Interactive Intelligence's Vertical Ascent

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  October 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions

If you were fortunate to have been able to join us in Los Angeles for ITEXPO (News - Alert) West, you already know many of the exciting events that took place, including the highly successful inaugural Social CRM Expo, which was keynoted by two exceptional presenters bookending its opening day, Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara and Interactive Intelligence Chief Marketing Officer Joe Staples (News - Alert).

Ferrara’s company is a relationship management platform that enables users to integrate what he calls “the three Cs” – contacts, calendar, and communication – so that, regardless of customers’ preferred means of communication, users are able to receive and respond to communication in one place. This includes communication between users and their customers, those customers and others in the users’ organization, as well as tracking what your customers are saying about you in social forums. Ferrara is solidly in the center of the social media explosion and provided an exciting opening to one of TMC’s (News - Alert) new collocated events. Check out comments from Ferrara at http://tmcnet.com/48951.1.

Closing out Day One was Staples, whose company recently announced a partnership with social media firm Buzzient, allowing customers to integrate Interactive Intelligence’s (News - Alert) multichannel contact center applications with Buzzient’s social media monitoring and analysis capabilities. The move plays into Interactive Intelligence’s model of offering a complete communications solution for handling today’s multichannel customer interaction environments, including contact center and business process automation, content management, and enterprise IP telephony.

But, while Interactive Intelligence has added a social media element to its communications platform, it’s all-in-one approach also lends itself well to integrating its capabilities with vertical market applications, such as the insurance industry, exemplified by its acquisition of AcroSoft Corporation in May, 2009.

Now, it has added to its vertically oriented expertise with the acquisition of Latitude Software, which provides software applications to the debt collection market. Staples spoke with TMC about the deal at ITEXPO; watch that interview at http://tmcnet.com/48952.1.

“It’s part of our strategic direction toward vertical markets,” says Staples. “We already have the infrastructure layer, and are now looking for vertically focused solutions at the application layer, with a tight integration with our underlying platform.”

Interactive Intelligence already has enjoyed a level of success in the debt collection space, and Staples says there are a number of synergies and cross-selling opportunities within the Latitude deal. In fact, a number of companies in the debt collection industry, including several Latitude customers, are already using Interactive Intelligence’s IVR and dialer solutions, combining them with the workflow components, tracking and management of debt, and telephony platform integration Latitude provides.

“The underlying predictive dialing solution is a key component of providing solutions to the debt collection industry,” says Staples. “But, the domain expertise we gain through the acquisition – the customers, the recognition, the relationships – may be as valuable as the Latitude technology itself.”

Anyone who knows Staples knows he is as big a proponent of all-in-one communications solutions as anyone. In the August 2010 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions, he notes, “There are so many reasons why it makes sense, from the cost reductions around administration and integration, to the ease of deployment, to the benefits of dealing with one vendor. It all adds up to a cleaner, more streamlined approach.”

Given this belief, the company’s strategy of integrating vertically oriented applications to more deeply engage markets in which it has already enjoyed a level of success is entirely logical. As for the timeless buy vs. build question, the company has the cash on hand for the strategic acquisitions and, considering Staples’ suggestion that the value of an established brand in these vertical markets is at least as valuable as the solutions themselves, the $14 million Interactive Intelligence paid for Latitude may turn into quite a bargain.

The question that remains is, what’s next for Interactive Intelligence? Though he wouldn’t give an indication of what vertical might be next, Staples did suggest that Interactive Intelligence would continue its strategy of seeking out synergistic applications in different vertical markets.


Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi