IP Contact Centers: Customer Retention Has Become the Key Benefit
Traditional contact-center infrastructure vendors face few greenfield opportunities in the large enterprise market in mature geographies. This, according to independent market analyst Datamonitor, has caused them to change their sales and marketing strategies, focusing much less on the benefits of the transition from time division multiplexing (TDM) to Internet protocol (IP) and much more on topics such as unified communications (UC) for the contact center and ways to connect the enterprise with the branch and the contact center.
The report “Decision Matrix – Selecting an IP Contact Center Vendor,” which provides a comparative analysis of the top IP contact-center vendors in the enterprise market, says that IP contact-center vendors have begun to offer unified product lines, aiming for common administration and reporting, common user interfaces and functionality far beyond basic routing.
An IP contact center is any contact center that does not use traditional circuit switching; that is, all calls are voice-over-IP or are converted from TDM to IP. An IP contact center leverages the intrinsic benefits of IP communications, including the fact that either or both voice and data communications can be efficiently routed to any customer service agent with access to an IP connection. Through the use of SIP, IP contact centers can detect and route customer communications based on SIP-controlled presence management in place of the traditional automatic call director (ACD).
“In order to offset markedly slower growth in the their traditional stronghold of the large enterprise market, IPCC vendors that had traditionally sold technology for very large contact centers will continue to try to find ways to package and sell products for smaller customers,” said Ian Jacobs, senior analyst for customer interaction technologies at Datamonitor and the report’s author.
“This means increased competition for companies that have already created small and mid-sized enterprise products. It also means increased competition for technologically and business process-savvy channel partners from which smaller companies typically buy such products.”
Very Different Market Leaders
Taking these trends into account, Datamonitor created a three-pronged framework for evaluating IPCC vendors. In the Decision Matrix, Datamonitor provides a summary of IP contact-center vendors’ capabilities based on a quantitative assessment of their market impact and end-user sentiment, as well as an extensive review of the technology features that they offer. Taken together, these three set of criteria serve as the basis for Datamonitor’s positioning of vendors as Shortlist, Consider or Explore in the competitive landscape.
The shortlist category features two very different vendors: Avaya, with a long communications equipment history, and Alcaltel-Lucent/Genesys, a parent company that merges two different enterprise and carrier communications vendors and a subsidiary that has been successful by upending the switch-dependent paradigm for contact centers.
“There is little space between these market leaders, an indicator of the intensely competitive nature of the contact-center industry and of the wide-ranging, but differing appeal of the two companies’ approaches,” said Jacobs. “Although both were selected as leaders, Alcatel-Lucent/Genesys and Avaya have very different priorities and road maps, and will not necessarily always directly compete for the same client accounts.”
Increased Focus on Customer Service and Retention
The sluggish economy has led to a change in strategy in the contact center: The focus has shifted from customer acquisition to customer retention. Clients' budgets are tightening and consumer confidence is in decline along with consumer spending. This is making it difficult for enterprises to gain new business, and they are concentrating on current customers, improving customer service and seeking out contract renewals and upgrade opportunities. Customer-service quality and customer intimacy are becoming increasingly important to achieve good customer loyalty rates.
Core IP contact-center features and functions are important and customers still consider functionality when making their purchasing decisions. “But the difference between choosing vendor A and vendor B rarely comes down to which technology provider can implement specific-agent recall routing rules or which one has a scripting engine for canned email responses,” concluded Jacobs. “This is why it is crucial for enterprises to consider technology alongside other factors such as a vendor’s reputation among its own customers and its position in the market.”