Low Costs Drive the Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Service Contact Centers

Just as most markets have been impacted by the recession, the field for CRM customer service contact centers has changed significantly. New research from Gartner suggests that the vendors most likely to gain market share during this difficult time will be those able to lower costs while driving customer loyalty.

According to Michael Maoz, Gartner vice president, distinguished analyst, and author of the Magic Quadrant report, one of the biggest challenges faced by those looking to make contact center investments is creating solid business cases. "Pointing to projects [for which] they are willing to stand up and say, ‘I guarantee you this will either save us or make us money' is very tough," he says. "There's a reluctance to approve projects and also…to replace big, core applications right now. The focus is on tactical [improvements] that can lower costs."

The kind of tactical improvements that apply to customer service processes may not be the sexiest thing a company undertakes, but Maoz insists those efforts can provide great benefits. "There's more analysis of processes going through different service channels -- be it Web, [interactive voice response], agent, even field service," he says. "Throw all those together, and there's a lot of service processes to analyze. I think that's a very healthy thing."

Interestingly, Maoz says, the leading companies are doing the analysis by asking end customers to identify the processes they deem broken -- and then specifically fixing those. That shift in approach is "showing some progress," he says. "The trend that customers want to be embraced on their own terms is continuing without abatement," he adds. "Folks expect to do things their way."

In order to support that trend, the study spells out the most-pressing customer service–related functionality vendors should offer:

  • multichannel capabilities;
  • native business-process management for customer service functions;
  • support of online user communities;
  • extension of agent presence to online communities;
  • customer data integration;
  • integration of knowledge solutions onto the agent desktop;
  • real-time decision support; and
  • integration with mobile devices.

Amid the changing requirements in the contact center, there's also been movement in Gartner's Magic Quadrant. Microsoft and Salesforce.com, both deemed Visionaries last year, have joined Oracle (rated for its Siebel offering) in the Leader Quadrant. Speaking about the Magic Quadrant last year, Maoz had predicted those two vendors would be the ones most likely to make the jump -- but at the time had said the move would take at least four years. "Salesforce.com has a large installed base," he says. "But while most are sales force automation customers, as it matures [Salesforce.com] is able to go into other departments such as customer service. It's led to very good adoption of the product." 

[Editors' Note: Salesforce.com's newfound focus on service also contributed to its selection as one of CRM magazine's 2009 Rising Stars, a description of which can be found in our April 2009 issue.]

Speaking specifically about Microsoft, Maoz says the adoption and sales of the company's Dynamics CRM product reflects the vendor's additional investment in knowledge solutions, Web self-service, business process capabilities, and industry versions adding to its basic customer service functionality. "The company definitely put the time and effort into research and development," he says. "It's building out functionality on the Dynamics CRM platform."

Amdocs remains the sole Challenger in this year's report, while Pegasystems was left as the sole resident of the now-lonely Visionary segment.

Like last year, the field of Niche Players remains crowded, with the following providers:

A surprise addition this year, according to Maoz, was Helpstream as a Niche Player. "It's not a conventional play," he says. "It has taken a very different approach to the market. They want customer communities to figure out answers for themselves, which is appealing to the smaller businesses and high-tech users already adept at producing and using a combination of communications from inside the company and its customer base."

Looking ahead, Maoz suggests keeping an eye on Parature. The on-demand customer service vendor -- and another of CRM's 2009 Rising Stars -- didn't make the Magic Quadrant this year, but has what Maoz describes as the customer service market's attention. "It has gained more traction than I had seen earlier," he says. "Today, it's almost exclusively focused on the small-to-midsize customer service organizations. But, if its momentum were to continue, you can certainly make the case for it being a vendor to appear [on an upcoming Magic Quadrant]."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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