• March 1, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

The 2015 CRM Service Leaders: Interactive Voice Response

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The Market

While interactive voice response (IVR) systems were once only used by large companies that received massive amounts of calls, small businesses are now adopting the technology in large numbers as well. Forecasts from Global Industry Analysts project that, based on the demand from small and medium businesses, the global market for IVR systems will reach nearly $2.8 billion by 2017.

What's making IVR technology more accessible to small businesses is the fact that many services are now cloud-based. Rather than having to pay for expensive hardware and software, small businesses can hire a Web-based service that will host everything for them.

Gartner also noted the disruptive nature of the cloud in the IVR market in its "2014 Gartner MarketScope for IVR Systems and Enterprise Voice Portals" report. "The introduction and deployment of cloud IVR, combined with a growing interest in omnichannel multimodal applications that run equally well on desktop and mobile, are injecting new life into the IVR market and generating new self-service solutions," the firm said in the report.

Another change in the IVR market, which TechNavio projects will grow at a rate of 11.86 percent annually through 2018, is a transition largely from inbound-only solutions to ones that have outbound capabilities. Outbound IVRs allow businesses to proactively call customers to conduct surveys or remind them of upcoming appointments. Other uses for outbound IVR services include notifying customers of pending events, such as order status, shipment status, or payment received.

The Leaders

Avaya, which hasn't captured a lot of attention in the past few years, came out of nowhere to make the 2015 leaderboard solely on the basis of its 4.4 score in depth of functionality. The company in 2014 launched the latest version of its Aura Experience Portal, which emphasizes omnichannel customer interactions and allows callers to move seamlessly between self-service and agent-assisted transactions. The company's staying power, however, is in serious doubt. "With its glory days behind it and high management turnover, Avaya seems to be coasting on the reputation it once had," says Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree Research.

After coming in as the top performer last year, Interactive Intelligence drops down to an industry leadership position this year. "Interactive Intelligence will have its work cut out for it in 2015, but their IVR is a solid product that functions well within the company's solution stack," Stockford says. But don't count the company out as a viable contender for the top spot next year. It scored an impressive 4.3 in customer satisfaction, 4.2 in cost and company direction, and 4.0 in depth of functionality.

West, another newcomer to the IVR leaderboard, has been gaining wider attention for its solutions. In fact, many analysts have called West's voice self-service solutions among the most comprehensive in the industry, as indicated by its 4.3 score in depth of functionality. The company offers both cloud-based and on-premises IVRs, speech recognition systems that have been enhanced in the past two years with natural language capabilities, and workforce optimization and management solutions powered by robust analytics.

The big question mark with West, though, is its company direction. Now that it has sold its contact center outsourcing business to Alorica, it remains to be seen what it will do with its speech platforms and applications business.

The Winner

Cisco Systems, a leader last year, takes the top spot in 2015, propelled almost entirely by a 4.3 score in company direction. "I expect to see Cisco's emphasis on business outcomes marketing and selling result in increased emphasis on its self-service solutions and partners," says Sheila McGee-Smith, principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics. Stockford calls Cisco "an energized company with a laser focus on the contact center market." He also cites the company for continually evolving and improving its products.

One to Watch

Aspect Software, a leader last year, fell from the leaderboard this time around, but it is still a formidable competitor in the IVR space, as evidenced by its 4.3 score in depth of functionality and 4.1 scores in company direction and customer satisfaction. Stockford says the company "is well-managed, with a solid foundation and a bright future." Aspect's IVR, he adds, "fits well with the company's industry direction."

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