Customers are in charge now, so should more companies invest in their contact centers to help improve the front lines that keep those customers happy?

Gartner's "Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Workforce Optimization" report says they already are.

It's not a surge of new activity, but more vendors are focusing on improving contact centers, and it is at least providing a few more choices in the previously somewhat restricted landscape, the report found.

The Importance of Training + Motivation

What job wouldn't benefit from a steady diet of excellent training and steady motivation? For contact center workers, this is central because dealing with customer complaints all day has a way of clouding workers' vision of the vital nature of their jobs. 

For companies who need to hone those workers' skills to precision, and especially those with large centers (100 or more agents), Gartner found three new niche players in the workforce optimization segment. Those three vendors are new to this MQ, but for very different reasons. Beyond the niche players, there were only four other vendors in this MQ; two leaders and one each in the challenger and visionary quadrants.

Both leaders are large enterprise operations, of course, but the things that make them the best are not quite as different as what separates the niche players from each other. In other words, those looking to invest in the leader quadrant companies might have a bit of a harder time deciding which to choose because they are similar in more ways.

MQ leaders Verint and Nice Systems offer the best blend of workforce optimization in the call center, and Verint might get the slight nod for its unified solution and strong partnerships. Gartner cautions Verint customers do still mention the company's support responsiveness could improve, however.

Likewise, Nice Systems has a similar issue, but Gartner qualifies that by pointing out the company's focus on high end clients does increase complexity. Where the company excels specifically is in its interaction optimization and analytics. Gartner calls Nice Systems an appealing proposition for large companies who are looking to differentiate themselves because of these capabilities.

Niche Players Already Established

Of the three niche players in the MQ, only CallCopy is a new player in WFO overall. Both Genesys and Teletopi-Zoom International already had their WFO systems in place, but were either part of a larger conglomerate or focused on specific markets.

CallCopy made the list due to its company culture and its wide ranging capabilities. The company only does business in the US, however, and that keeps it squarely a niche player. Genesys had long been part of Alcatel-Lucent, and the fact it is now its own company focused on WFO makes it an instant contender.

Gartner found the company is large and has a global reach, but the solution is a bit fractured. It is not an out of the box product, and as such, it is missing things like a coaching module for content creation. Furthermore, its interaction analytics (speech, text, desktop) capability is not due until the second quarter of 2013.

As for Teletopi-Zoom International, Gartner found the combined WFO and quality management solutions of the two companies was a good combo, but like Genesys, some features were not yet included. One such feature that is on the 18 month road map is the ability to launch e-learning courses from within the scheduling tool, the report found.

Microsoft, Cisco Partners are Challengers, Visionaries

Aspect and Calabrio made the middle tiers of this MQ based in part on their partnerships with Microsoft and Cisco, respectively. For Aspect, that means its SharePoint integration will be attractive to many. Gartner also liked the company's mature, data oriented platform. The company has a new executive team, Gartner cautioned, and it needs a bit more time to establish itself.

Calabrio is a Cisco reseller, and that could help its clout with come companies, but where it shines is in its ease of use and quick deployment capability. The company also tries to keep its prices down, Gartner found, and it has an excellent customer support track record to go with a simple upgrade system.

The reason it remains a visionary and is not considered a leader? Its lack of advanced capabilities like multichannel support. It does have things like text mining and desktop analytics as road map items, however.