• March 1, 2015
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Small Customer Service Vendors Can Make Big Contributions

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Our 12th annual CRM Service Awards reveals some significant market developments. Not surprisingly, much of the innovation this year comes from the efforts of smaller pure-play customer service vendors.

Because of their size, small CRM vendors tend to be laser-focused on the products they create. In many cases, they have to be this way, especially if their business depends on the success of only one or two products. So they often aim to build best-of-breed solutions, which is one of the competitive advantages they have over their larger rivals. If your company is looking for cutting-edge technology, it's certainly a good idea to evaluate some of their offerings.

This year's Rising Star Awards includes a few of these innovative young companies. For example, HelpShift, which won last year's CRM Idol award, is banking its success on the popularity of mobile devices by offering an in-app mobile support application. Customers can use their mobile devices to search frequently asked questions and chat with a support representative without leaving the app. NewVoiceMedia offers a unified omnichannel support platform in the cloud that captures customer history on each channel, giving agents an understanding of customer interactions that happened before the call. Zendesk, an inbound ticketing system, can create support tickets from email, the Web, social media, phone, or chat.

Some small vendors have had so much success with their products that they can compete with the heavyweights in our Service Leader Awards. Coveo, in the Contact Center Search category, is a perfect example. In fact, despite its small size, the company earned the highest customer satisfaction score of all of the category leaders, which include IBM, Oracle, and Salesforce.com. That's pretty impressive. Unfortunately, because of advancements from Oracle Knowledge and IBM Watson, it wasn't enough to keep Coveo on the leaderboard, and it settled in as the sector's One to Watch.

While they're often responsible for pushing industry innovation and standards to new heights, one of the risks inherent with smaller companies is that they become takeover targets. Mergers and acquisitions have played a significant role in the outcome of our Service Leader Awards this year. But this isn't always bad news. In fact, many of the companies that have recently been acquired have become stronger because of it, according to analysts.

Kana, which had struggled in previous years to make it onto our leaderboards, is finally getting its due, thanks to Verint Systems' acquisition of the company last year. Now that Kana is in the hands of a perennial customer service leader, analysts have warmed up to it, giving the newly acquired company high enough scores to land on two leaderboards—Customer Case Management and Contact Center Search.

Parature is another example. Within a year after Microsoft acquired the customer service vendor, Microsoft integrated Parature's knowledge management and self-service solutions into Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The integration helped Microsoft make its first appearance on our Web Support leaderboard.

If our CRM Service Awards proves anything this year, it's that investing in a best-of-breed solution from a small company doesn't have to be such a risky proposition after all.

Congratulations to this year's CRM Service Award recipients. May you continue to raise the bar in customer service and support.

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