CRM Service Awards: Service Leaders

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Interactive Voice Response

The Market

The transition from voice to multichannel interactions is causing ripples across the entire contact center systems market, particularly the interactive voice response (IVR) segment.

As businesses continue to open new channels of communication with their customers, the need to coordinate service across these channels for consistency, accuracy, and efficiency has grown exponentially.

"This challenge will require IVR and voice portal solutions to be more tightly integrated with other customer contact and business applications…to effectively manage the growing use of multichannel customer contacts," said Frost & Sullivan senior industry analyst Suvradeep Bhattacharjee in a recent report.

Frost & Sullivan also found that while the IVR systems market as a whole has advanced tremendously in the past few years due to new technologies and best practices, most systems are still not used effectively nor designed optimally to deliver the best possible customer experience.

Still, Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree Research, sees the market as "highly competitive," simply because of its maturity, but he also notes that many niche players are starting to emerge to fill gaps left vacant by the bigger players.

In the future, look for the global IVR market to be further affected by the migration to VoIP and a growing base of solutions in the cloud, Stockford and other analysts warn.

The Leaders

Aspect Software, last year's one to watch, came out strong this year with a 4.1 score in depth of functionality and a 3.9 in customer satisfaction. A few management changes and a growing emphasis on social media integration and work-from-home agent solutions caught the attention of many analysts as well this year. "Look for big things from Aspect this year," Stockford remarks. "The refocus from [unified communications] back to the contact center makes them a formidable competitor and a clear thought leader in the IVR market."

Avaya is starting to lose its luster, but still maintains a strong position in the market by virtue of its market share. Despite scoring a 4.1 in depth of functionality, many analysts observed that Avaya's focus is shifting away from its IVR offerings. Other than changing the name from Avaya Voice Portal to Avaya Experience Portal, "Avaya has not done a good job highlighting—or extending—its self-service capabilities," says Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics.

Stockford agrees. He called the company's IVR offering "a highly evolved product that doesn't get a lot of attention from the company anymore."

Cisco Systems, last year's category winner, stumbled after analysts observed a lack of innovation in 2012, evidenced by its score of 3.7 in depth of functionality. A score of 3.9 in customer satisfaction and company direction couldn't erase a black mark for cost, where Cisco scored just a 3.4. Nonetheless, it finished just two-tenths of a point behind Genesys, the category winner. Many analysts expect great things moving forward. "Cisco continues to refine their IVR offering with an eye toward the future," Stockford explains. "Their open platform infrastructure gives them an advantage."

The Winner

Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories takes the lead after garnering top scores in depth of functionality (4.2), company direction (4.1), and customer satisfaction (3.9). McGee-Smith notes, "It did the best job of marketing its self-service application as an integral part of its overall contact center suite, especially with its Intelligent Customer Front Door [iCFD] concept."

She also points out that Genesys is well-positioned to capture a large share of the emerging Latin America market with its recent acquisition of LM Sistemas, a Brazilian firm.

Stockford expects great things as well. Genesys, he says, "has a good product that could get better depending on the direction the company takes," following its split from Alcatel-Lucent in late 2011.

One to Watch

Interactive Intelligence is quietly building a niche market for itself within the contact center market, and is taking some midmarket share from much bigger competitors, due largely to its reputation for cost, a base of satisfied customers who are vocal about their love for the company, and a shifting company focus toward enhanced contact center offerings. Still, many doubt that it will be able to compete head-to-head with companies like Cisco and Avaya.

Web Support

The Market

In the age of the empowered consumer, contact centers face increasing pressure to assist customers from a multitude of channels. "Customers want answers and solutions wherever they are…and on whatever device they use, such as desktops, laptops, and mobile," comments Mitch Kramer, senior vice president of the Patricia Seybold Group. "Also, customers never want to tell their story more than once, so Web support must capture it and use it as customers cross devices and channels." Vendors have responded by offering products, which, to varying degrees, allow companies to support their customers on multiple channels through one platform. As Web support continues to evolve, Kramer adds, we can expect to see mobile support and voice-enabled virtual agents playing a more prominent role in this space.

The Leaders

Another recent Oracle acquisition, InQuira, landed on the leaderboard after being last year's one to watch. Rebranded as Oracle Knowledge Management, the company received a respectable 3.5 in customer satisfaction, a 3.3 in depth of functionality, and a 3.0 in company direction. Although InQuira is strong in certain areas, its offerings need to be expanded or integrated with other solutions to provide full Web support, analysts say. InQuira has a "best-in-breed knowledge management" system, Leggett notes, but "it lacks customer-facing capability." Kramer agrees, noting that "InQuira has an excellent search engine and knowledge management system, but they are standalone products."

Moxie Software maintained its hold on the leaderboard with a 3.7 in company direction and a 3.8 for both customer satisfaction and depth of functionality. The company, according to Leggett, has a "solid road map that blends customer and employee engagement solutions." One such solution is Spaces by Moxie, launched last spring, which lets organizations combine their customer communications with employee collaborations on a single platform. "Our suite makes it easier for organizations to find and deliver the right answer to customers through their channel of choice," according to a company statement.

Oracle RightNow held on to its strong 4.0 depth of functionality score and received a slight increase in its company direction score over last year, moving from a 3.0 to 3.5. Compared to its competitors, however, RightNow's offerings are limited, says Ovum senior analyst Aphrodite Brinsmead. "RightNow has a good range of products, but its tools for knowledge management or Web chat are not as fully featured as those provided by specialist players InQuira and LivePerson," Brinsmead remarks. While Oracle continues to integrate RightNow into its other offerings and further strengthen it, customer satisfaction has taken a hit as reflected in its score, which slipped from a 4.0 to 3.8. According to Forrester principal analyst Kate Leggett, RightNow has a "robust set of Web support capabilities," but "customer communication has suffered since the acquisition."

The Winner

Claiming the top spot for the second year in a row, Salesforce.com also grabbed the highest score in company direction, with a 4.3. The company, according to Leggett, "beefed up its offering with recent acquisitions such as GoInstant for cobrowsing" and has "one of the most aggressive and visionary road maps." In addition, Salesforce scored well once again in customer satisfaction and depth of functionality, receiving a 3.7 and 3.6, respectively. "Salesforce.com has a comprehensive solution," Kramer says. "The Web support works very tightly with its contact center support…giving you a thorough interface to do searches, capture cases, and more." Among its product enhancements this past year, Salesforce.com extended its Service Cloud with Chatter Communities for Service, enabling customers to tap into a private social community of industry peers and company experts.

One to Watch

LivePerson fell short of the leaderboard, but it's not without potential. According to Leslie Ament, senior vice president and senior analyst at Hypatia Research Group, LivePerson's multichannel engagement software, which includes LP Chat, LP Email, LP Voice, and LP Knowledgebase, LP Insights, and LP Marketer, is noteworthy because it allows companies to support customers using comprehensive customer data gathered from various channels. "Larger enterprises seeking a comprehensive solution should consider short-listing this vendor," Ament says.

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