Customer Service & Support (CSS) is a software segment that provides tools for tracking and resolving customer problems, primarily through contact centers. The segment has been mature for decades but today is reinvigorated by a new emphasis on workflows and automation. Vendors, like ServiceNow, have been innovative in developing new technologies for managing self-service and field service, and providing agents with contextually relevant information during interactions. The new technologies brought to bear on this include artificial intelligence (AI) for knowledge search and delivery; agent assist and guidance tools; and SMS-centric customer messaging.
When we speak of the “customer experience,” we are really referring to the results of a broad spectrum of activities that collectively we describe as a journey or a lifecycle. In the past, how we spoke about customers was largely determined by the limited view of what transpired during short, contact center interactions. Customer experience (CX) evolved as a way to incorporate more facets of behavior into an assessment of the customer’s ultimate value and intent than is possible by looking only at an isolated interaction.
Topics: Customer Experience, Marketing, Voice of the Customer, Contact Center, Product Information Management, Digital Marketing, Digital Commerce, subscription management, agent management, intelligent marketing, Conversational Marketing
I am happy to share insights gleaned from our latest Value Index research, an assessment of how well vendors’ offerings meet buyers’ requirements. The Ventana Research Value Index: Contact Center in the Cloud 2021 is the distillation of a year of market and product research by Ventana Research. Drawing on our Benchmark Research, we apply a structured methodology built on evaluation categories that reflect the real-world criteria incorporated in a request for proposal to cloud contact center vendors. Using this methodology, we evaluated vendor submissions in seven categories: five relevant to the product experience ﹘ adaptability, capability, manageability, reliability and usability ﹘ and two related to the customer experience ﹘ TCO/ROI and vendor validation. I encourage you to learn more about our Value Index and its effectiveness as a vendor selection and RFI/RFP tool.
Having just completed the 2021 Ventana Research Value Index for Contact Center in the Cloud, I want to share some of my observations about how the market has advanced since our assessment three years ago. The trend towards cloud deployment for contact center infrastructure has accelerated, partly (but not exclusively) due to the urgency of the 2020 pandemic. CCaaS has been generally accepted as a safe, reliable alternative to premises-based ACDs that also has benefits in cost-control, scalability and rapid technical innovation. There is a consensus within the industry that CCaaS will soon become the dominant deployment mode, with premises tools reserved for niche applications. Vendors report that the majority of their new customers are cloud-focused.
There are many software components that facilitate contact center operations. Historically, the industry has relied, in part, on niche or best-of-breed applications but this is shifting in favor of broadly integrated suites or ecosystems. When we look at CX trends beyond the contact center, the shift is even more pronounced, with the bundling/collection of applications from martech to CRM-incorporating software that were formerly/previously purchased separately.
Business phone systems and contact center platforms received renewed attention in 2020 as organizations acquired tools for agents working from home. That put the spotlight on vendors, like Avaya, that have feet in both worlds. Since both forms of communications technology are well-suited to the cloud, Avaya has developed its Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) portfolios in parallel. The effort has borne fruit, with significant product enhancements notched recently. Ventana Research asserts that by 2023, one-quarter of organizations will to UCaaS and CCaaS technologies to collaborate in the enterprise and with customers more effectively.
This has been a dramatic year for contact centers. The underlying technology has been changing for some time, but that change is now accelerating because of the urgent operational shifts forced by the pandemic. When you can’t gather dozens or hundreds of people into a single, open-plan site, you must look at alternative models for staffing and interaction handling. You must also work harder to create positive customer experiences across multiple contact channels.
It’s very exciting to embark on a new chapter of one’s career, so I am thrilled to be joining Ventana Research to lead the practice of expertise in customer experience (CX). Some who know me might remember that I’ve been in this industry since a much younger version of me edited Call Center Magazine in the 1990s and 2000s. Others might have crossed paths in my role at several industry analyst firms. I’ve been around for quite a while, invigorate and help CX emerge as a competitive differentiator in the industry, watching successive waves of technological and operational changes wash over this industry. So what’s special about this moment, for the CX industry, for Ventana Research and for myself?