The idea of integrating the contact center with UC may seem radical, especially if your roots run deep with legacy technology and premise-based phone systems. This is still the reality for most businesses, and that assumes you, in fact, have a contact center. There are many reasons why businesses don’t have contact centers, so for them, that conversation hasn’t started yet.
When businesses begin to consider cloud-based communications solutions, new possibilities emerge, not just to do old things in new ways, but new things that aren’t currently feasible. The former is addressed by UC, which greatly enhances communication by integrating the various modes we use every day into a consistent user experience. First generation UC offerings were premise-based, and while effective, their cost and complexity were barriers to adoption.
More recently, cloud-based versions of UC—UCaaS, or UC as a Service—have emerged, opening up the market to businesses of all sizes. In parallel, the same has been happening in the contact center space, where hosted variations, CCaaS, are starting to gain traction. Both of these developments reflect how quickly the cloud has matured and is now being viewed as a viable option for applications that have long been premise-based.
Previously, there was no reason to think about integrating contact centers with UC, as their platforms were different and they operated in distinct spheres. Aside from the changes in technology with the cloud, there’s another reason to think about this type of integration. Just as the cloud is impacting the needs of IT, it is also impacting customer expectations and how they relate to the companies they buy from. Whether a company has a contact center or not, they are finding it increasingly difficult to keep customers happy, and a key reason is the limitation of their present technology.
Two steps you need to take next
If that describes your current situation, there are two steps forward toward a solution and the win-win outcome referred to in the title of this post. First is a readiness to consider cloud-based UC. This holds true whether using premise-based UC now, or even a phone system where you’re looking for more than just telephony.
Once you see the value of UCaaS, the second step forward is to consider the benefits of integrating the contact center with the rest of your operations. Whereas premise-based UC and contact center platforms are separate by nature, cloud-based versions can be integrated, and that’s where the business can do new things in addition to doing familiar things in better ways.
UCaaS and CCaaS represent exciting technology innovations, but the real driver—and payoff—for your business is improving your ability to respond to the needs of your customers. When thinking about UC, it’s easy to define the business value solely in terms of improving internal communications. Increasingly, however, businesses are becoming more customer-centric, and that gives rise to a new role for UC.
Thinking differently about customer engagement
A key element of being customer-centric is enabling all employees to be customer facing, and not just those in the contact center. When agents cannot resolve customer issues on their own, they need to access those with the right expertise inside the company, ideally while engaged with the customer. This is another way that UC provides business value, but only when integrated with the contact center. By working backwards from the premise of being customer-centric, the rationale for this integration becomes stronger, since the benefit goes beyond the conventional view of UC.
In this regard, integrating UCaaS and CCaaS requires thinking differently about customer engagement. This is a new model and is one that allows businesses to support customers in new ways. Not only can agents now draw on expertise from the entire organization, but office-based workers can now engage directly with customers without duplicating the efforts of those in the contact center.
Combining UCaaS and CCaaS gives businesses a tremendous flexibility to support customers on their terms rather than relying on traditional approaches that may no longer be effective. Not only does this allow businesses with contact centers to reinvent customer care, but it provides new, accessible options for businesses that have yet to go down this road.
As more business activity migrates online, having this capability becomes increasingly important. In this environment, the contact center becomes the front door of your business, and these interactions will have a great bearing on customer satisfaction, retention, and sales growth. For this reason, the contact center has never had so much strategic value, and continuing to rely on legacy technology will not be good for business.
Getting to a win-win
The starting point for moving forward is to recognize that both contact center and UC can be cloud-based. This will appeal to IT teams of all sizes, not just by being an Opex-based subscription model, but also being easy to deploy and manage, as well as easy to use by end users. Not only that, but the cloud allows IT to deploy at a pace that suits them, such as starting with a limited feature set or perhaps only integrating across certain departments or contact center teams.
Once the possibilities for integrating these elements in the cloud are understood, it should be clear how this strategy will be a win-win. Internally, agents will be more effective and responsive, IT will now have state-of-the-art solutions to age-old problems, and management will value how this supports their vision for a customer-centric organization. Looking outside, this will also be a win for customers, as you’ll be easier to do business with; and when they have a great experience getting problems solved, everyone wins—except your competitors.
Originally published Jan 10, 2017, updated Aug 10, 2020