2014 Opens With a Bang: Verint and Microsoft Invest in Knowledge/Multi-Channel

Happy New Year! It has been a long time since I wrote about industry consolidation and the trends that consolidation indicates. We are only a week into 2014, and in 2 days we’ve seen 2 key acquisitions that provide a lot of food for thought. Here’s a recap:

Yesterday, Verint Systems, a top provider of enterprise feedback management (EFM) and workforce optimization (WFO), announced their intentions to acquire KANA, who started as a knowledgebase vendor and expanded into a full multi-channel platform. I’m a big fan of both companies. I’ve worked with the Verint folks for many years, and they have the reputation of being one of the nicest companies to do business with in high tech.  The company has continually expanded their footprint, through development and acquisition, and now offers an impressive suite of tools including complex voice and text analysis, and the Voice of the Customer Analytics platform (formerly Vovici) which we use at TSIA for external surveys. I’m a huge fan of the Verint survey platform and use it for my annual surveys on technology and social media.

I’ve also known KANA for a very long time. Some of my favorite Silicon Valley people have spent time at KANA. Marchai Bruchey, one time KANA CMO, is now Chief Customer Officer at Thunderhead.com. Charlie Isaacs, who I’ve known since 1995, served several years as CTO at KANA, and is currently CTO for Customer Connection at salesforce.com. Michael McCloskey was the CEO of KANA at one time; he went on to be CEO of FrontRange, and now runs his own think tank, McCloskey LLC. And many, many more. When I was at Forrester and published the Forrester Wave on multi-channel platforms, KANA had the leader’s position.

What we’ve typically seen over the years is CRM vendors acquiring knowledge management and multi-channel vendors to bring additional capabilities into the CRM platform. Clearly a big challenge for most tech firms is integrating all of the email, chat and self-service interactions into CRM history, so having everything on a single platform makes sense. But Verint’s acqusition of KANA is, to me at least, much more strategic. Verint is not a CRM vendor. Their job is ensuring every customer touchpoint is of the highest quality possible, with a complex platform of monitoring, analysis and reporting tools to pinpoint process problems in the front OR back office, as well as identify trending customer problems in real-time. The Verint demo that always blows me away is the voice and text analysis engine, which provides a dashboard of key words and phrases (returning merchandise, product defect, late delivery, etc.) and allows you drill down into these topics and see how many interactions touched on this topic, and even hear individual call recordings or read individual email or chat interactions if necessary. Amazing set of tools for any service or marketing organization.

I haven’t been briefed yet, but what the marriage of Verint and KANA means to me is that it gives Verint more control over the entire customer conversation. Integrating monitoring, survey and listening tools into your existing multi-channel environment can be expensive and complicated. By offering a ‘best of breed’ customer support suite, with pre-integrated EFM capabilities, Verint should not only be able to sell the entire stack, and have infinite upsell opportunities with existing customers, but they also can better partner with companies to create a vision for EFM, and then enable the entire vision from phone calls to final analysis.

On the heels of the Verint/KANA announcement, this morning it was announced that Microsoft has acquired Parature, a cloud-based knowledge, multi-channel and social platform, to build out the customer service capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Having seen Microsoft showing up for the first time in enterprise-sized CRM deals in the last year, I’m thrilled to see them paying attention to the service side of CRM, and not just investing in sales and marketing functionality as most cloud CRM vendors tend to do. One of the benefits of being a technology analyst is meeting so many company representatives, and though I haven’t seen him in person for a few years, Parature CEO Duke Chung is a total class act. He launched Parature at a very difficult time economically, and was the first vendor to seamlessly blend an online community and social monitoring into a customer service suite. Duke is so positive, his employees love him, and I give him personally the bulk of the credit for Parature’s success. Congratulations to Duke and the entire Parature team!

With TSIA members continuing to invest in knowledge management and multi-channel, I do believe that more companies are understanding the value of end-to-end integration. Thanks to easier to integrate cloud tools, I’m seeing fewer “channel islands” created, and more cross-channel integrations planned. This is important because the more we can consolidate the delivery and monitoring of every touch point, the more consistent service quality we can deliver. And ultimately, the customer wins every time.

Congratulations to all those involved, and here’s to another fun year in the customer service technology world! And as always, thanks for reading!

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