The anniversary of my two-year tenure at Forrester quietly snuck by me last week, and when I remembered about the milestone, it gave me pause to think about how much the customer service landscape has changed these past years and how quickly it keeps on changing. Here are my key thoughts:

  1. The customer service landscape is complex. We mapped the maturity and business value of 24 key contact center technologies in our Forrester TechRadar on this topic and found a number of technologies – case management, channel management, WFM, IVR, etc. – at the peak of the maturity curve, which is no surprise given that contact center operations are focused on productivity and process optimization. However, there are newer technologies such as real-time decisioning, process guidance, interaction analytics, VOC, and social service that are starting to be leveraged by companies needing to differentiate themselves on customer experience. I expect to see an acceleration of technologies used in organizations outside of customer service to start being leveraged by contact centers.
  2.  The CRM customer service vendor landscape is maturing. Check out our latest Forrester Wave evaluating CRM customer service solutions. It shows many vendors such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft,, and Pegasystems in the Leaders quadrant and many more not far behind. The maturity of the customer service capabilities that these vendors offer is reflected in the depth and breadth of deployments in the marketplace. You have to dig deep to surface the differences between them.
  3. The customer service vendor landscape is flattening. Organizations don’t want to have to knit different technologies together, and manage a set of different vendor contracts. Vendors recognize this and are acquiring technologies that deliver greater value combined than when deployed separately. (For example, knowledge management is more powerful when coupled with CRM – hence the acquisition of InQuira by Oracle and Q-go by RightNow. Enterprise feedback management has more value when results can be used for agent coaching – hence the acquisition of Fizzback by Nice and Vovici by Verint. Customer experience management is more powerful than CRM, hence the acquisition of Endeca, RightNow, and ATG by Oracle.) More than that, acquisitions and mergers are being made outside of vendors’ core focus areas and are broadening and overlapping the traditional footprint of UC (that own the routing and queuing of interaction), CRM, and WFO vendors. I expect these spaces to merge much more closely together in the next years.

We are at a point in time where customer expectations are high; where customers demand effortless, consistent experiences during the engagement cycle; where they expect companies to know who they are and deliver value-added, personalized experiences targeted to their persona and situation at hand. Vendors' technology will be put to the test to deliver on these expectations, and I expect more bold acquisitions and shifts in vendor strategy to occur over the next year.