Whatever you want to call it, my (mostly quarterly) aggregation-of-news-and-views as a service (if you are not interested in the eService market, you have my permission to stop reading… only time I will say this).
First, the market is doing quite well; Vendors finally got past their fixation with Social as a solution and came back to Social as a channel – good move.
We are starting to see deeper integration of Social into eService, where it just becomes another channel (someone should create an architecture for this and call it — oh, I don’t know — Customer Interaction Hub or something like that). Clients and prospects actually welcome this, since this is what they were expecting / asking from the beginning. We are starting to see some interesting movements from buyers (VP of Customer Service, Call Center or Contact Center management) who want to tackle Social Customer Service as part of the overall strategy, not just another stand-alone channel. A few of the customers that deployed stand-alone social channels (mostly Twitter, a little Facebook) found out that 1) it is not easy to get out once you are in it, and 2) it is not what they expected or were told.
We continue to see attempts to move Twitter into queues (from my vantage point, Genesys seems to have the lead in doing this well – albeit, they lack the market momentum for it to be noticed), treat tweets as mere interactions, but the cross-channel transfer is beginning to get on managers nerves (mostly the lack of ability to track as one interaction, thus breaking the models in place for First Time Resolution and other operational, efficiency metrics). That means that still over 70% of Twitter interactions across the board (some customers are reporting as high as 95%) get escalated to the Call Center or Contact Center for resolution via an alternative channel (the most common one, at 90% or more, is telephone – either inbound or outbound — outbound has been the easiest for customers to implement so far).
The area where most investment will be directed in the next 6-12 months is communities. Communities not as Marketing does them (branded and controlled communities), but figuring out how to leverage communities better for two things: 1) to let users help other users (which reduces the costs of customer service dramatically – even if the agents are members of the community), and 2) to figure out how to get Social Knowledge (the knowledge generated and managed in the community) to become a critical part of customer service. I was greatly surprised by NoHold (inactive client) and MindTouch (not a client) initiatives in this world, with Inquira (inactive client) having some interesting positioning as well. From these two trends, we are having more and more conversations focused on Social Knowledge – early stage conversations, very few companies doing something about this (and then, mostly pilots and POC – proof of concept) but a growing trend. Second area is Customer Analytics, a growing trend to merge all analytics initiatives into one common solution. I like what Nexidia (current client) is doing with this and they seem to be ahead of the pack; Attensity, Netbase (not a client) and Nice (not a client) seem to be going in the same direction.
On the demand side, customers are getting pickier on what they chose and from whom, eService has become so much more than a mere collection of features and functions. Ability to track and report cross-channel transactions, integration (deep integration) with analytics, and flexible multi-channel management (that includes social channels as well) are at the top of the want-list for most organizations. Community integration and leverage, not managed or branded communities, into the other channels is also at the top of the list. Finally, customer-centricity and customer experience are perennial areas where progress continues. Organizations are continuing the evolution of their Contact and Call Centers at the same slow, but steady pace.
What is happening with eService vendors?
Assistly – Assistly is the smallest vendor in this list, but I am quite certain that they can grow their momentum in the market. The first vendor to offer what I dubbed a “Customer Service 2.0” solution, totally based in the cloud, very focused on social channels, and very easily integrated with other solutions, they continue to make a name for themselves in the market. I have done some reference checks for them and the solutions they deployed extend beyond the social channels to be full eService solutions. I expect to hear more about them in the coming months as the focus towards the fourth quarter (historically, most eService deals close in the fourth quarter) rush continues in the market. Assistly is not a client.
Attensity – Throughout the quarter they announced the launch of a Social Media Command Center, a new focus on Big Data, and a new version of their Analytics software. While all these announcements were on the Analytics product, they maintained the tight integration between Analytics, Social Media monitoring, and eService Suite, resulting in a very interesting proposition for Customer Analytics. Their focus is not in the world of Customer Analytics, but they have a foundation that, in my opinion, would be very interesting to explore. Attensity is a current active client.
eGain – eGain launched their Interactive B2C Sales and Marketing solution recently, a solution that ties their existing components to create a new solution. Using predictive analytics, chat and co-browse, chat-bots, and more of their existing functionality they aim to help their customers reduce cart abandonment rates and improve sales and marketing functionality and accuracy. The intention is certainly in the right place, as we continue to see Customer Service departments extending beyond their traditional functions and requiring better leverage of existing technologies, and eGain always has been at the forefront of offering more functions from their existing suite for their customers. The message needs a little tightening and am waiting to see customer adoption before making a judgment, but certainly interesting. eGain is a current active client.
