Top Contact Center Stories of 2016

  • The big contact center story of 2015 was the customer journey, understanding that handling customer queries one interaction at a time without regard to context was a thing of the past.

    In 2016, it became increasingly clear that tracking a customer's journey needs to be part of a broader corporate imperative to coordinate marketing, selling, service, and customer care. As each of these business functions reinvent themselves for a digital world, the impact of technologies like analytics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things will be felt across all of these processes.

  • Out With Omnichannel, In With Digital Transformation
    The title of a Dec. 28, 2016, Wall Street Journal blog tells the story: "The Year Ahead: Digital Transformation Tops CIO Agenda for 2017." Reporter Steven Norton opened the piece by saying that CIOs find themselves in the thick of their firms' digital transformation efforts, in which pervasive computing becomes integrated into every aspect of the business, and changes them all.

    Discussion of digital transformation could be found across No Jitter in 2016, not only in contact center-related articles but elsewhere, including in a September slideshow. Of particular note are two articles I wrote highlighting the customer experience elements of digital transformation initiatives at Canadian banks Tangerine, an all-digital operation (read article) and Royal Bank of Canada, which offers a video banking application for small and medium-sized businesses (read article).

  • Avaya: Oceana and Uncertainty
    Avaya remains a contact center market leader, measured by market share, size of the embedded base, and designation in industry analyst reports. That's to say, it remains the contact center provider for thousands of companies worldwide. In May, the company announced a new contact center solution, Oceana, that promises to combine the myriad point products in the Avaya contact center portfolio into a coherent solution. In October, Oceana became generally available and, as of December, Avaya reported having 20 proof-of-concept projects underway.

    Oceana, however, was not the only news to come out of Avaya last May. Avaya that month also announced that the management team and board had engaged advisors to assist in an assessment of options to address capital structure -- including evaluating interest in parts of its portfolio, as well as a potential restructuring via Chapter 11 (see related post, "Avaya Considers Asset Sale"). Avaya started the process 18 months before the first debt payment was due, this coming October. As of this writing, there remains no announcement on the future structure of the company.

  • NICE Acquires inContact
    November brought the close of NICE's deal to acquire cloud contact center provider inContact. As the graphic shows, when it comes to integrated cloud contact center and workforce optimization (WFO), the inContact solutions and brand will prevail. For standalone WFO, the NICE portfolio will generally be the solution of choice with the suite from Uptivity (purchased by inContact in 2014) continuing to be sold for other contact center solutions (e.g., Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, Mitel).

    NICE is lucky enough to benefit from the ongoing leadership and expertise of inContact CEO Paul Jarman. This is unlike the leadership situation at the newly combined Genesys and Interactive Intelligence -- the other major contact center-related merger in 2016 -- in that Genesys will not have the continued involvement of Interactive's founder and CEO, Don Brown (for more on Genesys and Interactive, see next slide.)

  • Genesys Acquires Interactive Intelligence
    In December, Genesys announced that its planned acquisition of Interactive Intelligence was complete (read related post, "The New Genesys: Juggling AWS and Azure"). At the same time, the company unveiled a new branding scheme for its portfolio, extending Interactive's PureCloud branding to that company's former CIC and CaaS solutions -- now using the as PureConnect label -- and to the Genesys Enterprise Edition, now PureEngage. In CEO Paul Segre's words, the goal is to "convey with the naming a coherent suite."

    Several small cloud acquisitions in 2013 failed to create the definitive contact center cloud powerhouse Genesys had hoped to become. In 2017, one goal will be to continue to capitalize on the early success of PureCloud while continuing to enhance the existing CPE and hosted contact center solutions. Private equity partners Hellman & Friedman, Permira, and Technology Crossover Ventures have placed a multibillion-dollar bet on Genesys' ability to emerge as the cloud contact center vendor of choice for companies of any size.

  • CCaaS Choices Abound
    As cloud contact center increasingly becomes the "new normal," the number of options in terms of both technology and provider partner continues to rise as well. Shown in the slide are just a few of the companies offering solutions we wrote about in 2016.

    • UCaaS vendors that have added contact center -- e.g., 8x8 and BroadSoft
    • "Pure play" CCaaS vendors like Five9 and Serenova (formerly LiveOps Cloud)
    • Traditional contact center vendors that have added CCaaS to a portfolio that includes CPE and hosted options (Aspect and Enghouse Interactive)

  • The Line Between Contact Center and CRM -- Going, Going, Gone?
    Salesforce has been making inroads into the contact center market for about two years, ever since announcing SOS, a video-enabled customer care offering from Service Cloud. In 2016, two more primarily CRM companies upped the contact center ante.

