The 2014 CRM Service Leaders
Enterprise Feedback Management
Parsing unstructured data remains a buzzed-about problem area in the enterprise feedback management (EFM) market, and with the field becoming increasingly competitive, we witnessed a significant shake-up on our leaderboard this year. While most EFM systems can easily process traditional customer feedback and offer businesses value, data collected from social media and multimedia channels still presents a challenge. Difficult to attribute and analyze, unstructured data is often of limited use to those tasked with managing customer experience, leaving vendors racing to develop solutions that will bridge the gap between feedback management and customer experience and ultimately make the data more actionable.
On our leaderboard for the first time since 2009, Confirmit secured its spot with a 4.0 in the company direction category and 3.7s for depth of functionality and customer satisfaction. The company made a name for itself after acquiring CustomerStat from MarketTools last year; the acquisition "moved it from a generalist to a specialist in satisfaction and loyalty tracking for service organizations," John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research at the Technology Services Industry Association, says. Confirmit has also seen tremendous growth stemming from its partner community, which is "quite mature among its competitors," Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, adds.
A newcomer to the leaderboard, Medallia worked its way up after being named our One to Watch last year. Earning a 3.6 for company direction, Medallia is "growing like gangbusters and is drawing the attention of partners looking to complete their customer centricity offerings," Wang says. The company is garnering attention among analysts as it builds up a solid list of clients across the travel, financial services, insurance, and retail verticals and continues to keep those clients happy, earning it a score of 3.8 in the customer satisfaction category. The company also scored a respectable 3.7 for depth of functionality.
Though Vovici shared our coveted winner's crown with IBM last year, the vendor slipped on our leaderboard this year after dropping from a 3.8 to a 3.2 in depth of functionality. Vovici also received a 3.7 in company direction, which Wang says reflects the confusion customers are feeling after Verint's acquisition of the company. "Customers who purchased Vovici are happy with the solution but unclear on the overall Verint strategy," he says. After purchasing Kana Software in January, Verint may be making a move toward strengthening its commitment to customer experience. Though it's too early to tell, the Kana acquisition might affect Verint's Vovici strategy in the long run, some analysts agree.
Edging out the competition, IBM returned as our winner for the second year in a row for its SPSS Data Collection—a solution that enables organizations to collect and manage attitudinal data, eventually combining it with other customer information to improve support processes. With SPSS Data Collection 7, IBM made improvements with integration to Cognos, and delivered updates to its mobile interviewing capability, call center history report feature, and survey galleries. "Overall, the product has improved in ease of use. Customers are pleased with the flexibility in adding pluggable interface components and HTML 5 customization capabilities," Wang says. As a result, the company performed well across the board, scoring a 4.1 for company direction versus last year's 3.6, and earning 4.0s for customer satisfaction and depth of functionality.
IBM made a series of announcements in the first quarter of 2014, all of which point to the company's continued commitment to big data analytics. In January, IBM introduced its new Watson Group, revealing plans to invest more than $1 billion into leveraging Watson's power for analytics and big data, and committed roughly $1.2 billion to expanding its cloud network. The company's busy Q1 is testament to "how important IBM is taking the world of knowledge, insight, and big data," Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group, told CRM in January.
ONE TO WATCH
Dropping off of our leaderboard by a small margin this year, Allegiance has been busy "beefing up its management ranks" and collaborating with other key players, Wang says. Partnerships with Adobe, Clarabridge, and Salesforce.com, for example, have helped the company capitalize on the movement toward customer centricity, and earned Allegiance a score of 3.6 in the customer satisfaction category. Some analysts, however, express concern over company direction, for which the company received a 3.5. "They are moving slowly, and they are also moving out of the messaging around EFM," Greenberg says. Still, the company received an impressive 4.1 for depth of functionality and is a company to keep an eye on.
The economy is still tight, and many enterprises have looked at their outsourcing budgets as they try to cut costs and improve quality. Peter Ryan, Ovum's principal analyst covering front-office business process outsourcing, has noticed a trend among enterprises "to have work done based on performance, when traditionally it's been done on a per-agent, per-hour basis."
Outsourcing customers are also looking for more technically sophisticated operations. Many outsourcers now collect information about their customers, analyze it, and "feed it back to the customer so the enterprise knows the individual consumer," Ryan says. With technology budgets so tight, many prefer outsourcers to purchase the software and do the analysis themselves.
Growing outsourcers have a few choices when it comes to expansion and diversification, depending on which strategy they pursue. Ryan notes that many U.S. corporations prefer near-shore operations, such as the Caribbean, because they are easier to access than operations halfway around the world in India. Some organizations are focused on building out work-at-home agent operations. He also cites creative servicing of markets, such as having an economically developing country service the market of a growing one, providing they have language overlap.
Convergys recently acquired Stream Global Services, "which will strengthen its high-tech industry sector presence and provide it [with] a much stronger delivery capability to support multinational clients," explains Vicki Jenkins, a customer management services outsourcing analyst at NelsonHall. The acquisition might help the outsourcer diversify and expand its client base. [Convergys has] been perceived as a company that does work for telecommunications companies out of the U.S. The acquisition will only increase Convergys' ability to challenge this sector's competitive set. It also needs to leverage Stream's presence in Europe...to penetrate that region," Ryan says. Convergys "maintains a large internal research organization doing very innovative work on customer experience and loyalty and the service factors that drive these," explains John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research for the Technology Services Industry Association.
"Sitel has really moved forward over the past couple years," Ryan says, earning it a 4.0 in company direction. Jenkins calls out its "leading position in social media services" and its work "developing strong positions in work-at-home agents and paid-for technical support services." The company rolled out the Sitel Intelligent Desktop in 2013, which gives agents access across multiple channels. Sitel also developed an upgraded knowledge search more in line with a generation used to Google-style search.
West earned 4.2s in cost and depth of service, and a solid 4.0 in reputation for customer satisfaction. Its lowest score was in company direction, where it earned a 3.9. "One of the steadiest players in the outsourced contact center space," according to Ryan, West enjoys consistent revenues and profitability. It has "a good number of legacy clients, and [has] successfully carved out a good niche in the provision of home-based agents," he says.
For the second year in a row, Teleperformance leads the outsourcing category. "It is the first pure-play contact center outsourcer to exceed the $3 billion mark," Ryan notes. The strong financials are backed up by an innovative expansion strategy. "They're implanted in countries all over the world; they are usually first movers," he says. "They research exceedingly well. When they make an investment, they don't do so unless it's going to pay off." He also admires the company for its ability "to adapt to local market realities. They make a habit of recruiting fantastic people to work in their operations within different countries. They can take into consideration elements that a highly centralized company may not be able to achieve." On the customer side, Teleperformance serves "a strong geographical client base, and has diverse delivery capabilities, which allow it to assist clients from multiple industry sectors to grow in new and emerging markets," Jenkins maintains.
ONE TO WATCH
"Though too large to be considered a boutique firm, Sykes has a bespoke approach that makes each account unique," Ragsdale says of this year's One to Watch. The "diversified company" with a "good onshore/offshore footprint" also stands to benefit from its 2012 acquisition of one of the largest home-based organizations, Alpine Access, which Ryan suggests will help the company service a growing U.S. market.