The North American agent performance optimization (APO) markets were essentially flat in 2009. As greenfield growth opportunities in North America are diminishing, vendors in this space are scouting around for other growth avenues, including expansion in global markets and competitive displacement. They are also exploring movement outside the contact center and up the value chain to enhanced applications and services. Among smaller vendors, there is a decisive move to align with new technology and channel partners to broaden exposure to potential new market regions.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (contactcenter.frost.com), North American Agent Performance Optimization Markets, finds that the market earned revenues of over $373.0 million in 2009 and estimates this to reach $583.3 million in 2016.
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"The growth drivers for the quality monitoring sector of APO are going to be the attractiveness of enhanced applications like analytics, performance management and coaching," says Frost & Sullivan Principal Analyst Keith Dawson. "If contact centers are willing to invest in those tools, then the category will grow, but if centers merely refresh the core call recording hardware, then the category will remain stable."
The overall marketplace for APO has consolidated around several large players that have the majority of the market share in both APO categories. NICE, Verint, and Aspect have all expanded their market footprint through acquisition and internal product expansion. In the middle of the market, vendors such as Envision, HigherGround, VPI, and others have collaborated with application partners to fill gaps in their APO offerings.
All of the top tier vendors have been keen on adapting their APO tools for use by workers in retail environments, back offices, satellite/branch offices, and other non-contact center locations. Workforce management is especially adaptable in these contexts and opens the door to a potentially huge new market for scheduling the workers and the processing of the work itself. Companies are also finding interest in recording and evaluating the interactions of workers, who touch customers on an ad hoc basis, but are not formally part of the contact center.
"With the core APO market relatively mature, it is imperative for vendors to provide a business rationale for upgrades and enhancements to a very well established technology," says Dawson. "That rationale will likely be found in value-added applications that combine performance improvement with deeper analytic insights into customer behavior."
To make those enhancements appear worthwhile, vendors have to provide demonstrable proof points, illustrated by clear case studies. Vendors should focus their products, development and marketing on one core message: solving problems. Contact centers are resistant to discussing "new technologies" and "next generations." Instead, they want to hear about tangible results for specific issues like customer churn, headcount management and measurable productivity. Products that are demonstrably built to solve a problem have a competitive advantage right now.
The chances for growth going forward depends greatly on vendors' ability to convince contact centers that there is more to APO systems than the core, commoditized tools that everyone already has. They have to sell demonstrable benefits from enhanced applications.
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