Contact Center Market Update 2010

Patrick Barnard
Group Managing Editor, TMCnet

Contact Center Market Update 2010

This is the continuation of my live blog from Interactive Intelligence's Annual Global Partner Conference, currently underway in San Antonio, Texas.

This morning I'm attending a session about the state of the contact center industry, presented by analyst Sheila McGee Smith.

The fear that people have is "viral" -- if something goes viral what do I do?

She points to a viral video United Smashed My Guitars -- famous country musician's instruments were smashed while he was flying on United Airlines.

The point is, this video went viral and is still receiving a ton of hits a year later in 2010.

She discusses Cisco Quad, its new social media platform -- they have now brought this into the contact center through a new "customer collaboration platform" It's a contact center version of the enterprise edition.

The product, however, won't be available until 2011.

She says Cisco has a demo online "but they still don't have a product."

"What is being done here is no different than what Buzzeant can do."

Genesys' new G8 platform also promises social media integration -- the goal is that they want the "entire stream of communications" can be tracked and known to the agent when a customer calls in -- in other words, knowing what they wrote on Facebook before they even call in.

She points out that Genesys, which is owned by Alcatel-Lucent, is no longer a company brand, but rather a product brand. The two companies are now merged -- they now share sales and marketing and the people who sold Genesys technology are now selling ALU technology as well.

As far as social monitoring goes, Genesys wants to be able to take any social media stream and get that to the agents using the Genesys platform. "How they are doing that specifically, don't know."

Avaya is also getting into social media monitoring. Their solution, however, is "going to be simply called a gateway."

"They are not specific - no partner - no Cisco Quad - nothing to really hang your hat on," McGee Smith says.

She says there are a lot contact center vendors out there that are getting into the social networking integration that still haven't gone multichannel -- they have no integration with email or web chat -- so how are they going to do it? A lot of companies are saying they're going to do it -- just so they can say they are doing it.

Buzzient however provides tight integration with CIC. You can implement is quickly and easily.

She asks, rhetorically, is social media integration "similar to what email routing was in 1999? Expert routing in 2008? Could be..."

But there's no doubt that it's coming... and customers are ready to embrace it.

Leveraging the Best of Contact Center

She says last year BPA was the big topic. Interactive is "moving slowly and cautiously" on this initiative, she says. "It takes time to build this."

She compares the BPA products of the competing vendors, including Genesys and Avaya, to Interactive's Interaction Process Automation.

Companies seeing success with Genesys' BPA solution include telstra, Kaplan university, FirstEnergy, Travelers, ITERGO and Vodafone.

Avaya Application Enablement Framework has the potential to become a great BPA play (enables custom applications) -- ACE, she says, "could become Avaya's answer."

Next she moves on to the cloud trend. "Hosting is looking very good" she says.

Genesys partners with telcos to host its applications in the cloud. There's a slew of hosted providers who can help any contact center vendor bring their applications out into the cloud, but thing is, that means the vendor doesn't have control over the hardware/software, the computing environment. Plus there might be third party vendors in the picture. For example, Cisco's cloud computing environment is made possible through partitioning software offered by third party vendor VOSS. (HUCS: Carrier Class Architecture). The point is, you can't assume that major vendors aren't reliant on third party solutions.

inContact started off as a carrier so it has that advantage going for it. But it doesn't offer the unique local control model that Interactive Intelligence offers.

She says avaya's Elite customers, if they want email integration, for example, 20 seats of email, all they do is simply bolt Aura onto the platform in order to deliver the new features and functionality. Avaya has spent a lot of time marketing its solutions but again, a lot of them simply aren't GA yet.

For example, they don't have integrated dialer...

Cisco's challenges include complexity and the number of disparate OEM components.

Genesys' big challenge is that it is now merged with ALU's enterprise business, as of January 2010. "It's still an unknown if they can pull that off."

And Interactive's big challenge: Taking advantage of international opportunity.

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