The 2010 CRM Service Awards: Service Leaders -- Contact Center Infrastructure

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“Customer retention, particularly in this economy, is key,” says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research. As the backbone of many companies’ one-on-one interactions with their customers, contact center infrastructure (CCI) has never been more critical. Intensifying demand for cross-channel capacity, improved knowledge among representatives, and social media support have made the contact center increasingly difficult to organize. In 2009, some vendors in the CCI space gained market share through technology advancements, partnerships, and acquisitions, while others sunk under economic pressure to perform. Here’s a look at the cream of the crop. 


Last year’s winner, Avaya, enjoyed a fairly robust 2009, snatching up the bankrupt Nortel Networks (a CCI Leader in 2008) for $915 million. The deal, announced in July 2009 and finalized in December, cements the telecommunications giant’s status as the clear market-share leader in this space, but the murkiness of its long-term plans for the Nortel buy hurt Avaya in the ratings. Next year, however, Avaya has a good chance of regaining its crown as it absorbs Nortel’s customer base.  “Avaya’s constant efforts to break into the midmarket should show the first glimmers of a result [in 2010],” says Ian Jacobs, senior analyst at Ovum.

Cisco Systems, a One to Watch in 2009, climbs back on the leaderboard this year, largely due to the company’s strong collaboration story. Originally announced in late 2008, Cisco has since expanded its Enterprise Collaboration Portfolio, introducing 60 new products in December 2009, many of which focus on social networking capabilities. Cisco’s move toward collaboration, Jacobs says, “will resonate well with contact centers that provide complex support or that have processes that incorporate numerous non-contact center elements.” One analyst, however, says that the company has “customer satisfaction problems [due to] too many moving parts” which will need to be ironed out in the upcoming year. 

With a very strong showing, Interactive Intelligence lands a spot on the CCI leaderboard for the first time this year, with the category’s highest ratings in customer satisfaction (4.1) and company direction (4.25). “Interactive Intelligence has made significant investments in research and development to effectively compete in this space against much larger players,” says Ray Wang, a partner at Altimeter Group. A recent focus on interaction process automation, however, may be a mixed bag. Some analysts argue the move represents a smart way to increase customer loyalty, while others worry the effort will take the company’s focus away from the traditional contact center. 


In the face of close competition, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories edged out other vendors to reclaim the title it lost to Avaya in 2009. Jacobs says that the Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary is “one of the most aggressive companies in the space in expanding what it’s known for and what it can do,” which was reflected in the company’s top score for depth of functionality. The 2009 release of Genesys Cross-Channel Conversations answers the growing demand for seamless multichannel handling, while expanding partner programs have helped the vendor connect with more customers. “[Genesys] continues to push the boundaries,” says Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics. “They’re always thinking ahead.” In a rapidly changing space, thinking ahead may be the only way Genesys can stay ahead. 


“Hungry,” “sexy,” and “disruptive” are not words commonly associated with CCI, but some analysts use them to describe LiveOps. The Santa Clara, Calif.–based company, also one of this year’s Rising Stars, offers hosted CCI solutions as well as outsourcing services. Amid praise for its easy-to-navigate user interface, some analysts note the company’s connection to this year’s CCI champ: “A year ago, [LiveOps] put in an entire team of Genesys people,” McGee-Smith Analytics’ McGee-Smith says. “They’re hungry and they’re going after this.”

Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEN Group) makes its debut this year as a CCI One to Watch after expanding its OpenScape Contact Center portfolio to include OSCC Enterprise and OSCC Agile. Ovum’s Jacobs refers to SEN’s “thought leader role in unified communications,” and Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst at COMMfusion, agrees. “SEN has been doing a great job of moving toward open systems,” she says. SEN unveiled Twitter functionality (a trendy feature for CCI this year) for its OpenScape Unification Communications application last November and expects to offer full integration early this year. 

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