We’ve all heard the idea so much it is now approaching hackneyed cliché: technological-driven disruption can—or will—hit every industry. Uber and Lyft have monkeyed around with the fundamental order of the taxi and livery business. 3D printing threatens manufacturing. And so on and so on. The result of all this disruption: customer experience has become the one true differentiator left to most companies. At the same time, companies have begun to wake up to the idea that customer service is a critical component of overall customer experience. Dimension Data reports that 83% of companies view the contact center as a competitive differentiator, up 30% since 2012.

So, customer service has become a crucial competitive differentiator and in response companies have started to experiment with emerging technologies like cognitive computing, bots, augmented reality, and video chat. But shrewd companies have also recognized that the tools they use to manage and optimize the performance of their customer service organizations can also drive the competitive differentiation they need to thrive. Customer service application pros see workforce optimization (WFO) tools as the fuel that drives customer service organizations. Additionally, in particularly hot areas such as speech, text, and desktop analytics, customer service pros see the ability to not just improve their own team’s performance, but also drive broader business transformation. By deriving insights from actual customer interactions, these tools can help not just customer care, but also marketing, sales, operations, field service, accounts payable, and pretty much any other corner of the enterprise.

To help companies get a handle on the competitive dynamics and players in the WFO market, we produced “The Forrester Wave: Workforce Optimization Suites, Q3 2016.” This is the first time Forrester has tackled this important market. We were looking at full WFO suites, not just individual products. Our ideal suite contained seven application areas: interaction recording, quality management, workforce management, interaction analytics, performance management, eLearning and coaching, and strategic planning, but the key focus was on the first four of those technologies. This research looks at nine leading vendors in the space. We evaluated them across 39 criteria, including current offerings, strategy, and market presence.

Use this research to help guide your thinking about how you approach vendor selection for this critical technology area. Also, with our downloadable vendor selection aid, Forrester clients can customize our finding to best meet their needs by changing the weightings for each of the criteria.