Cloud-Based Contact Centers: Bringing Clarity to a Crowded Market
By Donna Fluss
The cloud-based contact center infrastructure sector is close to 20 years old, but it is still a relatively immature market. Although the sector has been around for a while, it didn’t come into its own until 2010, on the heels of the Great Recession. While it’s clear that this market is sustainable and will thrive for many years to come, it is expected to undergo a great deal of change over the next five years.
With more than 150 competitors, the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market is over-crowded and confused. Some end users are turning to their carriers for these services. Others are looking to their incumbent on-premises providers, and still others are going to the Web and doing searches to see which vendors turn up. Currently, there is no clear market leader; no single vendor always ranks at the top of the heap in this sector. However, DMG expects this to change in the next few years. Based on market growth and the increasing stability of a few of the cloud-based contact center infrastructure platforms, some of the vendors are maturing enough to become leaders.
There is much more to market leadership than simply the number of customers, implementations, or seats. DMG has developed leadership criteria to assist end users in assessing providers in the cloud-based contact center infrastructure marketplace. DMG proposes that vendors be evaluated in these four areas:
Business leadership. This includes the ability to execute and the completeness of vision. Ability to execute encompasses a company’s ability to market, sell, implement, and support its solution. Completeness of vision addresses a company’s ability to build and deliver a highly dependable, differentiated, and innovative offering.
Solution. You should be looking for a functionally rich and broad solution that offers a seamlessly integrated application. The solution should easily integrate with third-party on-premises and cloud-based applications.
Platform. A platform must be 100 percent (or nearly so) dependable and reliable, and should include fail-safe disaster recovery and business continuity.
People. These are your vendor’s human resources—implementers, project managers, integration specialists, professional services, and support staff, with outstanding and deep business, technical, and domain/vertical expertise.
The cloud-based contact center infrastructure market continues to be hot—it is perceived to be highly attractive, lucrative, and filled with opportunity. Although this market is growing rapidly, as reflected by a nearly 50 percent increase in seats as compared to the prior year, the opportunity is not large enough to sustain the current crop of 150-plus competitors. The question is, which vendors are best suited to survive and thrive into the future? Regardless of the answer, one thing is certain: All 150 won’t make the cut; there will be a shakeout. Below is a high-level review of 11 leading and contending vendors that should be considered when selecting a cloud-based contact center infrastructure solution. (This list includes U.S. and European competitors, although a growing number of these vendors have a presence in other parts of the world.)
3CLogic is a privately held provider of cloud-based contact center services that are hosted on Amazon Web Services’ public cloud. 3CLogic Cloud Contact Center is a multichannel solution that supports inbound, outbound, and blended voice, email, SMS, and Web chat. The solution also provides basic CRM capabilities as a standard component. The solution is geared for environments with 50 to 200 seats.
8×8, a public company (NASDAQ: EGHT), is a provider of cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions, Internet Protocol–private branch exchange (IP-PBX) telephony, and carrier/network services. 8×8’s Virtual Contact Center (VCC) supports inbound, outbound, and blended voice, email, chat, and social media. VCC also provides CRM:Lite, a ticket management application, as a standard component of the system. Its sweet spot is contact centers with 2 to 300 concurrent agents.
Connect First is a privately held provider of integrated cloud-based contact center software solutions and carrier/network services. Connect First’s Contact Center Infrastructure (CCI) is a multichannel, cloud-based platform that supports inbound, outbound, and blended voice, email, and chat. Its sweet spot is contact center environments with 50 to 250 seats.
Content Guru is a United Kingdom–based network services technology provider. Its solution, storm Contact, is a multichannel cloud-based contact center solution that supports voice, email, chat, SMS, and social media, and it also natively provides basic CRM functionality. Storm Contact is geared for environments with 50 to 250 seats.
Enghouse Interactive is the communications software and services division of Enghouse Systems, a public company that is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: ESL). The company sells Contact Center Service Provider (CCSP), a multitenant, multichannel (voice, email, text, SMS, Web chat, and video) cloud-based contact center infrastructure platform that is sold to carriers, outsourcers, and service providers. It comes with Tracker, a proprietary case management tool for basic CRM.
Five9, a public company (NASDAQ: FIVN), is a provider of cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions and carrier/network services. Virtual Contact Center (VCC) is a multichannel contact center solution that supports voice, email, chat, and social media. Five9’s target market is contact centers with 5 to 700 agents.
InContact, a public company (NASDAQ: SAAS), is a provider of cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions and carrier services. The company’s Cloud Contact Center Platform is a multichannel solution that supports voice, email, chat, fax, SMS, social media, and work items. InContact’s target market is contact centers with 50 to 750 seats.
Intelecom, headquartered in Oslo, Norway, is a provider of cloud-based contact center solutions and communication services. Intelecom Connect is its cloud-based contact center infrastructure solution; it supports voice, email, chat, SMS, and fax, and it also provides basic CRM-like capabilities. Intelecom’s sweet spot is contact centers with 25 to 500 seats.
Interactive Intelligence, a public company (NASDAQ: ININ), has two single-tenant cloud contact center infrastructure offerings: CaaS (for 50 to 500 seats) and CaaS Small Center (for 10 to 50 agents). The solutions provide support for voice, email, chat, text, SMS, and video. In June 2015, Interactive Intelligence released PureCloud Engage, a multitenant offering that is hosted on Amazon Web Services.
LiveOps recently separated its cloud-based contact center infrastructure business from its business process outsourcing (BPO) unit, which sells agent services. LiveOps Engage, the company’s cloud-based contact center infrastructure solution, supports voice, email, text, SMS, Web chat, and social media. The company targets contact centers with 150 to 400 seats.
NewVoiceMedia is a privately held cloud-based contact center software suite provider headquartered in the U.K. The company sells ContactWorld, a solution that supports voice, email, chat, and social media via its integration with Salesforce.com. NewVoiceMedia maintains an important relationship with Salesforce.com, one that generates the majority of its opportunities. The ContactWorld solution is geared for contact centers with 20 to 500 agents.
All of these vendors claim to support relatively large contact center implementations, and each one has a couple of customers at the high end of its respective sweet spot. But many of these vendors are primarily selling to smaller environments, and so the bulk of their experience is in working with these smaller contact centers.
The vendors listed above have been carefully vetted by DMG and provide all of the claimed features, yet there remain substantial differences in how these features and capabilities are provided. Prospective buyers are strongly encouraged to compare the offerings; involve department personnel (contact center managers, supervisors, and agents), as well as the IT and security departments, in the selection process; and speak to references about the tools, implementation process, and ongoing support. And for a detailed review of the cloud-based contact center market, please see DMG’s 580-page “2015–2016 Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Market Report.”