Return of the Kachina! The 2017 Saddletree Research Kachina Awards

Return of the Kachina! The 2017 Saddletree Research Kachina Awards

/ Technology, Vendor - Management
Return of the Kachina! The 2017 Saddletree Research Kachina Awards

The Kachina symbolizes achievement and innovation among solutions providers.

One year ago this month, and in this very space, I unleashed the Saddletree Research Kachina Award™ on an unsuspecting industry. I was pretty sure I could feel the ripples in the wind that were the result of the collective eye-rolling of an industry contemplating yet another contact center technology award program in an industry already lousy with awards. But I had a different idea. Rather than give an award to everyone who sent me a check, or who ponied up a five-figure license fee to talk about their award, I had the crazy idea that awards should be bestowed upon winners based on merit. Those companies vying for a Kachina Award would actually have to earn it rather than just pay for it.

Thus was born a rather unique industry program—one certainly not looked upon with favor by those who believe that everyone who pays deserves a participant trophy, but rather one that I hoped would have greater value to the technology suppliers who won and to the customers who buy their solutions. The number of award categories is limited, and there is only one winner in each category. Looking back on the results of the 2016 campaign, I can say with confidence that some vendors got it while most didn’t, or didn’t want to.

Buyers, however, pay attention to awards like the Kachina. During a recent conversation with Angela Garfinkel, President of Quality Contact Solutions (QCS) in Omaha, Neb., and active member of the National Association of Call Centers (NACC), the topic turned to industry awards. I asked Angela if she paid attention to industry awards or saw any value in them. Her answer was, I believe, reflective of the attitudes of many industry professionals.

“Awards have a great deal of value for people who come from outside the industry, like someone who gets promoted from another division and now has responsibility for the contact center,” Garfinkel stated. “For those of us who know all the players and whether or not they can meet our requirements, awards are an affirmation in terms of providing assurance we’re selecting the right vendor.

“I think the most significant awards are those that not everyone wins,” she continued. “That means the company that won the award has truly differentiated itself and has earned external validation for its product or service.”

For those unfamiliar with Southwestern and Native American culture, Kachinas are symbolic of the American Southwest, home of Saddletree Research, and integral to the cultures of many Native American tribes in the region. Kachina carvings are crafted by hand from the root of the Cottonwood tree by skilled Native American artists. Most Kachina carvers learn their skill as young men and continue to hone their art through adulthood, typically making more elaborate and exquisite Kachinas as their skills increase.

Each Kachina represents a spirit in western Pueblo cultural beliefs. Although not worshipped, each Kachina is viewed as a powerful being who can use his particular power for human good. There are over 400 Kachinas in Hopi and Pueblo culture.

So, we chose the Kachina to symbolize achievement and innovation among technology solutions providers in the North American contact center market. Last year, we chose the Sun Kachina for the Saddletree Kachina Award. The Sun Kachina represents strength of spirit, growth and abundance. Turns out it was very appropriate for the winners of the inaugural Saddletree Kachina Awards. The 2016 winners and their associated category were as follows:

  • Innovation in Voice of the Customer Solutions: Numonix
  • Innovation in Workforce Optimization: Aspect Software
  • Innovation in Contact Center Analytics: Verint
  • Innovation in Cloud Contact Center Solutions: Calabrio
  • Innovation in Self-Service Solutions: Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Innovation in Emerging Technologies: NICE

Winners were determined from award submissions by a panel of five independent industry professionals. We intend to use the same judging strategy this year, keeping an odd number of judges in case we need a tie-breaker.

We have chosen the Eagle Dancer for this year’s Kachina Award. The Eagle Dancer, Kwahu in the Hopi language, is one of the most powerful of Kachinas. He represents strength and power and is ruler of the skies. It is also one of the most popular of all Kachinas and one of the more difficult Kachinas to carve

Once again, we have commissioned Hopi Kachina artist Joe Duwyenie of Third Mesa, Hopi Pueblo, in Northern Arizona, to carve six Eagle Dancer Kachinas to be used as the trophies for the 2017 Saddletree Research Kachina Awards. Each winning company will receive one of the six commissioned carvings.

This year, we are changing the focus of the awards from “Innovation” to “Achievement.” Some of the most interesting solutions in the contact center market have been around for quite a while, such as workforce optimization (WFO) and analytics, so rather than emphasizing new innovations, we’re focusing the 2017 awards on achievement in both established and emerging technologies.

The categories for this year’s Kachina Awards are as follows:

Achievement in Workforce Optimization (WFO)

Achievement in Contact Center Analytics

Achievement in Customer Self-Service Solutions

Achievement in Robotics (Including RPA)

Achievement in Employee Engagement Solutions

Achievement in Emerging/Developing Customer Service Solutions

Joining me on the panel of judges this year will be:

  • David Butler, PhD, Vice Provost of Research, and Dean, School of Graduate Studies, Middle Tennessee State University. David is also the founder and executive director of the National Association of Call Centers (NACC).
  • Renee Maler, Principal, Philosophy PR + Marketing
  • Jim Lavery, Vice President, Contact Centers and Credit Services, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union
  • Susan Hash, Editor, Contact Center Pipeline magazine

Submissions for the 2017 Kachina Awards are now being accepted and details regarding the submission process can be found behind the “Kachina Awards” tab at Like last year, the Kachina Award will not be an easy award to win, and I know that fact alone will scare off some potential submissions, but those who do win a 2017 Kachina Award will know they’ve achieved something special. As the 2016 winners will tell you, the Kachina isn’t just another participant trophy.

Paul Stockford

Paul Stockford

Paul Stockford served as Chief Analyst at Saddletree Research, which specialized in contact centers & customer service, from 1999-2022.
Twitter: @PaulStockford

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