Before Genesys bought Interactive Intelligence, one of the early signs of summer for us at Enterprise Connect was our annual road trip from Chicago to Indianapolis to visit the ININ team, led by then-CEO Don Brown. We’d spend a day getting updated on the company’s plans for the year, get some technical deep dives, and see demos of their latest innovations. They were terrific folks to spend time with, and as someone who enjoys driving, a three-hour trip through the cornfields of northern Indiana was a great opportunity to do some unobstructed thinking.
I can still remember the visit when Brown and his team told us about ININ’s plan to launch PureCloud, which was revolutionary for being based on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. Certainly cloud contact center systems—mostly in single-tenant instances—existed at the time. But the strategy of committing your business to cloud-based services—because you were convinced that was where the market would go—was far from obvious or a sure winner.
I had to Google what year that was. It was 2014—just five years ago.
And now, this: According to Nicolas de Kouchkovsky, a contact center industry veteran and independent consultant, there are 115 contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) providers in the market, a figure that grew 20% year over year. The first thing that amazed me was the sheer number: One. Hundred. Fifteen. CCaaS. Providers. But then I thought about that growth figure: There are some 20 CCaaS providers in the market now that weren’t competing in the space a year ago.
Writing this week on No Jitter, our media site, Nicolas breaks down the many different angles from which new entrants have begun using the cloud as their tool for attacking the contact center market. Though the contact center space has seen entry from compelling startup companies like Talkdesk, many of the new competitors—and arguably the most powerful entrants—aren’t startup companies. Nicolas runs down the history of companies like AWS entering the market, as well as the forays into the contact center market from UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) providers like 8x8, RingCentral, and Vonage. “A UCaaS vendor could very well become your next contact center provider,” he writes.
We’ve also been anticipating a big contact center push from companies like Salesforce and Zendesk, and Nicolas says this class of companies is likewise emerging as a potential force: “We’re getting closer to CRM vendors being able to provide contact centers.”
This is a classic “innovator’s dilemma” situation, where the big incumbents weren’t the likeliest candidates for disrupting the market. As Nicolas points out, the biggest competitors—Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys—all made their major pushes into CCaaS via acquisitions. Moving to the cloud was especially a problem for pure-play vendors like ININ, which struggled to shift its business model from large upfront sales to recurring revenues. Companies that came to the market as cloud players didn’t have to worry about making this transition.
So now the innovator’s dilemma becomes the customer’s dilemma: How do you get your arms around a market landscape of 115 vendors that’s adding a dozen or more new competitors a year? Obviously you can get to a short list without breaking too much of a sweat, but you still have multiple vectors along which to make your choice: Besides the standard things like price and feature/function, there’s the additional question of which type of CCaaS vendor fits your contact center needs. That likely means developing a deeper understanding of just what your contact center does—what type of services customers are getting from the agents; what channels are most used and what the trends are; what applications would be most beneficial to integrate with the agent desktop; and much more.
It’s a lot to think about, and we’d like to learn a little more about what you’re thinking. Enterprise Connect has just launched a survey of enterprise decision-makers’ views on the contact center. If you’re an enterprise communications decision-maker whose purview includes contact centers, I’d invite you to let us know what you’re encountering and what your plans are. We’ll publish the results on No Jitter when the research is done.