Customers are increasingly leveraging chat. But its difficult to determine what chat vendor solution to use as the market is crowded and chat vendors offer a breadth and depth of capabilities. Forrester groups chat vendors into 5 broad categories based on how their customers use these technologies. They are:

  • Standalone Chat Vendors.  These vendors  provide full-featured chat solutions that are easy to deploy and can support  to small to midsize chat teams, but rarely are used by large teams. They tend to be purchased by eBusiness, and eCommerce organizations.Representative vendors for this category include Netop, Olark, and Velaro.
  • Online engagement vendors. These vendors provide proactive and personalized customer interactions. Some use sophisticated proactive rules engines, while others use predictive analytics to target visitors and customers with offers, multimedia content, and chat invitations optimized for whatever device the visitor is using or to predict intent to optimize customer journeys. In these scenarios, chat aims to increase sales conversion, support customers in pre- and post-purchase scenarios, and increases customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.Representative vendors for this category include [24]/7,  LivePerson, BoldChat by LogMeIn, Needle, and TouchCommerce.
  • Specialty omnichannel customer service vendors. These vendors provide solutions to standardize pre- or post-purchase customer interactions across a subset or the entire breadth of web self-service, digital, and social channels. They have a central interaction hub of customer data and history, a content repository, routing, and queuing engines, case management, and workflow. Representative vendors for this category include eGain, Moxie, Verint (KANA), Oracle (Service Cloud), and Zendesk/Zopim.
  • CRM suite customer service vendors. These vendors provide the breadth of sales and marketing automation as well as customer service capabilities. During the past five years, these solutions have matured as vendors have focused on solidifying the building blocks of their customer service capabilities and folded new technologies such as business process management, decisioning, business intelligence, and mobility into their solutions. Now, many excellent solutions not only provide customer service capabilities but can also be extended to provide holistic end-to-end customer engagement capabilities at a later date. These vendors provide chat as a SaaS offering, and buyers often implement them as a part of a broader solution suite supporting customer service, customer engagement, and revenue-generation scenarios. Representative vendors for this category include Parature from Microsoft and Salesforce (Service Cloud).
  • Contact center interaction management vendors. These vendors have historically optimized voice call routing and queuing but now extend their capabilities to unified routing of voice, digital and social interactions. These vendors offer a unified agent desktop to support the blended agent model, which allows contact center agents to process all inbound and outbound interaction types. They also offer unified reporting across channels, as well as agent scheduling and forecasting across channels. Representative vendors for this category include Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, Interactive Intelligence (now Genesys, as of 2016), and LiveOps.