    In 2016, Salesforce competitor Microsoft partnered with CaféX to bring not only video customer care but also full omnichannel functionality to its cloud CRM solution, Dynamics 365.

    Zendesk, which has offered Twilio-based voice calling with its platform for a few years, made the strategic decision to market the functionality of its Talk offer more broadly. Its 2016 goal? To end siloed phone support with the easiest phone support solution, built right into Zendesk (see related article, "Zendesk Bridging the CRM-Contact Center Divide").

  • Cisco Contact Center and Salesforce Collaborate
    While a combined contact center/CRM solution may be right for certain customers -- particularly those with fewer than 200 agents -- a partnership between Cisco and Salesforce announced in September illustrates there is still room in the market for specialization.

    When asked if the line between CRM and contact center is blurring, Salesforce's John Hernandez, COO for Service Cloud said, "I don't think it's blurring -- this (partnership) shows there is a defined role for each. Defined swimming lanes for each makes sense for the customer." Cisco and Salesforce are each bringing pieces of the puzzle that they believe can be combined to create an exceptional customer experience solution -- especially for the enterprise.

  • Messaging
    The title of this Salesforce slide says it all. The hype around messaging in the contact center space is about creating messaging relationships with favored companies like we do with friends -- where there is context, persistence, and the easy ability to escalate to a phone call, or even video, if required.

    Saleforce's entry into this market came via its acquisition of HeyWire, but others have been touting the benefits of messaging for years. In May, we posted a story about Harrison College, which uses Webtext to improve communications with its students (read related article "When Students Won't Answer the Phone"). Using the same Webtext cloud messaging service, this holiday season Lands' End offered for the first time customer service via text messaging. Customers can now text their questions to the same toll-free number Lands' End offers for placing orders.

  • Artificial Intelligence and Bots
    In the run-up to its annual Dreamforce event, Salesforce announced Einstein, its AI platform, in September. My No Jitter post on Einstein was just one of many this year that addressed the increasing availability of AI solutions, some delivered in the form of bots.

    AI is not just a customer experience phenomenon, with applications across the enterprise. However, because of the broad adoption of Salesforce Service Cloud, there is every reason to be hopeful that Einstein and its related services will accelerate the use of AI in the contact center.

  • Executive Changes
    It's hard to ignore the increased role of Salesforce in the customer experience space in 2016, evidenced by its participation in several of the top stories of the year. Executive changes often precede strategic organizational shifts, so it would seem no accident that in 2016 Salesforce made a number of additions from the ranks of traditional contact center vendors.

    • John Hernandez (see slide 8) started his career at Nortel (five years) and Genesys (three years) before spending 13 years in the Cisco Collaboration business unit, several years as the contact center GM. He joined Salesforce in February as the COO and SVP for Service Cloud. We're pleased that John will be joining the Contact Center Executive Forum at Enterprise Connect 2017, March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla.
    • Keith Pearce began his career with five years at Siemens followed by four years at SpeechWorks. In 2007 he moved to Genesys, where he spent nine years, most recently as VP, corporate and solution marketing. He joined Salesforce in March as VP, product marketing, Service Cloud.
    • Angela Riordan spent four years at Avaya followed by 12 at Genesys. Her role for the past four years has been senior director, global sales training & talent. She joined Salesforce in April in an enterprise sales enablement role.

  • Contact Center/Customer Experience at Enterprise Connect 2017
    The top stories of 2016 have shaped our ideas on what we should include in the Enterprise Connect 2017 Contact Center/Customer Experience track. We have planned an unprecedented seven sessions in the track and another, Contact Center 2020, as part of the Enterprise Communications & Collaboration 2020 Conference-within-a-Conference, taking place on Monday, March 27.

    New this year is a session dedicated to users discussing their Skype for Business contact center deployment strategies, and consultant JR Simmons with a session on customer experience best practices. Two prominent industry analysts will join the track for the first time, as well. Melanie Turek of Frost & Sullivan will moderate a session on customer journey management and Sheryl Kingstone of 451 Research will present data and participate in the Contact Center 2020 panel discussion I mentioned above. Plan to join us!

    View the Contact Center track, and register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event pass or a free Expo Plus pass.

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Digital transformation meets customer experience