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The channel is changing. ‘Digital transformation’ is no longer just a buzzword, and clients are now demanding cloud-first technologies within their business.

But Vapour has been cloud-first since our inception in 2013. In fact, our company is built on four cornerstones of cloud-first excellence – voice, video, networks and storage. It’s all we know.

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The collision of UC and CC

There’s never been so much conversation surrounding unified communications. So, at a time when businesses are experiencing greater change than ever – particularly in the contact centre – where do the biggest challenges and opportunities lie?

Vapour Cloud’s CEO Tim Mercer offers his thoughts, in this topical Q&A…

  • What are the main drivers behind UC in the Contact Centre, especially now?

In many respects the drivers behind UC in the Contact Centre are the same as they’ve always been – the strengthening of dialogue with customers to improve service levels. But more organisations are now tuning into the benefits that unified comms can bring. As customer expectations continue to rise and the ‘channels of choice’ diverge further, customers are almost forcing CCs down this path. If they don’t adapt, they’ll get left behind.

Some CCs have long been at the forefront of this of course – typically (but not always) the larger operations with bigger budgets. And now they’re a step even further ahead. They’re looking for automation – the ability to route traffic in a certain way, using intelligent and efficient machine agents with sophisticated AI and NLP capabilities.

This technology empowers CCs to run 24/7, with no sick leave costs or risks, which presents vast potential for growth. It doesn’t mean people need to be rendered redundant, as staff are freed up to have the most contextual conversations that require a human connection. But this takes omnichannel comms to another level again.

Automation is becoming more mainstream too, among larger SMEs not just enterprise level organisations. And the trend will only continue, specifically among brands keen to speak to their customers in a different way. From live chat and social media monitoring, to SMS and WhatsApp instant messaging, all in the same environment as more traditional voice calls and emails, it comes back to the customer experience mentioned at the start.

COVID-19 has magnified the need for CC agents to be empowered with UC capabilities, wherever they may be located and with video integration too. Lockdown or no lockdown, this demand for flexibility is unlikely to fall.

  • Is there a danger your average partner can’t deliver the complexity of tools required now?

Well, it depends how you define average, of course!

UC delivery is complex, especially for large and/or multifaceted contact centres. Such organisations are looking for specialist suppliers with a proven track record of excelling in this environment, because SLAs really matter. It therefore helps if partners have a roster of satisfied clients with upwards of 1,000 seats.

Just because you can sell a UC solution doesn’t mean you can set up and support it – and this is an ongoing problem in the channel. This isn’t to say partners always purposefully make false promises, but this should not be a space where you say you can do something and worry about it afterwards!

UC is continually evolving, and the sign of a successful delivery is a client who beds in the technology, effectively, before moving on to look for ‘what next’? So, all eyes will be constantly on the partner to assist, explore, iterate and innovate, to keep adding value.

The increasing move to UC will prove a struggle for many standard voice players who lack the network diagnostic skills. This isn’t to say they will be alienated from the market, but they need to have an appetite for collaboration as clients’ due diligence is becoming savvier.

  • Does the convergence of UC & CC give a chance for every employee to impact customer experience?

Yes.

A robust UC solution can be used by CC agents whether they’re working in the back office or from home, and it empowers more ‘front of house’ colleagues to get involved in the conversation too, as all communications take place in one central ‘hub’.

This naturally facilitates the opportunity for better customer dialogue across the board, subject to the caveats that comprehensive training has been provided and all colleagues are clear on their customer comms objectives, of course.

We know from our own experiences as consumers, that our patience becomes increasingly limited if we have to start from the beginning of a conversation, when we’re passed from one agent to the next or we have to switch comms channels. So, an organisation with the ability to streamline that process, by making knowledgeable employees accessible to customers via every possible touchpoint, and without any context or detail being lost, is naturally better positioned to keep customers happy. Employees will feel better equipped to do their jobs, too.

  • How will this market develop over the next 12 and 24 months?

To draw on a previous point, we’ll undoubtedly see more automation as the cost continues to fall – soon it won’t be a technology that only the bigger CCs can afford.

We’ll see more B2C-style channels come into the B2B environment – it’s crazy that WhatsApp hasn’t been better embraced by UK organisations, for instance, for both one-to-one and broadcast comms, particularly as conversations are encrypted.

Traditional voice traffic will continue to fall in favour of VoIP and video, which will present a huge challenge for many players in the channel. And one of the biggest disruptors in this space, without a doubt, will be Microsoft, particularly after their acquisition of Metaswitch. It’s almost inevitable that they will play in the voice market in the next 12-24 months, and while there will be lots of considerations for customers, I think Microsoft will really challenge this environment – particularly at the <50 user end.

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