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        Keith Dawson's Analyst Perspectives

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        Calabrio Enables Contact Center Agent Productivity

        Every contact center agent represents an incredible investment in time and money even before that person starts working with customers. The costs associated with the labor force — and the need to continually replace agents who leave — have long forced managers to use technology to optimize performance and processes. Much of the technology that was developed decades ago is still relevant and in use for quality management and workforce efficiency. Advances in related areas like artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics are allowing software vendors to re-revamp the entire toolkit for optimizing and fine-tuning agent performance.  

        At the same time, the market for agent management tools has consolidated. There are fewer independent vendors in this space than there were 10 years ago, partly because the market used to be made up of fragmented point solutions that each solved very narrowly defined optimization problems (e.g., routing, scheduling, recording, etc.). Vendors of end-to-end contact center platforms now routinely incorporate agent-related tools into their broad suites, either through acquisitions or partnerships with vendors like Calabrio.  

        Calabrio is a private equity-based vendor that has been in this space since 1995. With that long history, Calabrio is an example of how to successfully evolve a set of matureVentana_Research_2024_Assertion_AgentMgmt_Training_Budgets_14_S technologies into powerful next-generation applications. In the process, Calabrio has helped reshape how the industry thinks about agent management, shifting (slowly) from the relentless pursuit of cost control to a more balanced view of the role agents play in generating revenue, customer loyalty and brand boosting. At the same time, agented interactions are becoming more complex, multithreaded and high stakes. Ventana Research asserts that by 2026, two-thirds of contact centers will have increased their budgets for training and coaching due to the rigors of managing work-from-home agents and the increasing complexity of agented interactions; this supports the argument for shifting the focus from cost control to identifying agents that can develop skills related to selling or judgement.  

        Generative AI has contributed to that shift. Discussion of GenAI has been wide-ranging across many industries over the past year, but it has become apparent that the contact center is ground zero for effective application of this technology. For example, quality evaluations of agents are one of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks faced by supervisors. That process is also one of the most important in customer experience (CX) because it provides a window into agent skills. Quality is one of the few levers supervisors can move in the quest to provide better customer experiences. Calabrio has been a leader in articulating — and demonstrating — the value of AI-based evaluations across all interactions. Using AI in place of supervisors for the first round of evaluations provides a much deeper look at agent performance and skills. By incorporating AI into Calabrio ONE, the company's flagship product, it removes manual work from the supervisor's task list, allowing them to focus on more strategic efforts.  

        Calabrio has also begun executing on a subtle but important shift in messaging. Standard thinking about agent management tools (also known as workforce engagement management or workforce optimization) has focused like a laser beam on cost control and efficiency. Tools for scheduling, forecasting, evaluation and performance analysis have long been seen as a bulwark against escalating labor costs and a way to manage increasing interaction volume without adding staff. But Calabrio has been out front in pivoting to an argument that reflects better customer outcomes, rather than more speed at a better price. Calabrio has begun talking about agents as brand protectors and drivers of loyalty, and about contact centers as drivers of revenue.  

        Calabrio ONE is a platform that incorporates multiple agent-related applications: interaction recording, quality management, workforce management, analytics and data management. The first three of those apps are very mature and long-used tools that have migrated from point solutions into broad suites. Technology has improved them over the last 10 years, notably in data analysis and user interface design. And they will continue to evolve, thanks to the ease of cloud deployment and to GenAI. Calabrio has been able to avoid the fate of other independent agent management vendors (i.e., getting swallowed up by larger contact center platform companies) by becoming the partner of choice for a wide variety of Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) firms. Larger firms like Cisco, Twilio and Amazon have integrated their routing systems with Calabrio's full solution, essentially filling a large gap in their portfolios with Calabrio ONE. For some CCaaS vendors, this has bought them time to slowly build or acquire their own pieces of the agent management toolkit.  

        Calabrio's partnership ecosystem is especially strong in this regard. It can go to market alone, as a key supplier that can plug into any contact center, or partner with established CCaaS platforms. It has 300 global partners that include key systems integrators and global resellers. The breadth of its partnerships should insulate Calabrio for a while against the downside of CCaaS platforms continuing to build their own niche applications and should allow Calabrio to remain on the leading edge developmentally, keeping up with the advancements made by larger competitor-partners. In 2023, for example, the company worked with Genesys to fully integrate with the Genesys Cloud CX routing platform and with Zoom Contact Center to integrate its workforce management apps. In both cases, buyers can choose whether to use native CCaaS applications or those from Calabrio.  

        Calabrio is also working with AI systems from OpenAI as a complement to its own proprietary AI and machine learning (ML) development work. In contact centers, there appears to be an advantage to using domain-specific data to train AI, which consists of customer conversations and specific service-related information that longtime contact center vendors have access to. Multiple vendors along with Calabrio have been pursuing AI development along these dual tracks, open and proprietary, depending on the application and use case.  

        In Ventana Research's recent Agent Management Buyers Guide, our analysis classified Calabrio as Exemplary, ranking second in the overall research. This was an especially strong showing when considering the relative size of the competitive firms and is due in part to Calabrio's partnership strategy and productive collaborative relationships with its peers. Calabrio scored in first place on measures related to the product's usability and reliability, which no doubt is one reason why those peers are comfortable letting Calabrio control the agent-facing functions for their customers.  

        From a buyer’s point of view, Calabrio should be a short-list contender in any consideration of agent management technology, from niche point solutions to the complete platform. The high level of innovation and consistent performance ensure Calabrio’s continued role as an important, independent solution provider for contact centers globally.  

        Regards,

        Keith Dawson

        Authors:

        Keith Dawson
        Director of Research, Customer Experience

        Keith Dawson leads the software research and advisory in the Customer Experience (CX) expertise at Ventana Research, now part of ISG, covering applications that facilitate engagement to optimize customer-facing processes. His coverage areas include agent management, contact center, customer experience management, field service, intelligent self-service, voice of the customer and related software to support customer experiences.

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