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The Blurring Line Between CRM and Contact Center Software

This week on a client call, I was asked to give my opinion on how the contact center market would evolve over the next three to five years. My response was that the increasing overlap between CRM and contact center solutions--as both use the term customer experience management to define their mission--would continue. I further speculated that Salesforce and Oracle may eventually be the leaders in the customer experience space--not in the three-to-five year timeframe, but perhaps within ten years. Two press releases this past week only served to reinforce my view.

LiveOps announced at a Salesforce event in Chicago last week the availability of two managed applications on the Salesforce AppExchange: Voice Advantage and Outbound Advantage. Not being familiar with the terminology, I investigated the meaning of "managed" in this context.

AppExchange is's marketplace for cloud computing business applications and consulting partners. There are two types of apps hosted on AppExchange: managed and unmanaged. According to the Salesforce ISVForceGuide, unmanaged applications are typically used to distribute open-source projects or application templates to provide developers with the basic building blocks for an application. Managed packages are typically used by partners to distribute and sell applications to customers. Using the AppExchange and the License Management Application (LMA), developers can sell and manage user-based licenses for the app.

One of the defining characteristics of managed apps is that they can be sold by the direct sales staff to retire quota. Many (if not most) cloud contact center solution providers offer managed applications on the AppExchange, including Five9, inContact, NewVoiceMedia and even recently announced CorvisaCloud.

Picture this scenario: A Salesforce salesperson has a customer using Salesforce ServiceCloud (CRM) that connects to a legacy call center solution using CTI to do screen pops. He/she tries to migrate that customer from the Professional License to a higher tier, the Performance license. What are the selling points? Features such as integrated knowledge base, live Web chat, social customer service, among others, are included in the more expensive license. Oh, and if you want to get rid of that legacy voice equipment, let me help you choose one of our cloud-based contact center partners from the AppExchange.

While traditional telephony-based contact center vendors (Avaya, Genesys, Cisco, etc.) are busy trying to move their voice-only customers to multichannel environments (driving upgrade as well as license revenue) they are competing not only with, but with Oracle and other cloud-based CRM vendors as well. The CRM vendors typically can supply all of the non-voice channels (e.g., email, Web chat, social interactions, SMS, etc.).

The contact center vendors will tell you that they have better routing engines, and they probably do. And that they can integrate the voice and non-voice reporting better. That one gets a "maybe they can," since contact center providers such as NewVoiceMedia boast of delivering their statistics within Salesforce dashboards. They will cite additional differentiators as well, but as the cloud contact center vendors flock to Salesforce events (both the annual DreamForce and regional events), I have to wonder if they are giving scarce marketing dollars to the behemoth that may eventually destroy them.

PS: The second press release last week was Salesforce's launch of Service SOS, an enterprise version of Amazon's Mayday button that delivers all the other non-voice contact center channels, and now video too.

For more information about the Salesforce SOS Service announcement, see the latest article from Zeus Kerravala.

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