2014 has been a year filled with consolidation in the A.I. and customer experience and support markets. The latest news is that 7 has acquired IntelliResponse for an undisclosed sum. The company explained their reasoning for the purchase rather succinctly:
“The combination of IntelliResponse and 7 completes the self-service and assisted service suite of solutions.”
As virtual assistant technology and customer experience management platforms have matured significantly over the past decade, many players have jumped into the game of attempting to build a suite of products that address the end-to-end customer journey in an integrated and seamless manner.
We expect that this trend of acquiring companies to fill a gap in customer self-service solutions will continue for quite some time. Temkin Group reports that 64% of enterprises will increase their spending on customer experience in 2014 compared to their spend in 2013. The bottom line? The customer is king again, and enterprises are now investing aggressively to earn loyalty and ongoing business from their patrons. The customer experience software segment is therefore growing and the previous amalgamation of point-products is consolidating into a smaller subset of platforms and suites.
This leads us to the age-old enterprise buyer’s dilemma. On one hand, one-stop shopping for a platform can help you standardize across a growing customer experience department. On the other hand, you’ve made a series of pricey IT investments for those departments already, and getting the best-of-breed solution could get you results faster and cheaper while saving you from the nightmare of a “rip and replace” implementation.
Whichever route a buyer chooses, integration capabilities (something that Next IT has prided itself on over the years) and the ability to deliver a human-like interaction that understands language and intent to determine resolution will become more critical items on shopping lists. During periods of immense change, customers want to know if your product will work with what they have now and with what they might buy further down the road. Our Alme platform has been designed to provide immense flexibility and extensibility for that reason. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why it works so well across mobile, desktop and tablet while continuing to expand and improve.
As consolidation, maturation and overall growth continue, we expect the demand for seamless integration with systems of record to increase in multiples.
But if you take nothing else away from all of this change, consider this point:
Results and ROI are the bottom line for any software buyer. For that reason alone, the enterprise buyer’s dilemma has become a red herring today. If a vendor has the integrity and experience to get the results they promise, the rest is just packaging.
As you watch this space in the months to come, look at the real world implementations and the performance of virtual agents – such as SGT STAR for GoArmy.com or Jenn for Alaska Airlines – in the wild. They’ll tell you everything you need to know.