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.
The movement toward suites is inevitable given two factors: the increasing maturity of the contact center market and the simultaneous explosion of innovative applications that touch customer interactions. As a result, the range of stakeholders who are (and should be) brought into purchasing discussions is expanding to include team leaders across sales, marketing and service departments. Ventana Research asserts that through 2023, two-thirds of organizations will increase their spending on technology to integrate operations and processes between sales, marketing and service departments, aligning to organizational goals.
This shift has elevated the profile of companies like Zoho, a long-time suite developer. Zoho builds niche applications for different business functions that connect to each other and integrate into a comprehensive approach serving most roles within a company. Its platform contains dozens of business apps that are bundled into functional groups, one of which is CX. There is also a platform layer that connects the applications and allows them to share services, like artificial intelligence (AI) and data. Zoho is unique among CX vendors in that it builds all of its own apps rather than acquiring them.
At Zoho Day, the company’s 2021 virtual conference, the company laid out its vision for CX and where its offerings fit into the market. Zoho described a buyers’ landscape that is often filled with siloed systems that contribute to risk, complexity and an inconsistent experience for customers across touchpoints. The company’s roadmap and strategy are being directed at those problems, with emphasis on building workflows and automation into its product suite. Zoho’s plans include continued app development within the suite in order to provide more context at important points in each customer interaction.
The CX offering is part of a broader suite, known as Zoho One, which is made up of more than 45 integrated applications covering business functions across the enterprise. Within Zoho One, the company has carved out functional groupings for related tasks: Finance, IT management, CRM, HR, and so forth. The CRM Plus bundle is home to the CX applications, including interaction management, help desk, analytics, customer feedback and communications. It is completely integrated into the rest of the overall portfolio, providing single sign on, a consistent user experience and minimal training for people already familiar with other Zoho apps.
Companies looking for CX tools that are not dominated by contact center features, should consider Zoho One as a simple and effective way to cover most operational bases. It does include the contact center as an adjunct, integrating into it, but this offering is more about connecting front and back-office employees with consistent tools that process digital interactions, along with the workflow and automation processes needed to produce frictionless customer communications. It is also an effective solution for small and midsized organizations that have (or are seeking) close ties among sales marketing and service teams.
In the cross-segment market competition for CX suites that we believe is coming, it will be important for vendors to develop applications that are “sticky” – creating loyalty through ease of use, common interfaces and deep integrations that make it inconvenient to switch away to another vendor. The breadth and consistency of Zoho One and CRM Plus may allow Zoho to prosper in the CX suite segment even among larger, more enterprise-focused competitors.
Some of the potential-use cases Zoho can reach for with CRM Plus include self-service, marketing and journey orchestration, and the creation of automated workflows across departments and functions. Buyers looking for the kind of deep integration that comes from organic feature development (as opposed to acquisitions) should consider Zoho’s CX applications.
Zoho One and CRM Plus are clear examples of how the industry is changing, from one dominated by voice-centric call-handling tools to more business-focused, problem-solving applications purpose-built to be used by people across roles. It is a sign of how we expect the rest of the CX suite market to evolve.
For more reading on how the buyer for CX and contact center technology is changing, see our Analyst Perspective, The Opportunity for CX is Beyond Your Contact Center. More information on these issues can be found at Ventana Research’s Customer Experience Management focus area.