FuzeDigital – FuzeDigital continues to be the small-engine-that-could. Certainly one of the smallest vendors (by revenue) in the market, their momentum into the market continues aided by their community and reputation engines, both embedded in a complete eService Suite. They signed two deals for distribution that will certainly improve their presence in the market, and it is one of the vendors that can lead into eService deals with their community and social features well. FuzeDigital is an inactive client.
Genesys Labs – Genesys continues to grow their product, if not their customer base. They recently launched one of the more innovative new solutions I have seen in quite some time. Designed, developed, and marketed almost exclusively by Charlie Isaacs (their VP of eService Innovation, or whatever his real-life title is – that is his role), ALUC-IT is a great new way to use QR Codes for Service, Sales and Marketing by embedding customized and ever-changing menus within the QR Code. Instead of scanning a QR Code and being taken to a website, ALUC-IT codes (which are QR Codes to the naked eye) contains a custom smart-phone menu (which launches in any phone you may be using as native) that has customer service, sales, and marketing functions. Call it a dynamic, interactive, visual IVR that is built in real-time according to the contextual needs – or look at it here for more details. I recorded a podcast with Charlie Isaacs where he explains it better, but have not had time to edit and post it – my fault. Genesys Labs is an inactive client.
KANA – I wrote sometime ago that KANA was on the path to recovery, and this quarter seems to have strengthened that conviction. They acquired Overtone (a social media monitoring product) and are already at work with it, extended their relationship with their on-demand provider, continued their expansion into the State and Local Government verticals with their previous Lagan acquisition, extended the work they are doing with their SEM (Service Experience Management) platform (new prospects and new launches this quarter, both too early to show much yet), and recently announced the hiring of a new CMO (which was very needed). They are rebuilding the company and may just surprise everyone in the next 2-3 quarters if they continue in their current path. Although they still have some road to travel on their way to recovery, I am encouraged by what I am seeing. KANA is a current active client.
Moxie Software – Continues to build their solution for Convergence (that place where Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 meet to create a Social Business) by making deeper integration between Spaces (Enterprise 2.0 product) and their eService Suite. They are gaining traction with their message and are getting new customers to sign up. Among the eService vendors, they are the ones that have extended themselves further into the collaboration and Social Knowledge world, both in message and product, and their work this quarter in how to build a better Knowledge Management with collaboration has been quite interesting. Moxie Software is a current active client.
Sword Ciboodle – Continues to build and promote their experience continuum by extending the power of their community, and releasing a beta version of a sales module that would extend their presence deeper into their clients’ organizations (and shows great promise in their move to deliver end-to-end experiences, beyond just eService). The big news of the quarter for them, Sword was acquired by a private equity firm in France, led to a restructuring of the US operations, which is now restarting their momentum. With more focus on growing their US footprint, I expect to see and hear more from them in the next few months as they restart their marketing efforts. Sword Ciboodle is a current active client.
Rightnow Technologies – Continues their march towards becoming a “Customer Experience” vendor, showing momentum in the market as indicated by their financial performance and their growth. Still the largest vendor in the market, by far, it shows no signs of slowing down. They continue to extend their integration of Social Channels with the rest of their suite and have proven that integrating Twitter into their queue management can yield results (via case studies they released). They are still trying to find a way to enter into the Call Center world as this is their path to growing to the size they want to be. Rightnow Technologies is not a client.
ZenDesk – I debated whether to put ZenDesk in this update, but they have greatly expanded their eService footprint this quarter, earning them a spot in the list. Their deep integration with Salesforce yielded many large deals for them, and their newly announced feedback management module is as powerful as it is simple and functional. They have shown great momentum in the market, both winning deals and mindshare among buyers. No longer a helpdesk vendor that wants to be eService, they now offer a complete suite of channel and client management features that makes them competitive. I am hoping to see more case studies and better positioning from them in the months to come, maybe a stronger presence in the larger deals in the market. Zendesk is not a client.
Phew, that is a lot to read and assimilate – I know. Hope you stayed with me.
Now, for the future.
I am going to work through the summer on two research reports: one is to replace this quarterly hoshposh with a real report on Customer Service. It will go beyond eService and will feature much more detail than I can include in a post. Expect it to be launched in October, and will be available (still trying to figure out how to distribute it) from my site, updated twice a year (worse part is putting the methodology in place).
The second report, more ambitious, is about Customer Service in the cloud. I am still working through the details on that one, expect to hear more in the coming month and to be released in November.
Would love to hear what you think of these reports, what’s missing, and what else you would like to see.