For the last 2-3 years, the European Contact Center market has been somewhat unexciting. Dominated by a small number of traditional contact center vendors such as Genesys and Verint, technology innovation has been largely incremental rather than breakthrough.
As end customers are showing a preference for digital channels, rather than ‘ringing the CC’, Contact Center spend has morphed into general Customer Services spend. For example, in a recent global IDC study, email was the preferred channel for 70% of consumer respondents, eclipsing phone (66%) while Website Contact Forms and Chat both garnered 50% or more responses.
Hence the European Contact Center market growth has been uninspiringly low, forecast to be declining below 4% in each year between 2018 and 2021, by far the lowest of the four CRM categories (Marketing, Sales, Customer Service). Hardly attractive for new entrepreneurial market entrants. Indeed, life has been so tough in the CC market that one of the leading providers, Avaya, spent nearly a year in Chapter 11, near bankruptcy.
But hang on! New AI and Chatbots technologies are completely changing the moribund contact center vendor playing field. Spurred on by consumer acceptance of speech technologies in smartphones such as Apple Siri, and home virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa, ‘conversational AI’ vendors have appeared in the contact center market a-plenty.
A recent IDC Innovators report profiled five emerging vendors in the conversational AI platforms market: Personetics, Kore.ai, Artificial Solutions, Inbenta, and CogniCor. Others, such as RapportBoost. AI promise to ‘supercharge your live chat agents with augmented intelligence’, and Cognigy says it has ‘a robust conversational AI engine (that) can cut costs 60-80% below outsourced call-centers’.
Meanwhile, the large AI speech technology vendors smell the opportunity to break the existing contact center vendor hegemony. Amazon has entered the market with Amazon Connect, a self-service, cloud-based contact center service. Google has newly launched its ‘Contact Center AI’ that RingCentral will integrate into its offerings.
Of course, the incumbent contact enter vendors are not taking these vendor incursions lightly. Genesys has launched Kate. Kate claims to be optimised for environments and features a blend of AI, Chatbots, machine learning and micro-applications. Verint’s NEXT IT unit is promoting The Alme Suite of enterprise-grade, conversational AI technologies.
So AI and Conversational AI, in particular, is proving to be a welcome ‘market kicker’ for the contact center market by introducing new technology innovations, new vendors, and a new sense of market urgency. Bring it on I say!
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