• April 1, 2018
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Best Call Center/Contact Center Infrastructure Software: The 2018 CRM Service Leaders

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While many trends are shaping the contact center infrastructure industry, none has been as disruptive as the shift to the cloud. Some analysts estimate the number of cloud vendors at about 150, all vying for a piece of a very lucrative market valued at more than $2.8 billion. And though that $2.8 billion represents only 11.4 percent of total contact center seats worldwide, analysts project that the cloud market will grow at greater than 20 percent per year for the next three to five years.

Nevertheless, the market for on-premises contact center systems recovered slightly in 2017, fueled by growth in some sectors—including interaction recording—and by slowing declines in inbound contact routing, outbound dialing, and interactive voice response systems.

Innovation has also been fast and furious in this market, particularly around artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language, analytics, and data security. Customers, meanwhile, are pressing vendors for suites of integrated products from a single source; cradle-to-grave integrated reporting and analytics; and easier system management.


Aspect Software has a very functional set of infrastructure offerings, as evidenced by its 4.1 score in that area. “Aspect is always a good choice. It’s proven, reliable, and delivers an infrastructure that buyers can depend on,” says Paul Stockford, president and chief analyst at Saddletree Research. The company, though, has a bit of an identity problem, according to Sheila McGee-Smith, president of McGee-Smith Analytics. “With three different solutions in its portfolio, Aspect struggles to get the deserved attention for its multitenant, Amazon Web Services–deployed Via solution” she says. Despite that, the company still scored an impressive 3.9 in company direction.

Cisco Systems, a perennial favorite among analysts, remains a top contender in the space. It scored a 4.1 in depth of functionality, and Stockford says that Cisco “is hard to beat. They own innovation, dependability, and company stability, and their overall contact center strategy is stellar.” Though the company fell off a little in many of the other judging criteria, analysts remain optimistic about Cisco’s future, particularly as it incorporates technology from its BroadSoft acquisition.

Five9 makes the leaderboard again this year, largely on its category-leading score in company direction (4.3). That direction underwent two key changes this year. The first was an increase in channel coverage, according to McGee-Smith. Secondly, Five9 is “starting to get away from a reputation as a cloud outbound provider,” Stockford says, noting that the company also signed some “excellent partnerships” with Microsoft, Genband, OpenMethods, and ServiceNow, among others. Five9 also racked up a 4.1 in cost, tied for the category lead.

Genesys clearly benefited from its 2016 acquisition of Interactive Intelligence, which propelled it to scores of 4.2 in both depth of functionality and company direction. John Ragsdale, vice president of technology and social research at the Technology Services Industry Association, says Interactive Intelligence was “always rated highly by companies for reliability and features and functions.” For Genesys, “life is good” and will only get better as it continues development of its Kate artificial intelligence platform in 2018, adds McGee-Smith.


While many contact center infrastructure vendors made notable acquisitions recently, NICE is the clear winner as it builds on its inContact pick-up in mid-2016. Technology gained during that deal led to the company’s creation of CXone, a complete solution for omnichannel routing, workforce optimization, analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence, all on an open-cloud foundation. NICE inContact also scored near the top in depth of functionality, company direction, and cost (all 4.1). “Don’t blink, or you might miss NICE as it rockets to the top of the market,” Stockford says. “A highly innovative cloud platform, clear market vision, and a demonstrated ability to execute—NICE has it all.”


Avaya had a rough start to 2017 following its bankruptcy declaration, but it emerged from Chapter 11 in December with lower debt and $300 million in available cash that allowed it to acquire cloud contact center company Spoken Communications. That deal, McGee-Smith says, “offers great promise," but the real test for Avaya, which went public in a $1 billion initial public offering (IPO) in January, will be whether it can stop customers from being stolen away by other vendors.


[Editor's note: The overall award rating is based on a composite score of analyst ratings for customer satisfaction, depth of functionality, company direction, and cost. For the cost score, analysts gave the highest marks to vendors with the lowest expected costs. Company revenues were also factored into the overall score, but these numbers are not included in the chart above.]

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