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  • March 25, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Best Contact Center Infrastructure: The 2019 CRM Service Leaders Awards

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THE MARKET

Contact center infrastructure encompasses a large collection of equipment, software, and services, including routing, telephony, voice portals, outbound dialing, computer-telephony integration, unified communications, channel management, workflow management, analytics, and more. Increasingly, this technology is becoming more tightly integrated with CRM to give a single view of the customer across all touchpoints. It is also becoming more of a blend of assisted service and self-service using both live agents and digital technologies.

The industry has shifted gears in the past few years to the point that contact center managers now purchase much, if not all, of their infrastructure from a single source as a bundle. And in the majority of cases, that shift is being accompanied by a move to the cloud. In fact, cloud-based deployments are growing more than 20 percent per year, a trend that DMG Consulting expects to continue at least through 2022.

Additionally, the introduction of contact center platforms from companies such as Amazon, which launched its Connect Platform in 2017, and Twilio, whose Flex platform is less than a year old, is having a positive and disruptive impact on the market, DMG concluded.

THE LEADERS

Cisco Systems, a previous market winner, still maintains a vital presence in the contact center infrastructure market, largely on a strong performance in depth of functionality (4.3) and customer satisfaction (4.0). Maintaining customer satisfaction could be a problem, though, as Cisco struggles with cost (3.3). “It’s still costly for customers and lacks the flexibility of other solutions,” says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research. But Paul Stockford, president and chief analyst of Saddletree Research, disagrees on the latter point: “Cisco is an exceptionally dependable solution with deep roots in cloud capabilities that match its market-leading on-premises solutions,” he says.

Five9, a perennial favorite among analysts, posted high marks in company direction (4.0), and customer satisfaction (4.1), and its cost score (3.9) topped all firms on this year’s leaderboard. “Five9 continues to deliver value and lead the cloud value proposition for contact centers,” Wettemann says.

Genesys continues to soak in the praises for its 2016 acquisition of Interactive Intelligence and its PureCloud suite of products, and there is no sign that the momentum is shifting. “Genesys is firing on all cylinders, migrating competitor customers to its premises or cloud solutions,” says Sheila McGee-Smith, founder and president of McGee-Smith Analytics. “[Workforce engagement management] remains a less strong component, but one where [artificial intelligence] innovation is being applied to leapfrog competitors.”

Mitel Networks debuted on CRM’s leaderboard in 2016, then was absent for the next two. Now in 2019 it is back, largely on better-than-average scores in all judging criteria. The company in the past year has seen increased interest from investors and financial analysts, but technology analysts are also approaching it with a positive valuation. “Mitel’s challenge is to create solutions that will allow an on-premises set of customers to smoothly migrate to the cloud over time,” observes McGee-Smith. “The overall framework they have created with CloudLink is promising.”

THE WINNER

Last year’s winner, NICE inContact, far outpaced all competitors again this year. With a total score of 4.3 and top scores in depth of functionality (4.4), company direction (4.2), and customer satisfaction (4.2), it is the complete picture. With “an excellent strategic vision matched by solid execution and demonstrated leadership,” according to Stockford, NICE inContact truly becomes “a hard act to follow.” McGee-Smith is just as excited about the company: “With market-leading contact center and workforce optimization portfolios and a stable executive team, the world is NICE inContact’s oyster,” she says. “They continue to deliver, not just promise, AI capabilities across their portfolio.”

ONE TO WATCH

Though it has emerged a much better company with a much stronger product portfolio (as evidenced in its 4.1 score in depth of functionality), Aspect Software is still working to assure some customers and analysts after its 2016 bankruptcy filing. “Aspect Software has some work to do in 2019 re-establishing itself in the market,” McGee-Smith says. It is making progress, though, as its company direction scores continue to climb. “Aspect is doing a commendable job of moving to the cloud and ensuring it does so in a way that keeps its customer base happy,” Stockford says.

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