Even a brief look at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Centers (CEC) shows that this is a technology space that is in trouble. Led by Oracle RightNow Cloud Services, Pegasystems and Salesforce, Gartner says that the established business applications for CEC are obsolete and restricted by inflexible configuration rules.

Customer Engagement Centers

CEC's have also failed to evolve with other developing technologies, as many have a weak native cloud architecture and poor social media engagement abilities, combined with poor collaboration abilities that restrict the ability of users to carry out their jobs.

Of all the MQs in recent months, this is the most damning market perspective we've seen and points to a future that is uncertain for these kinds of systems. The evolution of cloud computing, and in particular the emergence of SaaS however, is giving new life to a technology space that is being held back by the sheer complexity of all its needs.

The potential for these technology sets -- and it is important that we keep in mind that these are technology sets -- is enormous and if deployed efficiently, have huge business potential for enterprises. That said, there are 13 vendors in this Magic Quadrant with Kana, Lithium Technologies, Parature and Zendesk all added this year, offering hope that new blood will keep this area moving.

The Leaders’ quadrant has only the three vendors we've already seen, while the Challengers’ quadrant also has three: Microsoft, Oracle (Siebel) and SAP. We will take a closer look at these tomorrow, but in the meantime we need to understand what this market consists of and what exactly is happening.

CEC Market

The CRM CEC market does not refer to a single technology, but a set of technologies working together to provide enterprises with customer support. However, this is not just about customer support, it is also about providing enhanced customer experiences by developing business rules to determine the next, best action, information or process needed to manage customers.

For the past 12 years, Gartner says, it has been referring to CEC's as customer service contact centers, but with the evolution of new technologies like social media as well as the emergence of customer relationship management (CRM) technologies and customer experiences technologies (CXM), it now refers to them as "customer engagement centers."

At the very basic level, they carry out a wide range of tasks related to the customer. Those tasks include engaging customers and potential customers across a wide range of channels, as well as order management, case management, account management, problem diagnostics and many others.

The result is that they have a wide range of functional elements that may or may not come from a single vendor. A complete CEC solution should contain:

  • Customer service and support (CSS) problem management, trouble ticketing and case management
  • Knowledge solutions, content management, advanced desktop search
  • Decision support based on real-time analytics
  • Engagement possibilities through social media
  • Support for mobile customers
  • CRM databases containing all customer information including offer and account information
  • Real-time feedback surveys.

There are other abilities that are desirable too, but these are the main ones. Vendors must also be able to provide these functionalities no matter what channel the enterprise is operating in, be it a website, mobile device, in a community, or on a social media site like Facebook and Twitter.

This, as a result, provides the enterprise with a view of what the customer sees, insight into the path the customer used to arrive where they are, as well as the tools to ensure that the enterprise can solve customer problems no matter where the customer is.