1Q2013 Customer Service Update—Starting Our 10th Year Tracking Customer Service Each Quarter

Posted Tuesday, June 4, 2013 in Customer Service by Mitchell Kramer

We bring you our Quarterly Customer Service Update for the first quarter of 2013. With it, we begin our tenth year of covering the leading customer service suppliers and their products. We’ve been told this report series is the longest running continuous research of its kind, that there’s nothing else like it. More important than longevity is that you loyal readers tell us that these reports always contain high-value information, information that makes it easier for you to do your jobs. We appreciate the feedback and hope that you’ll continue to provide it. It’s critical to keeping the reports fresh and relevant.

IntelliResponse-VA-Voices-Theme-BubblesWe made three changes to our roster of suppliers this quarter. We added Clarabridge and Creative Virtual. Clarabridge is a Reston, VA-based supplier of Voice of the Customer software. We published our evaluation of Clarabridge Analyze, Clarabridge Collaborate, and Clarabridge Engage on March 28. It’s a strong offering from a solid company. Creative Virtual is a London, UK and Stamford, CT-based supplier of virtual agent software. The company is one of the pioneers in virtual agent technology and currently one of its four leading suppliers. (We cover the other three, too—IntelliResponse, Next IT, and Nuance.) We published our evaluation of Creative Virtual V-Person on September 20, 2012. It’s an attractive, widely used offering. We dropped Aptean.


Aptean’s Knova Iisn’t Competitive. We’ve been covering Aptean, its Knova knowledge management product and its predecessors, for what must be at least the 10 years that we’ve been publishing our quarterly reports. We’re sad not to have them in our coverage going forward. Here’s a bit on their lineage.

  • KNOVA was formed in early 2005 through the merger of Kanisa and ServiceWare. Both Kanisa and ServiceWare had knowledge management offerings. The offerings were integrated to become KNOVA, a product with the same name as its supplier.
  • Consona Corporation acquired KNOVA on March 18, 2007. KNOVA, the knowledge management product, was rebranded to Consona KM in October 2008 and then rebranded back to Knova in July 2012.
  • Aptean is the result of the August 7, 2012 merger of CDC Software (CDC) and Consona Corporation (Consona). These are two software suppliers that were formed and grew through acquisition. Their product lines overlap. Knova is one of several knowledge management offerings within Aptean.

Knova, the knowledge management product, has had quite a history. More time and more resources have been spent adapting it and integrating it to new ownership than to improving its capabilities. Once a technology leader, today it just doesn’t compete because requirements for knowledge management systems have changed and Knova hasn’t changed with them. It’s a 2005-vintage “traditional” knowledge management system.

Traditional vs. Modern Customer Service/Knowledge Management Systems. Traditional knowledge management systems are built on powerful search engines. They deliver tens or hundreds of answers to customers’ questions from rich and flexible knowledgebases. These answers — the items in the knowledgebases — range from a sentence or two of textual information, to whole chapters of large, complex, multimedia documents, to everything in between. In 2005, these systems were leading edge.

Traditional knowledge management systems are no longer relevant in customer service. Why? Because traditional knowledge management systems put the onus on customers to frame search queries that will deliver the answers to their questions then to select the right answer from the (long) list of search results returned.

This approach seems so lame now, but traditional knowledge management systems were a big step forward from using enterprise search engines or even Internet search engines against all of the documents, data, and other information that a business manages. That was like trying to figure out a strategy to find a needle in a haystack. 2005-vintage knowledge management systems really did make it easier for customers to get answers to their questions. Remember that these are the systems that truly enabled self-service. They moved customer service from the telephone to the web.

But customers have changed, and customer service needs to keep up. Social and mobile have been the drivers. Today, customers want:

  • To ask questions and get answers on any self-service, assisted-service, or social-service channel from any device
  • A single, correct answer to their question
  • An answer that’s socially informed
  • An answer that’s short, simple, easy to understand, and easy to make actionable (Think 140 characters)
  • Businesses to create and resolve cases to answer the question when an answer doesn’t (yet) exist

Traditional knowledge management systems do not address these requirements. “Modern” knowledge management systems, and other customer service applications such as virtual agents, address them quite well. Suppliers of modern, 2013-vintage knowledge management systems have evolved their offerings to meet these changing customer requirements. Their features include:

  • Deployment on social networks
  • Support for mobile devices
  • Social posts as knowledge sources either directly or via promotion to knowledgebases
  • Cases and case content as knowledge sources, too
  • Tight integration with case management systems to create cases when answers don’t exist

eGain Service, KANA Enterprise, Moxie Spaces, Oracle RightNow Cloud Service, and Salesforce Service Cloud are “modern” knowledge management systems. All were originally built on a 2005-vintage technology base. However, their suppliers have kept pace with changing customer and customer service requirements. Those requirements will continue to evolve. It won’t be long before we describe 2013-vintage knowledge management systems as traditional, too.

Here's a short intro to our Quaterly Review:

Customer Service Supplier and Product Update
1Q2013 Was a Good Quarter for Customer Service
By Mitch Kramer, Senior Consultant, Patricia Seybold Group, May 30, 2013

First quarters in software are typically seasonally slow. Not so for customer service. For this quarter, customer growth was the highlight, and it drove good financial performance resulted. Product and company activity were also high. M&A was big news as Nuance acquired VirtuOz. And see why Salesforce.com continues to earn our Customer Service Star quarter after quarter!

(Download the PDF of the entire article here.)



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