UCaaS ramps up in contact centres

Channels that will transform the contact centre — and the customer experience — include virtual assistants, proactive automation, web chat, instant messaging and mobile applications. Here’s a preview of what’s to come in the next five years.

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Migrating to the omni-channel and cloud contact centres is still a challenge for many organizations. But it’s becoming a ‘change agent’ for digital transformation.

“One of the aspects of digital transformation for any business is making information available to customers in the applications and communications channels where customers want to have those communications,” says Sheila McGee-Smith, founder and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics, during a webinar that discussed key takeaways from the recent Enterprise Connect Orlando.

Omni-channel on the rise

The transition to omni-channel has been slower than anticipated. But according to data from MZA Consultants, progress toward cloud solutions in the contact centre space has been moving along at a faster rate — although at a global level on-premises and private cloud solutions remain dominant within the installed base of agents.

In 2018, 77 per cent of agents were voice-only, while 23 per cent had omni-channel capabilities. But in the next five years, the telecom and IT analyst firm predicts that number will increase, with 30 per cent of agents having omni-channel capabilities in 2023.

The installed base of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is also expected to increase from 14 per cent in 2018 to 32 per cent in 2023, according to MZA Consultants.

“When you think of it from the point of view that it’s more than doubling the number of agents that will be served from cloud contact centre solutions, it’s a fairly high ramp-up of change over the next five years,” says McGee-Smith.

AI and contact centre transformation

Despite this, organizations are taking stock: For the first time in five years, the average number of channels offered has dropped, according to research from Dimension Data. Currently most organizations offer seven options.

Yet, there’s significant focus on newer channels such as virtual assistants, which will see the average number of channels increase to 12 next year, according to the firm. The top five channel growth areas include virtual assistants, proactive automation, web chat, instant messaging and mobile applications.

Essential to the conversation of contact centre transformation is artificial intelligence — a topic that came up throughout the conference. It’s early days, though McGee-Smith says there are specific use cases that show promise, such as matching agents with customers.

Predictive routing algorithms are now using AI, which can analyze the results of a call in real time (or near real time) and connect a customer with the most appropriate agent. “[We’re] really seeing the beginning of artificial intelligence in the planning cycle over the next year for these companies — so it’s very top of mind,” says McGee-Smith.

Improving the customer experience

This is all part of the broader digital transformation journey, aimed at improving the customer experience. As companies move their contact centre to the cloud — along with other business functions, such as ordering systems, ERP and CRM — it becomes easier to interconnect those systems.

That, in turn, will allow data to flow in a way that provides agents with a broader enterprise view of a customer’s journey, and ultimately better serve that customer during that journey.

Image: ndesign/iStock


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