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

Best Contact Center Search: The 2019 CRM Service Leaders Awards

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THE MARKET

The contact center market has undergone dramatic changes in the past few years, and in no segment is this more obvious than contact center search, where artificial intelligence has completely taken over. But for virtual agents to be effective, they need to be able to find, access, and process information quickly. That is true for interactions handled by agents or for customers who choose self-service. It’s no surprise, then, that much of the sector’s attention has turned to artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning. Essentially, solutions today must be able to deliver the best information at the right moment proactively from across entire information ecosystems that span cloud, on-premises, and third-party data sources.

THE LEADERS

What Coveo lacks in size it makes up for in product quality, as evidenced by its 4.1 score in depth of functionality. The company also scored well in customer satisfaction (3.9) and cost (3.6). “Coveo is by far the best of the contact center search solutions,” says Paul Greenberg, managing principal of the 56 Group. Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, agrees: “Coveo has excellent search, analytics, and embedded machine learning to let search get smarter over time,” she says. But Coveo’s strengths go beyond that. “Its renewed focus on internal and external customer service and its new crisp messaging should help them out. It also has deep relationships with CRM and content management vendors,” Leggett adds.

Oracle, which scored well in depth of functionality (3.6) and customer satisfaction (3.8), is building a solid foundation on the variety of its offerings. While the Oracle Service Cloud comes with keyword search but lacks advanced search and knowledge retrieval capabilities, according to Leggett, the company recently came out with Oracle Service Cloud + Advanced Knowledge. “This is the cloud version of their old Inquira product,” she says. “It is a powerful knowledge and search solution.”

Salesforce.com led the field in company direction (4.5) and also did well in customer satisfaction (3.9). But, as in years past, its cost score (2.9) kept it out of the top spot. “Salesforce remains one of the most expensive solutions on the market, and many customers complain about unexpected or hidden costs,” Leggett says. A hidden gem in the Salesforce search arsenal is its Einstein AI engine, and the Salesforce product is being strengthened through the recent MuleSoft acquisition and a partnership with Coveo. Also, Salesforce “is bolstered by strong system integrator relationships, a large developer network, and a very broad marketplace via the AppExchange,” Leggett says.

Verint Systems’ customers have been happy with its search product offering (a 3.7 satisfaction score), and the product is considered robust and continues to improve, most recently with the addition of Real-Time Speech Analytics to drive contact center search results without the need for typing. But Leggett worries that the company, five years after its acquisition of Kana Software, “still suffers from a small system integrator network and a lower profile compared to other industry stalwarts in the CRM and search/knowledge space.”

THE WINNER

After several years off the leaderboard, Microsoft made its way to the top spot this year after receiving category-leading scores of 4.0 in both customer satisfaction and cost and a high mark in direction (3.9). Its go-to-market strategy is reaping huge rewards as well, according to analysts. “Microsoft’s investment in bringing together Azure ML and decades of R&D is paying off in search and customers’ ability to leverage the breadth of the Microsoft portfolio,” says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research. “Microsoft search is very good. The company and its Dynamics CRM direction are solid. They go to market primarily via partners that bring industry expertise,” Leggett adds.

ONE TO WATCH

Powered by its Watson cognitive computing engine, IBM’s search technology is considered the gold standard, as shown in its category-leading depth of functionality (4.1). But all that power comes at a price: IBM’s cost score of 2.8 was the category’s worst. “Although IBM has depth of research and intellectual property, customers are challenged to leverage Watson without a significant services investment,” Wettemann says. Leggett agrees: “IBM Watson has the most exhaustive search capabilities in the marketplace, but it is very much a toolset that needs developer overhead to implement and configure,” she says.

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