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;
  • SAP;
  • Pegasystems;
  • Graham Technology [which has since renamed itself after its main product, ciboodle];
  • Oracle (E-Business Suite);
  • Chordiant Software;
  • Portrait Software;
  • Oracle (PeopleSoft);
  • Infor;
  • 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."

Related articles:

Siebel Continues to Fly Solo as a Leader
2007: The vendor leads all evaluated companies in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Service Contact Centers, while more than a dozen players chart as visionaries.

It's Siebel in the Service and Support Leader Corner
2006: The company maintains its CRM CSS Magic Quadrant dominance, although the emergence of a full customer service suite is still some time off.

Siebel Enchants Gartner's CRM CSS Magic Quadrant Again
2005: Lack of industry breadth keeps Amdocs out of the leaders box.

Gartner Announces CRM CSS Magic Quadrant
2004: Siebel remains the sole leader, while PeopleSoft and E.piphany are ranked as visionaries.

Oracle Boosts Siebel CRM
The latest version delivers improvements to a number of key applications, and includes certification with Oracle Fusion Middleware.

Oracle Finally Says ''See Ya'' to ''Siebel'' for On Demand CRM
In addition to a long-rumored change in naming conventions, the software giant's Release 15 weaves social networking into on-demand CRM; also, a new Mobile Sales Assistant is unveiled.

Gartner Restores a Leader to Its Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure
Interactive Intelligence moves back into the top quadrant, joining Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, and Nortel.

Gartner Slots Contact Center Infrastructure Vendors
The market is expected to become more integrated and to reflect more specific differentiating business objectives.

Gartner Eyes IVR and EVP Vendors
Magic Quadrant findings ping Avaya, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Intervoice, and Nortel as leading the sector; reduced complexity and tight integration are hallmarks of advancement.

Should Microsoft Quit CRM?
Microsoft Convergence 2008: While some analysts leaven criticism of Microsoft's Dynamics offerings with restrained praise, one recent report suggests the company "continues to lag rivals significantly" and should give up on CRM entirely.

Calabrio Joins the Enterprise 2.0 World
The provider of workforce optimization solutions is seeking to provide a unified framework so contact center workers can achieve results faster and more efficiently.

Access Your Contact Center Data Anywhere, Anytime
In response to customer demand, Autonomy etalk's Intelligent Contact Center solutions suite introduces Qfiniti Web Access, turning any Internet-connected computer into a customer-service station.

Bringing the Customer Aboard the Unified Communications Bandwagon
Contact center solutions vendor Aspect Software has a new UC strategy -- and the company says it starts with the customer.

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