This month Kana announced it had acquired contact center provider Ciboodle. This comes a few years after Ciboodle was acquired by Sword, a marriage that apparently didn’t work out because Sword, a predominantly services company, didn’t make the necessary investment in the Ciboodle products to keep them competitive. Kana, looking to expand its portfolio beyond service experience management, spotted that Ciboodle, with its customer experience management portfolio, provided a good, complimentary set of products – so hopefully this ends up as a happy marriage.
Kana has some ambitious plans for the combined product set. Its primary objective is to create a suite of customer service products that supports the delivery of four distinct experiences – agent, web, social and mobile, which in combination Kana is calling next-generation customer service. The agent experience will be delivered through an enhanced version of the Ciboodle desktop and process management products, and will enable agents to deliver better experiences to customers. The web experience will be delivered through enhanced versions of Kana web customer service, email management and knowledge management products, and will enhance customers’ experience using companies’ self-service websites, and allow them to receive better responses to their email. The social experience will use the Kana social and text analytics products to allow organizations to better understand how customers use social media for customer service, and this will be linked to the Ciboodle social community platform that allows companies to interact with customer forums on social media. The mobile experience is the least advanced, but will be built around a new product under development by Ciboodle that will provide mobile customer service on smartphones and tablets. All four will be underpinned by the Kana knowledge management product so that all experiences are supported by common information.
It is fortunate that both sets of products are based on similar Java and SOA technology platforms, as I was told that the new, integrated product set is expected to be ready in nine months – an ambitious task given the number of components in each product set. The company claims the task is doable because there is little overlap between the product sets, so it is mostly a case of integration and modification of the user interface so that it will be common across the new products. The company says the integration will result in common administration and management capabilities, which should ensure that the products are easy to set up, run and use. In the meantime, customers of both companies will continue to use the software they already have in place, with a little cross-selling of existing products. When the new products become available, customers will be offered the opportunity to upgrade, but Kana will go on supporting existing products “for the foreseeable future.” I will be tracking the company’s progress and will keep you updated.
It is perhaps coincidental that following my research into customer relationship maturity I came to the conclusion that both the contact center and customer service are changing at a pace I have not seen in the past. Both are being hit with major new requirements to support mobility and social media, and just about every vendor needs to evaluate how cloud computing will impact their product strategy. I had come up with the concept of next-generation customer service provided through multiple interaction channels, including social media, which supports mobility of customers and internal employees and more than likely is cloud-based. Kana has jumped ahead in this game with its proposed set of new products. It will be interesting to see how they match up to the insights I expect to gain from new benchmark research I am launching into next-generation customer service. If Kana manages to pull off development of these new products, it will have something unique to offer to support companies as they seek to improve their customer service.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director