Convergence in the Contact Center
It's a vendor's dream--becoming the primary provider for its customers' needs. "[Customers] really want to try to get more from a single provider," says Ryan Hollenbeck, vice president of corporate and investor relations at Witness Systems. Not surprisingly, some of the recent buzz surrounding the contact center industry has been centered on vendors looking to position themselves as fully integrated providers of workforce optimization solutions comprising quality monitoring, workforce management, performance management, and e-learning tools.
"Customers will be able to go to one company for those tools, but will have a single upgrade path, single maintenance environment, and singular user interface also for all of those different components," says Jim Davies, principal analyst at Gartner Research. Integrated tools, he says, add to cross value like scheduling agents based on their quality monitoring score. "Having that integration allows you to do more than just having these four siloed applications," Davies says.
Witness furthered the vendor consolidation trend by acquiring Blue Pumpkin earlier this year, but don't expect point-solution providers to wither away, as independent software vendors often drive innovation. "I don't think the market will ever get to the point where it's 100 percent suite solutions," says Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree Research, "but you'll see some very strong, very tight partnerships."
Some vendors are looking to evolve via internal product development. Envision, for instance, is a quality monitoring vendor that developed its own workforce management solution. The challenge for firms using this method, however, may lie in playing catch-up to establish themselves as a credible vendor. "For the most part smart companies will go out and acquire," Stockford says.
The market is still in its embryonic stage, Davies says. "Large organizations have already invested in quality monitoring and workforce management tools through separate vendors, so it's going to take a few years for the market to mature to the point where those companies only turn to one vendor for both of those packages."