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AI-Focused Firms Fuel Numerous CX Acquisitions This Year

Continuing Industry Consolidation Demonstrates New Preeminence and Importance of CX

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A number of consolidations continue to occur in the CX industry, with companies specializing in artificial intelligence (AI) forming many targeted acquisitions this year.

The buyouts are sending a clear message, analysts say: first, that the CX sphere is where big bets are being wagered in the world of customer relationship management (CRM); and second, that AI is the way, at present, for vendors to enhance their offerings and achieve differentiation.

In February, Massachusetts-based Nuance Communications acquired AI startup Saykara, the healthcare voice assistant startup headquartered in Seattle, Washington, to automate clinical documentation for physicians. Two months later in April, Nuance was scooped up for $16 billion by Microsoft—its largest buyout since acquiring LinkedIn for $26 billion in 2016. Nuance, a pioneer in conversational AI with speech recognition and transcribing technology that is deployed in doctors’ office visits, customer service calls, and voicemails, will be used to augment Microsoft’s cloud products for healthcare, which launched in 2020.

Also in April, enterprise software solutions developer NICE Systems Inc. launched CXone Expert, an AI-powered self-service knowledge management solution, after acquiring San Diego, California-based MindTouch, creators of the program. In unveiling CXone Expert, New Jersey-based NICE said the solution will help companies apply smart self-service best practices, using AI to meet demand among consumers for faster and more convenient experiences. Then in July, NICE scored another acquisition when it snapped up ContactEngine, a conversational AI solution specializing in proactive, outbound customer engagement with headquarters in London, the UK.

The month of July also saw TELUS International, the Canadian provider of digital CX solutions for large technology brands in sectors like technology and games, acquire Playment, the data labeling startup based in Bangalore, India, specializing in computer vision tools and services. The Playment acquisition follows in the wake of the purchase in March by TELUS of the AI division of Massachusetts firm Lionbridge AI, positioning TELUS to develop AI-powered solutions for large enterprise clients across various vertical markets. The most recent AI-focused acquisition took place on August 4, when social media management provider Hootsuite, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, announced the $48 million purchase of fellow Canadian outfit Heyday, the conversational AI platform based in Montreal, Quebec, with an enterprise-grade customer messaging platform that integrates with e-commerce platforms to deliver customized CX in chat and video.

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