Customer service used to be relatively simple – when a customer had a question or problem, they called a call center. But as technology has evolved, so has the customer, quickly taking hold of mobile, social, and multichannel communications capabilities in their daily lives, extending those expectations to their customer service demands. No longer is a simple call center enough to deliver a valuable customer experience. The game has changed, and the ability to integrate mobility, multichannel capabilities, and self-service into the customer service environment has become an imperative.
“It’s the sweet spot of the innovation that’s occurring in the transformation of the customer experience,” says Chris Koziol, president and general manager of the Interaction Management division at Aspect. “Customers want to be able to interact with their brands wherever, whenever, and however they choose, and companies that restrict that ability or can’t accommodate that request are really going to be left by the wayside.”
That understanding is a key reason why Aspect is spending $150 million to acquire hosted/cloud and on-premises IVR and multichannel platform provider Voxeo. The two already have many common deployments among the 2,000 Aspect and 700 Voxeo customers but, more importantly, the opportunity is an opportunity to heighten Aspect’s position in what has been a transformational customer experience market, but combining the two businesses’ offerings to create an integrated product offering addressing the holistic needs of any business.
Aspect has long understood the importance of a unified communications strategy in the contact center, but the mobility, IVR and self-service capabilities on which Voxeo has built its business fills some holes in the Aspect portfolio, particularly now, enabling it to expand its addressable market with a combination of on-premises, hybrid or cloud offerings that will meet the needs of large Fortune 100 enterprises all the way down to the lower end of the SMB market. Likewise, Aspect’s contact center capabilities are highly complementary to Voxeo’s business, which, somewhat ironically, has struggled to make major inroads in the contact center space.
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Perhaps the greatest value, as cloud computing continues to grow and as many contact centers look to the cloud as an alternative, comes in Voxeo’s six global data centers and two NOCs, allowing Aspect to extend its cloud and managed services offerings. Koziol and Voxeo CEO Bob Ingalls agree that cloud is hardly a fad, but is here to stay, making the ability to support customers looking to migrate partially or fully into a cloud or managed services environment critical to continued growth.
“Cloud has allowed us to grow some small customers into big customers,” notes Ingalls. “The nature of the business world, with things moving as quickly as they are, makes it impossible to pick who the winners will be, so you have to be able to allow smaller customers to try out [the software in cloud model], with the ability to eventually roll that software onto an on-premises solution, or a hybrid environment, or a bigger cloud.”
“We see emerging companies in the SMB space that want to take advantage of some of the expanded capabilities, but would prefer to do it in a cloud infrastructure and pay on a subscription basis,” adds Koziol. “Organizations that don’t have the capabilities to support those requirements are going to be left in the dust.”
Does this mean Aspect is changing its model to a cloud-first approach? According to Koziol, not at all. Rather, it will follow its strategy of allowing its customers to follow their individual strategic directions, providing a blend of business models that will allow growth, security, flexibility, and growth for businesses of any size and allowing them to grow through their relationship with Aspect.
“Every customer is different; being able to offer them the model they want is a huge winner in the market, because many in the market don’t offer that alternative,” notes Ingalls.
Certainly, Aspect could have built its own IVR and multichannel solutions, but the pace of change in the market demands the vendors be able to act swiftly. And, with many customers already leveraging Aspect and Voxeo solutions, proving their integration capabilities, this is a deal that made sense, allowing Aspect to accelerate its growth in the integrated contact center market while increasing flexibility with multiple deployment and payment models.
“We have seen considerable evidence that the market sees a significant value proposition in the combination of Voxeo and Aspect solutions,” notes Koziol. “We see it as a way to accelerate our overall offering and build positive momentum to drive organizational top- and bottom-line performance.”
While there will be tight integration between the two solution sets – beyond the APIs Voxeo has developed – the acquisition furthers Aspect’s strategic position that success requires an ability to thrive in a multivendor environment. While full integration will increase the value of the combined solution for many customers, the ability to coexist in competitive environments with the likes of Cisco, Avaya, Genesys, and others will help Aspect accelerate the deployment of many capabilities its customers require, whether that includes IVR, outbound dialing, mobility, WFM, integration with Microsoft enterprise solutions, or any of the other capabilities from either solution. The flexibility of being able to integrate with competitive vendors only increases Aspect’s value proposition, allowing customers to leverage their existing communications investments while building out their customer service capabilities.
Still, despite its commitment to a multivendor market, the acquisition positions Aspect well in the competitive landscape as a full replacement to existing implementations. With the combined portfolio, it is able to matching its offerings squarely against any vendor in the market, including the self-service and mobile offers from Avaya and Genesys, the call distribution capabilities of Cisco ICM, the cloud capabilities of Interactive Intelligence, as well as the pure-cloud players like Five9 and InContact.
Considering its instant growth in the IVR and self-service markets, combined with Aspect’s existing expertise in integrated interaction management, workforce management and back-office optimization, and factoring in the multichannel evolution of Voxeo’s CXP platform (from its VoiceObjects acquisition in 2008, which will soon deliver a native mobile capability), Koziol believes Aspect can compete with anyone in any market.
At a time when customers’ requirements (and customers’ customers’ requirements) are only becoming more diverse, the ability to build a contact center from a traditional cost center and customer service asset into a strategic asset that delivers an enhanced and increasingly valuable and intimate customer experience is paramount to successful businesses. Aspect’s ability, with the addition of the Voxeo portfolio, to deliver the full solution set to enable that transformation is not only consistent with its strategic direction but, as Koziol concludes, “just made sense.” Indeed, it does – for Aspect, its customers, its prospects and its channel partners.