Contact Center Market 2018

by Dave Michels

I have been focused on enterprise communications for about 20 years now. During that time, there has been no topic more boring than contact center — until now.

Suddenly, the contact center is where it’s at. It’s not just me, it was a major theme of Enterprise Connect 2018 (easily missed in previous years) and you can see it’s getting regular coverage on NoJitter – there are some weeks on Nojitter now that are dominated by contact center news.

What’s changed? I think there’s several important trends coming together. To name just a few:

  • Unlike the UC to UCaaS migration, the CC to CCaaS migration is actually expanding the market. The expensive equipment and skills necessary before created barriers (for customers and vendors) to participate in this market.
  • The API economy is redefining what a contact center looks like, how it can be customized, and/or even created from scratch.
  • The continuous and incremental pace of innovation in cloud-delivered services are an order of magnitude faster than premises-based systems.

We kind of saw this before. The Internet forced us to rename the “call center” to the “contact center.” That was because of these new channels such as webchat. But, these new channels are often at the expense of voice . It’s not just webchat comms either – the Internet is also creating channels associated with e-commerce, product research, and social networking. There’s also the new reality that Facebook and Google pioneered regarding the monetization of customer data.

We can create better outcomes when we use our data. So, now there’s a rush to collect customer data from all these channels and other sources.

We have the proverbial perfect storm of customer engagement innovation.

Earlier this month was CCW. It used to be known as Contact Center Week. Now, it’s Customer Contact Week. Hmmm.

These shifts and conflicts are evident within the recent Gartner Magic Quadrant for CCI. This is Gartner’s MQ for premises-based contact center. I think the authors did a reasonable job capturing the market. There were what initially appeared as contradictions, but it’s really just a snapshot of multiple forces transforming the space.

Here’s the thing about disruption: it happens slow and then fast.

Consider that after almost twenty years of Internet, voice channels remain dominant for customer interactions. I wrote in No, I Don’t Want to Call You, that we often have to use voice because there’s no viable alternative. That post is a year and half old yet still true. Just this week, I again had to call an airline to make a basic change that I could not complete through self-service (I tried).

Now realize that neither the airline nor myself wanted to conduct that transaction over voice. There’s even more reluctance from younger customers. Those younger folks are getting older and at the same time the digital channels and self-service options are improving.

Disruption is slow and then fast. 

Digital channel and self service are indeed a core feature of the contact center. Now, let’s take that rapidly evolving sector and merge/integrate it with customer data systems such as CRM.

Recently, I arrived at a hub airport to change planes on my for my “final destination.” Upon arrival, I noticed that my scheduled departure was severely delayed. I sought a customer service representative and requested a change to the next scheduled flight which was now earlier than my booked flight. It was easy: there was an earlier flight, there was room on it, and I did not have checked luggage.

I couldn’t help but wonder why I even had to ask. Why didn’t the airline proactively text me with the option or meet me at the arrival gate? There’s really no excuse. I’m an “elite” customer, they have my contact information, they knew where I was and where I was going, and that I didn’t have checked luggage. My expectations are higher than their reality  — and my expectations are low.

We are in early innings of both harvesting contact center data and integrating communications with customer relationship data (and the CRM folks are doing the same from the other direction). Also, just for grins, let’s toss into the blender new AI tools and CPaaS customization capabilities. There’s also incredible improvements in WEM and analytics. All of these sectors are creating possibilities and visions that overlap and intersect.

The CCI Magic Quadrant is on a collision course with several other Magic Quadrants.


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