The 2015 CRM Service Leaders: Contact Center Search

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The Market

Of the billions of customer service calls that remain unresolved every year, many are the result of companies choosing the wrong contact center search solutions for their needs, analysts agree. Many search solutions take too long to deliver the right information, Brent Leary, partner at CRM Essentials, says. "You can't give up speed for functionality, and you can't give up functionality for speed," he says. This year, the vendors on the leaderboard strike the right balance between effectiveness and efficiency, while offering customizable solutions that are intuitive and easy to use. High costs still plague the leaders in this category, but analysts are confident that as more customers follow vendors onto the cloud, pricing will improve.

The Leaders

Making its debut in this category, Kana impressed analysts after being acquired by Verint in January 2014. Though Verint's postacquisition roadmap for Kana is still unclear, analysts agree that their union will result in a robust contact center search solution. "Prior to the acquisition, Kana had been on an acquisition spree of its own. Its acquisition of Ciboodle from Sword in April 2012 brought contact center capabilities, which have been combined with Kana's knowledge management, process management, and customer communication offerings to create Kana Enterprise, a broad and deep customer service offering," Mitch Kramer, senior vice president and analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, says. As a result, Kana earned its highest score, a 4.0, for functionality.

Last year's winner, Salesforce.com, dropped out of its coveted top spot, earning a solid 3.9 for company direction but a 3.5 for depth of functionality. According to Forrester Senior Analyst Kate Leggett, Salesforce.com's solution is a "good all-around [option] for low- to medium-complexity needs," but analysts say the vendor needs to invest in or develop a new technology and a new approach to contact center search. "Its search is dated," Esteban Kolsky, founder and principal analyst at ThinkJar, says. Still, Salesforce.com's Service Cloud, which now resides in its Customer Success Platform, is a "broad and deep offering out of the box," Kramer says. Salesforce.com makes significant and continual improvements in its three annual releases, he explains, adding that Salesforce Console for Service and Case Feed are recent improvements that really differentiate the search solution. Salesforce continues to please customers, and analysts predict that its contact center search offering will be further strengthened with updates.

The Winners

Nominated for the first time in this category, IBM Watson shot straight to the top this year. Watson isn't strictly a contact center search solution, but it has far-reaching capabilities, and IBM is committed to positioning its super computer as a search tool. According to analysts, Watson is powerful because it pulls information from a variety of databases ranging from catalogs and manuals to product reviews on Amazon. Watson uses semantic analysis to zero in on information that other solutions that rely primarily on keyword search might miss, and IBM's own testing reveals that Watson delivers a 40 percent reduction in search time. The solution earned a 4.2 for depth of functionality, and analysts predict that as more customers come on board, the offering will become "even more compelling," as one says. Kolsky states IBM's reputation now depends on Watson. "Expect to see it change in the near future as modified redeployments are launched," he says.

Oracle Knowledge shares the spot atop the leaderboard after its integration of Inquira earned it an unprecedented 4.4 for depth of functionality. Last year, Kramer was skeptical about the overall direction of the product following Oracle's acquisition, but is now more optimistic. Though he still says that the offering is "quite complex and takes considerable effort to customize, deploy, and maintain," he states that the solution is powerful, flexible, sophisticated, and deep. He also points out that few functional improvements have been made since the acquisition, which is reflected in the vendor's overall direction score—a relatively low 3.1. Oracle offers a "high-powered solution for complex contact center search," Leggett says, but to stay on top, analysts agree, Oracle will have to innovate.

One to Watch

Coveo continues to excel in this category, thanks to its "excellent all-around functionality," Leggett says. What makes Coveo's contact center search solution particularly effective are its unified search and predictive content capabilities, which reach across multiple knowledge streams to anticipate agents' content needs before they arise. These features earned the vendor a 4.2 for depth of functionality. Coveo also earned the highest score for customer satisfaction, beating the leaders and winners in the category on this front. Because of its size and the fact that revenue is a factor in the overall score, Coveo could not compete with the big players in the category, but analysts agree Coveo offers a top best-of-breed solution.

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