At a time when seven out of 10 online shoppers complain of unsatisfactory experiences, which vendors stand out as offering possible solutions? The authors of the latest Forrester Wave Customer Service Solutions for Enterprise Customers Q2 2014 (registration required) rated customer service vendors against 83 criteria and identified seven leaders.

According to the report, the vendors with the best strategy pursued excellence in a limited number of areas and avoided over diversified, Jack-of-All-Trade scenarios.

Customer Engagement Strategies

Seven vendors pushed their way into the Leaders segment of the Wave, something that primary author Kate Leggett and co-authors Stephen Powers, Michael Facemire and Victoria Boutan noted requires thought and strategizing in a mature market. According to the report, the Leaders moved to the front by catering directly to their customers' needs. 

While all the listed vendors offer a check list of features and functions that appeal to customers, buyers should keep in mind that feature-heavy platforms are not necessarily better. Sometimes the extra features are just that -- features with little use for the customer.

Service Your Market

According to the report, customer service organizations of all sizes need to understand the market segment they service and ignore the rest to be sure they provide for their core market. This does not preclude vendors from developing new areas of interest or expertise to expand business reach, but those new developments need to be accounted for in business plans.

In a customer service space characterized by consolidation, the solutions fell into two main categories, though the distinction between the two categories has become less pronounced in the past three years:

  • Enterprise services: These are solutions for organizations larger than 1000 customer facing agents that offer strong case management capabilities. These solutions can also scale larger and are normally offered through on-premises solutions, though some are now available as SaaS solutions.
  • SMB services: Built for the Small-to-Medium (SMB) market these solutions service companies that typically employ less than 1000 customer facing agents. Some vendors target their solutions at divisions of customer service organizations that have dedicated teams for digital and social customer service within a larger contact center.

Business-to-business (B2B) companies have different needs than business-to-consumer (B2C), so it is up to customers to outline which components are required. Among the components of note  are:

  • Case management: Some of these include solutions that can bring agents through predefined workflows and push relevant contextual data and information to agents.
  • Multichannel management: Provide solutions that manage all customer-facing channels. The report warns against using all channels and advises that companies identify the most suitable for their business.
  • Business intelligence: Customer service is all about the metrics and measurement of the success of your operations. Business intelligence features are included in many platforms that range from simple, real time analysis for SMBs to full scale solutions for enterprises.
  • Usability and cost: All organizations require solutions with modern user interfaces and user experiences which help reduce training time and increase job satisfaction with the tool set.

Top Customer Service Vendors

After considering 83 different criteria, Leggett and her co-authors identified the following vendors and products as market leaders:

1. Oracle Siebel CRM

Oracle Siebel CRM, a key asset in Oracle’s customer experience portfolio, leads the market. It includes broad, deep functionality and the ability for extreme customization. It is Oracle’s most fully featured CRM solution that supports over 20 different verticals, typically used in enterprises with over 500 customer-facing agents.

It has strong case management and business process management capabilities as well as workflow tools, business reporting and analysis capabilities. It integrates with Oracle Social Relationship Management for social listening and chat. According to the report it is a good fit for global, high volume business-to-consumer service organizations.


Salesforce’s reach into the customer space is unmatched by any other vendor. It has a clear vision of where it is going and sound execution. Its vision is of the “connected customer” where customers control the interactions with the enterprise. To ensure this, it provides pervasive social and collaboration capabilities in the Service Cloud.