due to the fact that those companies are narrowly emphasizing particular verticals. "Niche vendors supply valuable service in that they focus on specific areas of the market which are hard to serve on a mass basis," he says. This year's Niche Players are:
- RightNow Technologies;
- Graham Technology [which has since renamed itself after its main product, ciboodle];
- Oracle (E-Business Suite);
- Chordiant Software;
- Portrait Software;
- Oracle (PeopleSoft);
- Jacada; and
- Astute Solutions.
The only change in this year's Niche Players Quadrant is the removal of Lagan, due to what the report calls a limiting focus on local and regional government case management.
Another futuristic expectation in the contact center market is the more pervasive adoption of software-as-a-service (SaaS). The report states that, by 2011, SaaS will evolve from "an interesting alternative delivery model into a critical selection factor at all levels of the customer service contact center." Nevertheless, the report asserts that it will take a marquee deployment to persuade large companies to take on SaaS because of the risk-averse nature of contact centers. Maoz doesn't expect a SaaS deployment of that nature in the contact center to take shape until "at least the backside of 2009."
Another advance that Maoz says he expects over the next two to three years is tighter integration of multimodal communication -- bringing together chat, email, phone, kiosk -- to analytical systems and the standard customer service and support system. "That's when the real excitement is going to happen for the contact center," he says, noting that once this integration occurs, customers will be able to connect each company on their own terms.
"Right now, we're forcing the customer into the process of our choice, as opposed to letting them have the process launch from the channel at the time of their choice," Moaz says. Vendors, he adds, are "still trying to shore up older legacy environments, [to] bring them up into the [services-oriented architecture] standards, and embed intelligence communications. It's going to be quite some time until they're Web 2.0-ready."
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