Vendors Battle For The Heart Of The Contact Center


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Organizations fail to deliver a quality of service that customers expect. Our data shows that 67% of US online consumers say they've had unsatisfactory service interactions in the past 12 months. This parallels recent data from Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Research survey. This is because companies need a variety of queuing and routing, CRM and WFO software to support end-to-end operations  - software procured from a number of different vendors. Today’s set of un-integrated components restricts contact center managers from obtaining a full, multichannel view of customer interactions, makes it difficult to configure more effective rules for contact flow, and ultimately impacts the quality of service delivered.

The last decade has seen continued consolidation and turmoil in each of the three software categories, as vendors have acquired direct competitors to fill in gaps in their offerings. More importantly, vendors have acquired companies in adjacent spaces to broaden their customer engagement management capabilities and offerings. Today, the leading vendors within each respecive category offer robust end-to-end solutions, and you have to dig deep to find feature differentiation between software solutions. This has left vendors focusing on different verticals, geographies and deployment sizes in order to grow their footprint.  In addition, some vendors have made moves into developing capabilities or making acquisitions outside of  their respective categories to increase market share. Many vendors offer a combination of 2 of the three foundational building blocks for the contact center - but no vendor has robust end-to-end offerings across all three categories.

We predict that this combination of mature software categories where vendors are struggling with  growth opportunities, and rising buyer frustration makes for ripe conditions for further consolidation to happen in the marketplace. Other pivot points include:

  • Shift in buyer roles. The buyers of contact center technologies are shifting. Traditionally, CRM and WFO technologies were purchased by the contact center decision-maker, and supported by IT.  Queueing  and routing technologies were historically a hardware purchase  via an IT buy.  These technologies are now implemented as software and their purchase is a joint decision between IT and business decision makers.
  • Contact center infrastructure is jumping to the cloud. Carrier networks and contact center SaaS providers have been capable of supporting real-time reliable voice for a long time, but the on-premises equipment bias in the market has been very strong and is only now beginning to erode. Forrester data backs this up:  16% of contact center buyers indicate they will move their contact center systems to the cloud in the future.
  • CRM customer service and WFO technologies are also shifting to the cloud. Forrester data shows that 15% of organizations have already replaced all or most of their on-premises customer service applications with software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, 24% complement their existing solutions with SaaS, and 31% plan to replace and/or augment their solutions with SaaS within two years.  In addition, WFO vendors report similar trends, with a larger number of contact centers of all sizes looking for cloud based WFO .
  • New competitors emerge which provide alternatives. There is a new breed of vendor – hosted contact center vendors - that are putting this technology ecosystem together, and offering it as a bundle for sale. Vendors like inContact, Five9, and LiveOps offer a unified communications infrastructure, robust routing, and queuing engines for interactions of all types — voice, digital, and social. They have integrated workforce optimization software suites for agent quality management, scheduling, forecasting, and contact center performance. Today, they tend to either have adapters to leading CRM systems or they have light weight case management and knowledge capabilities which can be easily hardened or acquired.

This consolidation of  end-to-end capabilities offers process efficiencies such as: 1) the ability to better support omnichannel interactions by passing contextual data across channels so that customers do not have to restart conversations when they switch channels in the course of an interaction;  2) consolidated reporting across all channels which can be used to staff and forecast agents to control headcount costs;  3) optimized routing based on current agent skills and success rates for similar interactions for higher first contact resolution scores; 4) targeted coaching based on quality scorecard results. These process efficiencies allow contact centers to deliver a higher quality of service at an optimal cost structure, keeping customers satisfied with the level of service delivered, and loyal to the company brand.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Leggett
Kate serves Business Process Professionals. She is a leading expert on customer service strategies. Her research focuses on helping organizations establish and validate customer service strategies strategies, prioritize and focus customer service projects, facilitate customer service vendor selection, and plan for project success.


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