The 2008 CRM Service Awards: Interactive Voice Response
Self-service and assisted service have traditionally been separate entities, and designed as such for interactive voice response (IVR) solutions. But one of the latest trends is to bridge the gap between these two offerings by building tools that can design routing strategies to unite them. "You're always coming into a voice portal and being routed," explains Sheila McGee-Smith, president of McGee-Smith Analytics. "What's amazing is that it's been two different tools that do that. Having a single design tool leads into the other major shift: a continuing shift toward standards-based products and solutions." Frost & Sullivan Senior Analyst Ian Jacobs says that it's essential for IVR vendors today to have a professional-services facet in order to facilitate customers' successful deployments; a top vendor will keep its finger on the pulse of the industry while building up consulting capabilities.
One to Watch
Cisco Systems enters the IVR category in the respectable One to Watch slot, after not appearing in the category at all last year. Jacobs describes Cisco as the "contact center story of the last five years." While Cisco excels in customer satisfaction by targeting customers most likely to appreciate its IVR offerings, Jacobs says messaging is holding Cisco back. "Cisco's message is 'Here is where the contact center fits into the unified communications message,' " he explains. "I don't think that reflects badly on the technology they have; their overall corporate messaging kind of steamrolls what contact centers want to be hearing."
Avaya continues to be among the leading vendors in the IVR market; this is the company's fifth straight year on the leaderboard. Daniel Hong, lead analyst at Datamonitor, says that becoming a private company is very advantageous for the vendor. "It provides Avaya with more flexibility in product direction," he explains, adding that Avaya "is slowly positioning IVR to become more of a multimedia-processing platform, which helps them in their unified communication strategy, unified messaging, and innovation in the applications such as video capabilities and also speech self-service." Avaya's product flexibility, particularly in its IVR solutions, led to its 4.5 score in depth of functionality, the highest among the leaders. "Avaya has the whole family of what you'd expect from IVR and IVR tools," Jacobs says. "It has a fairly aggressive upgrade schedule on the roadmap, new versions or refreshes of all the tools, as well as the Avaya Voice Portal." McGee-Smith agrees: "Avaya has a very broad product line across the contact center and certainly within [the] voice portal area as well."
Intervoice remains on the leaderboard for a second straight year, earning solid scores for customer satisfaction and depth of functionality. "Intervoice works hard to ensure customers are successful the first time around, and that's a big deal," Jacobs explains. "Intervoice is the industry leader in providing services to ensure successful deployment. The goal there is to make sure that -- before you deploy the application and before it requires massive tuning and changes to the call flows and voice prompts -- you do it right the first time. It's a real strong point for them." However, Intervoice fell behind the other leaders in company direction with a painful 3.1 score, a full point behind the others. Analysts agree Intervoice has all the technology necessary to remain a major force in the IVR space, but must resolve competing with the service-providers market. "It's an issue [Intervoice] should address by targeting only specific markets with [its] hosted offering, or really delineating what markets [it] will target so that [it] can have more customers without any competition with [its] customers from the hosted side," Hong says.
Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories keeps its place in the winner's circle for a third straight year. In the 2007 Service Awards, Genesys received the highest scores in two of the three attributes; this year it matched that performance, but was also the only vendor to receive a score of four or higher across the board. That kept Genesys ahead of the competition en route to a threepeat.
McGee-Smith explains that Genesys is "the furthest along in integrating self- and assisted-service applications." Genesys' IVR offerings also have video capabilities, outbound capabilities, and new applications. Furthermore, Genesys is making great strides toward another major IVR trend -- consulting. "People aren't complaining Genesys doesn't do enough in this space," Jacobs says. "The only problem that customers might have is that, in some cases, they do too much and it's hard to figure out the right area to focus on. Genesys is taking the correct approach, which is to provide consulting services to ensure companies aren't biting off more than they can chew."
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