Are Unified Communications and Contact Centre Converging? It’s the kind of thing analysts and pundits love to talk about. However, I’m afraid not, it’s a myth, something that could have happened and didn’t.
I’m here to talk about some of the areas where convergence has happened, how the big players missed the boat and the areas where the contact centre is really converging with other enterprise systems.
I’m Johnathan Zemlik Head of Contact Centre Solutions for Wavenet and I do not think UC and CC are converging anytime soon, quite the opposite, in fact, they are diverging at pace. I did think this would be the case even before COVID19 and I’m even more sure now. There are many different reasons for this but let's start with the elephant in the room: Microsoft Teams has set the pace and backed systems integration rather than convergence!
Microsoft Teams does not yet have a native contact centre developed and supported in house by Microsoft
In fact, they have come out swinging for systems integration by allowing leading CCaaS vendors, many of whom Wavenet work with such as Content Guru and Five9 to undertake certified integrations into the MS Teams technology stack.
Until Microsoft develop, and most importantly mature their own native MS Teams contact centre, or maybe buy an established CCaaS vendor UC and CC convergence will remain limited for a huge proportion of the market.
However, this doesn’t mean UC solutions haven’t become more complex and taken on features from the contact centre space. There is value in a company running a Contact Centre and Unified Communications on the same core platform, especially where traditional telephony was concerned.
That’s the issue though, it’s a traditional view seen through the paradigm of traditional technology, but the market has moved on. UC and CC convergence is a voice focused perspective for the market that is now omnichannel. Just because the two solutions have voice at the heart of their feature sets they are not there to do the same thing.
How did we get here?
The Contact Centre is there to support customer engagement. It is looking to achieve two outcomes to boost customer retention:
- To automate customer interaction quickly and efficiently where appropriate in a personalised and imitative manner.
- To route the customer interaction to the best-placed advisor within the company so they can resolve their interaction across any channel.
Contact Centre solutions need to have access to the customer data to support both these outcomes and ensure advisors have the information to resolve the issue the first time.
The technology within the Contact Centre is specialised to achieve these ends.
Unified Communications however is now focused on enabling collaboration between users. It's about supporting not just one on one calls between back-office staff, but full conferences and tools to enable colleagues to work together on the same task and or document.
The concepts between these two technology stacks have remained virtually the same for the past 20 years but their divergence began long ago. The responsibility for this divergence lays at the hands of traditional CPE based vendors who didn’t think ahead.
At Wavenet we believe in an ethos based on disruptive technology, this is a change theory that describes the processes through which industry-leading businesses fall behind the technology curve, fails to adapt to the demands of the market and find themselves vulnerable to competitors within the market.
For UC products, a focus on on-premise deployments and the delay in the move to the cloud combined with a lack of open standards-based architecture has limited the ability of UC players to develop UC to its full potential on their native technology platforms.
Conversely, the agility of CCaaS players and an ever-expanding roadmap of new features and custom development, combined with the move to a commodity market in UC has deterred CCaaS vendors from developing their own UC products, most notably smartphone apps.
The real convergence is between Contact Centre and CRM
The area of convergence I see day to day within customer experience is around contact centre and CRM with these two titans of the enterprise eco-system moving closer and closer.
I see Contact Centre vendors developing streamlined CRM technology and supporting full customer databases and I see CRM solutions building channel management solutions for digital channels such as email, web-chat and social media.
This is because a good customer journey is data-led and they need that information from the CRM or natively within the system to ensure advisors can deliver on core metrics such as First Contact Resolution, reducing Average Handling Times and boosting Customer Satisfaction.
Furthermore, often the CRM solution is used across the front and back office and supports its own collaboration tools such as internal chat which can provide the single messaging application between the front and back office with the contact centre and unified communications solution providing the voice layer.
This divergence between Contact Centre and UC is also, in part cultural with Contact Centres often a business within a business, in the past, segregated in large hubs away from a companies Business Head Quarters.
A business unit treated as a separate entity, with different needs and concerns will evolve its own unique set of features over time. That’s exactly what has happened, but it's been accelerated by the pandemic
UC and CC convergence are not on the cards in the 2020s The pandemic has led to the rapid adoption of MS Teams across the EMEA market and Microsoft has backed the system integration approach.
However, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.
There are key convergences between CC and CRM that must take place. This has already started within the market. Wavenet has stayed ahead of the curve with our integrated approach to customer experience built on deep integration between our Virtual Contact Centre powered by Five9 and CRM systems such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Zoho and Netsuite.
The need to use customer data efficiently within the contact centre has outcompeted the need for voice between the front and back office to be built into the same system. This wasn’t a fait accompli but it became one as the traditional CPE providers of UC and CC failed to embrace open standards cloud technologies.
This will change as traditional players consolidate their offerings in the market, buying a next-generation CCaaS or UCaaS provider to complement their core offering or developing and maturing them from scratch. That is inevitable and has a precedent within the industry from when leading CPE based contact centre providers bought cloud challenges in the mid-2010s.
I am Johnathan Zemlik and I am happy to be the voice of decent on the myth of UC and CC convergence.