The 2009 CRM Service Awards: Service Leaders -- Interactive Voice Response
Despite a great deal of innovation in the interactive voice response (IVR) industry in the past several years, the market is likely facing a return to basics, says Ian Jacobs, senior analyst at Datamonitor. “IVR is getting back to its call-deflection roots,” he explains. “Given the current economic environment, the drive for cost savings has regained its centrality with the value of [these systems]. This will be the number-one priority for people adding on IVR ports.”
One notable absence from the category this year is Intervoice. While the analyst community stresses Intervoice’s strong IVR offering, there are questions about how its acquisition by Convergys will play out. Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics, says that this “is a very big year to find out if [Intervoice] can provide proof points showing product development is continuing.”
Avaya makes its sixth straight appearance on this leaderboard, dating back to CRM’s first Service Awards. “The company is strong in the IVR space and has been for a long time, with a good product and channels-to-market,” explains Steve Cramoysan, a Gartner research director. “Avaya also has a large customer base it consistently addresses.” The company’s strength has traditionally been its depth of functionality, but after leading all vendors in that regard last year, its score this year (4.1) was only second-best. The problem, Jacobs says, isn’t Avaya’s depth of functionality, but its breadth: The giant can no longer keep up with what’s offered by those that have IVR at their core. Still, he says, “for [an] all-encompassing vendor, they’re doing fairly well.” Avaya also fell behind in reputation for company direction—its score of 3.8 was last among the leaders. “The company just has too many different products right now,” one analyst says. “Avaya is too conservative, and must have a better marketing message and be more creative in terms of solutions they’ve delivered.” Only time will tell if the company can move up the leaderboard with a more cohesive message.
Cisco Systems is back among the leaders after a two-year absence, a comeback driven by strength in company direction, where its score (3.9) was second among the leaders. “It’s a very strong organization, clear in its direction, and has huge viability,” Cramoysan says. McGee-Smith explains Cisco is one of a select few vendors to have a sophisticated offering in which a voice portal can be used as an entry point into a company’s contact center. “Every location used to have an IVR and [Automatic Call Distributor], but now the company has a strategy telling [clients] to bring everything into a single environment,” she says. Cisco’s 3.0 score in customer satisfaction, though, placed last among the leaders. Focusing more on its IVR business can help, according to pundits. “When it comes to total solutions offered, [Cisco’s] not usually driven by IVR and speech,” Jacobs says. “Customers can be getting solutions that include [IVR] from Cisco, but are coming at [the technology] from a different point of view. So satisfaction with IVR itself is usually an afterthought.”
Genesys Telecommunications Labs again rose to the top of the IVR chart, firmly retaining its place in the winner’s circle for the fourth consecutive year, and the second in which it notched scores of four or higher across the board. “The company is consistently delivering a strong IVR proposition and customer service strategy,” Cramoysan says. Jacobs agrees, explaining Genesys is looking at IVR as part of a more holistic approach in interacting with customers, which is a solid—and long-term—direction. “The company is more forward-thinking than many of its competitors,” he says. Genesys also came up big in depth of functionality, with a score (4.5) nearly a half-point higher than its next-closest competitor. McGee-Smith explains that the company has taken the right steps in bringing together its VoiceGenie acquisition with its Voice Portal offering. “Now it has a very broad offer that has, in a way, the best of both worlds,” she says. “Now there’s multitenancy for carriers that need it, with great enterprise-level functionality. It was a good year in terms of functionality for Genesys.”
One to Watch
Voxeo may be a smaller company, but it’s got a strong foundation. Largely due to that comparatively smaller market share, Voxeo’s final score fell just outside the top three this year, and yet Datamonitor’s Jacobs says the company has a strong product set and functionality across the board. “The only issue is if Voxeo can get beyond deployments of numerous midmarkets or divisions of large enterprises to a handful of really massive ones to spark widespread appeal,” Jacobs says. “It’s one to watch because it needs to grow.” —Christopher Musico
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