• April 1, 2018
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Best Contact Center Search: The 2018 CRM Service Leaders

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Search technologies have typically been used in the contact center to help agents find answers to complex customer queries, and that is still a very valid use case for search. However, continuing emphasis is now being placed on applying the same search technologies to customer self-service applications. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of all customer service interactions will take place without the assistance of a live agent. Companies will need to rely on search more than ever if they want to reduce call volumes and narrow calls down to only those with sufficiently complex issues. 


With category-leading scores of 4.4 in depth of functionality and 4.1 in customer satisfaction, analysts deemed Coveo’s products to be robust enough for most customer service applications. The company also has deep relationships with most CRM and content management vendors, but it continues to struggle with messaging and market position, according to Kate Leggett, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Its renewed focus on internal and external customer service and its new crisp messaging should help out,” she says. Coveo also suffers from a size issue, lacking the big name recognition and financial backing of most of its much larger competitors.

IBM Watson, last year’s One to Watch, must have given a heavy dose of vitamins to its Watson product because the solution is back on the leaderboard this year. The product, which Leggett credits with having “the most exhaustive search capabilities in the marketplace,” is still among the most expensive among all market competitors, which keeps it out of the top spot.

Salesforce.com’s organic search capabilities by themselves are very limited, as demonstrated by the company’s low score of 3.3 in depth of functionality, but the company more than makes up for that with “strong system integrator relationships, a large developer network, and a very broad marketplace via its App Exchange, all of which increase its market penetration,” Leggett maintains. That would account for its category-leading score of 4.3 in company direction. Analysts also expect the Service Cloud product to continue to gain strength as Salesforce continues to endow it with artificial intelligence in the form of its Einstein platform. Like many other vendors in the space, cost (3.2) plagues Salesforce.

Verint Systems (Kana) is more known for its analytics than for its search capabilities, but that is starting to change as it continues to build out its Knowledge Management product. The solution, which Leggett says is “strong,” will only continue to improve, particularly as the company brings into its portfolio the artificial intelligence and natural language technology it gained during its December acquisition of Next IT. That, many analysts hope, will allow it to overcome what Leggett sees as a “lower profile compared to other industry stalwarts.” With a score of just 3.1 in company direction, the company also needs to work on enlarging its system integrator network, Leggett adds.


Oracle, on the leaderboard for many years, takes the top spot this year, despite a failure to run away with any of the category leads; its highest scores came in depth of functionality (4.0) and company direction (3.9), which matched its overall score. The company, which John Ragsdale, vice president of technology and social research at the Technology Services Industry Association, says “has a long history of support-centric search,” has been receiving a lot more visibility of late, particularly as it moves clients away from Service Cloud and into its newer Knowledge product.


eGain, on the leaderboard in the past, slips back to the One to Watch position this year, despite a wide lead in cost (3.9). Additionally, its try-before-you-buy approach is resonating with customers, analysts contend, but the company as a whole still has some issues. “They lack innovative strategy and evolve products based on customer need,” Leggett says. Still, the company is on solid footing, which makes it noteworthy. “eGain is one of the originals, still thriving as a stand-alone company,” Ragsdale says. 

[Editor's note: The overall award rating is based on a composite score of analyst ratings for customer satisfaction, depth of functionality, company direction, and cost. For the cost score, analysts gave the highest marks to vendors with the lowest expected costs. Company revenues were also factored into the overall score, but these numbers are not included in the chart above.]

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