In the prior Forrester Wave™ evaluation on contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS) providers in August of 2020, AI was mentioned offhand a few times. It was not, however, a factor in the Wave scoring at all. A few years changed everything. AI has taken center stage in this year’s Wave, providing new capabilities across many aspects of a CCaaS vendor’s offerings:

  • Self-service. Conversational AI and chatbots are no longer limited to specialized chatbot vendors. Every vendor in this Wave has an approach to offering conversational AI. The approaches differ, with many vendors embedding a third-party conversational AI offering for the core AI capabilities, but all vendors provide solutions here.
  • Agent assistance. AI is becoming the human agent’s buddy, listening in on conversations, finding answers to questions from a knowledge base, suggesting the next best action, and helping understand customer sentiment. This is not universally available across vendors in the Wave, but it’s now common to see it on the agent’s desktop.
  • Quality management. AI can now “listen” to all calls and “read” all text interactions and then quantify the results. This ability can be used to identify interactions of interest, find friction in different interactions, and even prefill quality review forms. The net of these new capabilities brings significant value to this critical function.
  • Business analytics. Using AI to understand customer conversations can benefit far more than just quality management. Data from customer conversations can be used to enhance “voice of the customer” efforts for the customer experience team, provide product feedback, or help identify when a marketing campaign is sending customers to a broken landing page.

In my mind, the most exciting item above is the final one. Contact centers sit on top of a treasure chest of customer data that AI can unlock, which benefits the entire brand. This is nascent stuff and requires corporate focus to make it practical — but the potential is huge.

What Is The Reshaped Shape?

For this year’s CCaaS Wave, AI has raised the ceiling and lowered the bar. Even though AI in the contact center is relatively new, many new capabilities have been delivered. But there is more to mature and much to add. The capabilities above hold a great deal of promise for customer service. All the vendors in the Wave are moving toward that vision, but it will be a multiyear journey to get there. This had the effect of raising the ceiling, pushing the top vendors down relative to their position in the prior Wave.

At the same time, AI has lowered the bar, making some core capabilities easier to build and more valuable than before. The most notable change here is in quality management. Using AI to gain insights from customer interactions makes building a quality management system more useful, and many vendors have built their own solutions. Similarly, it’s more practical than ever to create a conversational AI solution that can deliver superior self-service capabilities. The vendors at the lower end of the Wave have been able to leverage AI to add useful new capabilities that increase their relative value and position in the Wave.

The net result of this reshaping is a squeezing of the Wave, with less spread between the vendors. More importantly, AI promises an exciting new set of capabilities for brands that embrace CCaaS as their solution for the contact center.

Here is a link to the Wave: The Forrester Wave™: Contact Center As A Service, Q1 2023. If you are a Forrester client looking to select a CCaaS platform for your organization, let’s set up some time to talk about your needs and which options would be a best fit for you: Connect with an expert.