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3 CEO Keynotes, 1 Galvanized Market


Image: IRStone -
In the days between September 15 and 22, 2020, three contact center companies held their annual user events, virtually. As described in the Forrester Wave for Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) published in August, two of the three companies – Five9 and NICE inContact – are considered leaders, and the third – Aspect – is classified as the only “strong performer” in the market. As a group, then, they are - based on the analysis of one major analyst firm - three of the top five companies operating in the cloud contact center market today.
As I would have if attending each of the individual events, I not only attended but live-tweeted the keynotes of the three CEOs, in this order: Barak Eilam of NICE, Rowan Trollope of Five9, and Patrick Dennis of Aspect Software. Here I share highlights from each presentation.
Barak Eilam, NICE: Extreme CX Agility
As I reviewed the tweets I wrote, and their accompanying photos, this one towards the end of Eilam’s keynote stands out. Readers will have seen a variety of contact center maturity models over the years, but here Eilam presents one built in the post-COVID age. 
Here, Eilam clearly articulates the characteristics of the modern, agile contact center – with agility being the primary attribute of a cloud solution that is its most coveted feature in 2020. Eilam makes the case that a native cloud platform is the only way to achieve it – clearly laying the gauntlet down to both companies and vendors who continue to chase a pursue a hybrid path.

Rowan Trollope, Five9: Move 10X Faster
Trollope’s keynote centered on how COVID changed consumer behavior, noting on one slide, “COVID has driven 10 years of customer behavior change in less than one year.” Trollope quoted the McKinsey Quarterly – Five Fifty Report that estimates e-commerce grew more in three months than the previous 10 years combined. He went on to describe the changes affecting so many industries, including telemedicine, remote learning, online entertainment, and remote working – all with customer care implications.
“The contact center is the new front door for business,” was Trollope’s conclusion from this digital change. If the world is moving 10 times faster, companies need to move 10 times faster as well, allowing Trollope to bridge to the five ways that Five9 can help its customers do that.

Patrick Dennis, Aspect: Offer Choice
I wrote my first contact center analyst report in 1990, and at the time, predicted that newcomer Aspect Telecommunications would become the market leader for then-called stand-alone ACDs. Thirty years and many acquisitions and management changes later, Aspect continues to serve some of the same customers it won back in the nineties.

In his keynote, Lifetime Loyalty by the Numbers, Dennis talked about the need for companies to provide choice to their customers; voice when they want it, digital channels, or automation when that is what they want and need. That is the same strategy that Aspect is applying to its contact center portfolio – multi-tenant or single-tenant cloud or premises solutions.
By offering choice, and a full portfolio of contact center and workforce optimization solutions, Aspect is betting that their existing customers will stay with them as they transition to the cloud – when they are ready. The graphic shows the pace with which that change has been happening, as measured by Aspect revenue. And while Aspect has a stellar customer base, I’m sure Dennis is planning on winning some new logos as well.
The Opportunity
At the beginning of 2020, less than 20% of the world’s contact center agents - estimated at approximately 15 million – were operating on a cloud solution. The move to a cloud contact center was moving at a consistent but unremarkable pace – most recently about 500,000 agents per year. As with so many things, COVID has changed everything. I would not be surprised to see the market achieve the equivalent of 1 million new agent licenses in 2020.
Players like the ones discussed in this article, with long histories in the contact center market, are being chased by relatively new entrants. Some of these are a small part of much larger firms, e.g., AWS and Twilio. Others are small companies almost exclusively focused on contact center: Edify, Sharpen, Thrio and UJET, to name a few. The good news is there is plenty of growth in this market – thousands of companies with millions and millions of premises-based agent seats. There is more than enough for everyone to thrive.