I recently wrote how the recent U.K.-based Call Centre Expo showed that companies have shifted priorities for deployment systems from on-premises infrastructures to cloud-based systems and that as a consequence vendors had shifted focus from workforce optimization to cloud-based multichannel interaction management. Confirming this trend, as salesforce.com Dreamforce event at least 10 such vendors will be showing their products. A few of them I saw at Call Centre Expo: Genesys, Interactive Intelligence, LiveOps, NewVoiceMedia and Vocalcom. But as an illustration of how rapidly this market has grown, Dreamforce also will host 8x8, Corvisa Cloud, Five9, inContact and ShoreTel. Between the two events there are 18 vendors offering such products, and many others will not promote and demonstrate products at the event.
What has brought about this dramatic change of landscape? Our customer engagement benchmark research finds that first and foremost, in response to customer demand, companies have to support more and more communication channels. Our recently completed research on next-generation customer engagement management shows that on average companies now support about seven channels, but there are 17 in use by at least some of them. The new research also shows that complicating issues companies have in operating multiple channels is a lack of consistency across channels because the channels are managed as silos. The key step toward achieving consistency is to integrate all the channels, which is costly and time-consuming unless a company purchases an integrated product that can manage all the channels it has to support.
Cloud deployment can help here. While vendors that supply on-premises systems struggle to fully integrate multiple channels, all these new vendors provide such capabilities, and all operate in the cloud. Be aware, however, that not all provide exactly the same capabilities, so potential buyers need to make sure that a product meets their particular needs. Providing cloud-based versions of products can help smaller companies especially because it reduces the required capital outlay, another consideration for potential buyers.
As for why these vendors will be at Dreamforce, a contact center system needs to include more than infrastructure and typically includes some form of CRM, other business applications and increasingly analytics. This is where Service Cloud comes in: It provides core CRM capabilities, plus mobile and social media capabilities. Each of the vendors mentioned above has integrated its solution to Service Cloud in some way, but my briefings indicate that these integrations are subtly different; here again potential buyers should find the one that meets their needs best, looking for a combination that enables them to provide seamless, consistent experiences at multiple touch points.
In today’s competitive business environment it is critical for companies to get customer engagement right. We just released our research on the topic that finds the complexity and lack of investment to be significant challenges for organizations to provide what the research finds as customer choice as the larger benefit realized in 60 percent of organizations. Certainly they aren’t supporting multiple channels for the fun of it. Consumers have changed and become intensely demanding. They engage through more and different channels than in the past, have higher expectations, and want answers fast and in personalized form, consistent across channels and relevant to their needs. From a technology perspective this means channel management must be integrated. In addition companies have to find ways to collaborate across business boundaries and find new measures to monitor and assess their customer-focused activities. More evidence that supports these insights is in our soon-to-be-published benchmark research on next-generation customer experience, and I look forward to sharing it with you. And for those of you at Dreamforce, have fun. I wish I could be there.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director – Customer Engagement