Covid-19 and the rise of remote and hybrid workforces have played directly into the hands of virtual contact centre providers, according to this month’s panel of industry experts.
Historically, CCaaS has focused on customer and contact agent communication, but following Covid-19, businesses are now looking for a communications platform that includes internal peer-to-peer engagement. This enables organisations to manage all of their communications on a single platform, creating more seamless connections and improved collaboration, while increasing business agility and speed to market. And as many businesses were forced to rapidly deploy cloud-based communications technology in March, sales and deployment cycles were accelerated at a pace not seen before in the industry.
“We have seen a significant increase in CCaaS sales in recent months,” said Keith Jackson (pictured), EMEA Channel Sales Director, 8x8. “This is largely due to the fact that in the larger CCaaS space many businesses are re-evaluating their communications and technology plans, or even accelerating them, to meet the demands of a remote – and soon to be hybrid – workforce. The market is changing before our eyes, and resellers need to respond and adapt to survive and thrive in what we are calling the ‘new normal’.”
Jackson also noted that 8x8 is investing in enhancements to its digital channels and CPaaS capabilities, so customers can design and develop a communications strategy that reflects current and future requirements. “We are also focused on enhancing our reporting, analytics and user interfaces, leveraging our AI powered analytics and quality management platforms,” he added. “These updates will equip customers with the tools they need to embrace and deploy the next generation of management and supervision for a remote or hybrid workforce.”
The market is changing before our eyes, and resellers need to respond and adapt to survive and thrive in what we are calling the ‘new normal’
One of the biggest benefits of CCaaS is the availability of data insights, and in the virtual environment it’s easy to have a single pane view of key stats while speaking to customers on a video call, noted Jackson. “Selling over video becomes a vehicle for more proactive and contextualised customer engagement,” he added.
“The important thing is to ensure staff receive the training required to make best use of these data assets. Although core sales skills are transferable across communication channels, resellers should focus on developing the softer skills sales teams will need when selling over video, which include relationship and rapport building.”
According to Justin Hamilton-Martin, Director, Centile/Swyx UK, putting CRM at the centre of the contact centre’s communications infrastructure makes perfect sense, encompassing all aspects of customer engagement (social media, websites, marketing campaigns, inbound and outbound calls). “This approach can deliver big gains in terms of efficiency because the data mining opportunity increases and the risk of fragmentation is reduced,” he said. “Plus, customers that have opted-out of marketing communication are recognised on all inbound and outbound channels without having to knit multiple data sources together.”
There may be complexity around how companies engage with their customers, but there is no need for UC and CC technologies to add to that
Linking UCaaS with contact centre functionality also gives access to rich analytics across an entire staff base. Another important point, noted Hamilton-Martin, is that the cloud makes it easier to record calls, and there is no longer a need to maintain a separation between fixed and mobile devices. “This is important for call centres, particularly in regulated markets, since native call recording can be integrated into a modern UCaaS platform,” he added.
“Importantly, UCaaS vendors need to continue to remove the complexity, using APIs and web hooks to easily integrate the user environment into the platform. There may be complexity around how companies engage with their customers, but there is no need for UC and CC technologies to add to that.”
During lockdown, Hamilton-Martin also saw increased usage of Centile’s mobile app, which highlights a trend towards a more mobile-centric approach to communications, not just in contact centre environments but across all business operations. “Rather than being an afterthought, organisations are increasingly putting mobility at the heart of their UC strategies,” he stated. “The mobile-first approach that the Nordics have long appreciated is finally being embraced in the UK. This represents another opportunity for the channel to get on board early and grow their market share.”
As AI starts to take hold and moves beyond the basic chatbot type technology, the correlation between AI and video could be interesting
And as businesses come out of Covid-19 and begin to look at the cost base, their overheads and which route to go down, there is also a big opportunity in terms of hosted telephony, noted Julien Parven, Director of Business Partner Sales at Daisy Communications. “There’s another opportunity on the horizon in the form of the PSTN switch off and the benefits that brings by accelerating the move into a UCaaS/CCaaS combination which may have previously been seen as a challenge or as a risk,” said Parven. “In channel, a partner is ideally positioned to lead that conversation.”
Overnight, virtual contact centre providers became ‘the only show in town’, according to Parven. “With the combination of UCaaS and CCaaS they have not only been able to offer the virtualisation of the contact centre solution, they’ve been able to add a remote element which is incredibly powerful,” he added. “ Furthermore, as AI starts to take hold and moves beyond the basic chatbot type technology, the correlation between AI and video could be interesting.”
Parven also observed growing numbers of organisations wanting to install business-grade connectivity into their employees’ homes. “A business adopting an ongoing, flexible working model will want to own that connectivity,” he added. “One of the challenges is whether the company is happy committing into a longer-term tenure contract given workforce movement, particularly in the contact centre space. Our current priorities are to work with our partners to establish the connectivity ownership and from there, look at how we can help to support CCaaS. A virtual remote contact centre where all of the agents have an enterprise-level hosted voice solution will enable the contact centre to have full management control.”
Organisations are moving beyond quality management to leverage speech analytics and AI
Inevitably, remote working increases reliance on communication management tools to uphold service, manage risk and optimise resources, agrees Ian Bevington, Marketing Manager, Oak Innovation. “With the cost of speech analytics falling, organisations are moving beyond quality management to leverage speech analytics and AI,” he stated. “Managers can get a deeper understanding of the customer experience by measuring sentiment, emotion, over talk and silence. Key words and phrases can be monitored to identify and single out high risk conversations for investigation.
"We’re seeing more organisations deploying web chatbots – a combination of AI and human interaction helps to get queries answered, speeds up interaction and lightens the load during busy periods. Furthermore, many more of us have become familiar with video communication over recent months. This will add a new dimension to omni-channel interaction, reporting and analytics over the next few years.”