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Genesys Dividing to Conquer Digital Engagement

Genesys today announced the launch of Genesys Digital, a business unit focused on helping companies address consumers’ fast-evolving preference for digital channels when interacting with businesses — a move that stems from transitions it is witnessing among its customers.
For example, Genesys reports a 300% year-over-year growth in digital interactions and notes that 15% of Genesys Cloud (the platform built on AWS and acquired from Interactive Intelligence) customers are now digital-first. In addition, many of the company’s largest enterprise customers using Genesys Multicloud (based on Genesys Engage) are also seeing the consumer shift to digital with increasing volumes of chat sessions over phone calls, Genesys said.
In September 2019, I wrote that Genesys had tapped renowned communications industry executive Barry O’Sullivan to rejoin the company and lead the Genesys Engage business unit (O’Sullivan had spent a short time with Genesys following its acquisition of his cloud-based customer journey analytics start-up, Altocloud, in February 2018, then spent a year at Permira, a Genesy investor, before taking on the Engage role). This past April, Genesys added another well-known industry exec, John Hernandez, as VP and GM for Genesys Multicloud. In an interview with Genesys CEO Tony Bates and O’Sullivan about the Digital business unit, Bates emphasized that his ability to move quickly to address this burgeoning market opportunity is possible because of the “bench strength” he has built at the company.
Barry O'Sullivan, Genesys

Barry O'Sullivan, Genesys

With today’s announcement, O’Sullivan becomes EVP and GM of Digital and AI, and will head the new business unit. O’Sullivan is a successful entrepreneur, a fact Bates referred to when he called him “a grand master who is incredible at incubating and attracting amazing talent.” Meantime, Hernandez has been promoted to the EVP and GM of Genesys Multicloud Solutions business unit to succeed O’Sullivan.

Though the Digital business unit is new, Genesys has delivered digital engagement management solutions for over a decade. For the past two years, development and delivery of digital and AI solutions has been part of the Genesys Cloud business unit led by EVP and GM Olivier Jouve. The “divide” in my post title refers to the fact that Genesys has carved the Digital business unit out of the Genesys Cloud unit.
Especially during the pandemic, digital engagement with customers has included an increasing amount of automation. One key to customer-friendly (and therefore adopted) automation is the use of artificial intelligence technologies, including natural language understanding and machine learning. Herein lies the logic of bringing digital and AI together under one business unit and leader.
“As we explained [earlier this month] at our analyst and consultant summit, we feel that there's a big opportunity around digital,” O’Sullivan said during our interview. “We've got the right technology and we want to aim it at increasing our addressable market.” The first way Genesys can do that is with a digital-only offering that can work in conjunction with premises contact centers. The Genesys Digital and AI offer can become a “Trojan horse” into an account that may want to keep its voice infrastructure but add digital and AI solutions.
As a second way to increase the addressable market, Genesys’s “ambition is to compete head-to-head with the digital-only players like LivePerson, Intercom, and Drift, and so on,” O’Sullivan said. But the Digital business unit will not have its own salesforce; rather, O’Sullivan said, all salespeople will continue to be led by Marylou Maco, EVP of worldwide sales and field, with specialists focusing on digital and AI. “We’ll start with an overlay approach, but we do believe this can get very mainstream,” added Bates, implying that a dedicated digital salesforce is possible in the future.
Doubling-down on digital engagement is not new. In fact, it has been a theme in contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) vendor strategy over that last year or so. Several CCaaS vendors have announced digital-first initiatives (e.g., Five9) or made digital engagement company acquisitions. This latter includes RingCentral, with its purchase of Dimelo, NICE with Brand Embassy, and most recently, Cisco and its plan to acquire IMImobile.
Genesys’s decision to create the Digital business unit reminds me of the presumed attitude of CRM vendors about the inevitability of digital years ago. All customer service interactions were going to go digital. The CRM vendors built digital solutions and for the most part avoided wading into voice, which they considered legacy and messy.
What contact center vendors know, and CRM vendors have learned, is that voice does still matter, even as digital rises in usage and importance. For the foreseeable future, digital may be the first choice of many consumers, but voice will continue to be the first choice for others and the last resort for all. The best answer for an enterprise that wants to provide a great customer experience is to choose a software provider that excels at the queueing, routing, and reporting of all customer interactions, be they voice or digital. Contact center providers like Genesys have been refining those core capabilities for almost 50 years.