Q&A with Enghouse Interactive from Microsoft WPC 2014
I recently had the chance to speak with Ernie Wallerstein, President, Enghouse Interactive, Americas Channels, regarding some of the trends in the Lync and customer experience management (CEM) space. Enghouse offers Enghouse Interactive Communications Center (EICC), previously known as Zeacom Communications Center, and is one of Microsoft's qualified partners, providing a fully-native Lync contact center solution. Here's the Q&A that I conducted with Ernie.
Q: What do you see as the key trends affecting customer experience management technology adoption as it relates to Microsoft Lync?
A: We're seeing a push for IT and end users to better utilize the Lync experience. Lync has a good adoption rate for unified communications, especially as the basis for IM and presence. Now we're seeing people leverage Lync as a voice platform and try to federate their Lync experience with other business partners and organizations they communicate with regularly, such as in their supply chain partners. Regarding customer experience management and the contact center, we're definitely seeing the push towards opening communications to multiple options - chat, voice, email, and more. Microsoft Lync and Skype are pushing out the customer experience to people so they can communicate anyway they want, from anywhere, and on any device. We're seeing the proliferation of Lync on mobile devices to let people communicate via the medium of choice.
Q: We've been talking about multichannel interactions in the contact center for a long time - what's different now?
A: The mobile piece is what's changing - we're seeing a big push to put communications in various form factors, including the mobile device, and especially mobile apps. Let's say an individual is chatting with someone - it could be a colleague or a contact center agent - and they realize that they want to talk to that person. They can easily escalate from a chat session to a real-time voice interaction with one click. The escalation from one media or channel to another is taking off. There's definitely a push from contact centers to make sure that the consumer has multiple options of communication from their mobile device - whether through voice, web browser, a mobile app, or other options.
Q: What key trends are you seeing when it comes to Lync and the contact center? Are Lync customers looking for multichannel contact center, or more basic offerings?
A: In the Lync world, chat was there before the voice piece, and the IM/web aspect is now pulling voice along. We see multichannel, including voice, chat, email, being very prevalent in the Lync world. We're also seeing some utilization of video escalation into the contact center, but it's primarily one-way video, not bidirectional. For example, a support tech can show a customer how to fix a circuit board. We're also seeing one-way video where the customer can show a video to a subject matter expert in the contact center, such as where their car got hit, or what their broken washing machine looks like.
Q: Aside from multichannel, what other capabilities are Lync customers looking for?
A: There's a big need to record calls - 75% of the time that we talk to a Lync reseller, we're being asked if we can record the call. This is essential for many companies, and not all contact center vendors working with Lync can provide this capability.
Q: How do Lync and EICC work together?
A: EICC uses the Lync client for voice, presence, IM, etc. EICC doesn't replace the telephony in Lync and we never will - we're not the PBX. The EICC application can be used for self service, outbound campaigns, coaching, monitoring, recording, etc., while Lync provides the PBX and voice capabilities. Both contact center agents and users within the organization use the same interface. Users can see the status of all the endpoints in Lync, and can easily chat with and conference in any Lync users. Since we use Lync as the platform, the contact center supervisor can monitor any call, and supervisors with a Windows Mobile Device can click on an agent's name and monitor their call.
Here's an example - instead of being tethered to desk and computer, the supervisor can run the Enghouse application on a Windows mobile device with a headset and walk around the contact center coaching agents. If an agent who's on a call needs help, they can click the "help" button, which notifies the supervisor on their mobile device. The supervisor can then click on the agent button and monitor the call. They can do screen capture and record the call from the beginning of the interaction even if they don't start monitoring the call until midway through. This makes it easier for supervisors to coach agents during the interaction. After the call, the supervisor and agent can go through the call together to identify areas that may need improvement, and the supervisor can score the agent from a Quality Assurance perspective. And all of this done in real time using the mobile device! Going a step further, our speech analytics engine listens to words and phrases, as well as the agent's or customer's stress level during the call, and if the analytics engine identifies a potential problem, the supervisor can approach the agent and help them with the call.
Q: Are you seeing a crossover between UC and the contact center?
A: We've been talking about this for over 10 years, and Microsoft Lync and the Lync client are definitely helping to speed up its adoption. Zeacom integrated Lync into our presence engine a long time ago. Using the Lync client, contact center agents and knowledge workers have similar interfaces. If the agent needs to talk to a subject matter expert in the organization while assisting a customer, the agent can see their presence send a chat message through the Lync client. Having the same Lync experience makes it easy to integrate UC and the contact center, and Lync let's agents know the status and availability of knowledge workers outside of the contact enter. We're seeing many more Lync users utilizing this capability, primarily using chat, so that the agent can chat with the knowledge worker or subject matter expert. This capability has been around for a while, but it's becoming more acceptable and common.
Q: Do you have any examples of customers deploying Lync and EICC in this way?
A: WebCE, which provides continuing education and training for insurance and financial services organizations deployed Zeacom Communication Center (now Enghouse Interactive Communication Center) with Lync, and found an increase in service levels from 90% to 96%. They found that EICC on Lync changed their contact center behavior because it gives them more visibility into what's going on - agents have more information about the call and queues. Collaboration with other departments and locations has become commonplace, and agents can easily access anyone in the organization, not just their supervisors and managers. Agents use chat to get quick answers to questions, which increased first contact resolution.
Q: How do your channel partners capitalize on the integration with Lync?
A: Adoption of Lync Voice is still ramping up - it's been a common conversation that is just taking off and we're still in early days. If you're an Enghouse partner, there's a significant need for voice expertise in the Lync world. Microsoft is looking for partners that understand voice. Enghouse partners, who clearly understand voice technologies, can step up and adopt Lync, and leverage their voice expertise. Lync is transforming traditional telephony and the PBX to software solutions, and our partners should take advantage of this transformation. Our partners need to commit to the Lync paradigm, which is different from the PBX and traditional voice telephony, and invest in training and personnel.
Q: Microsoft has quite a number of contact center partners - what are you doing to help your partners in this increasingly competitive market?
A: Enghouse provides value to our partners in that we live this everyday and understand how contact centers work in traditional environments and in Lync environments. We understand both sides of the equation and can be the subject matter experts for our partners. We've been in the Lync world from early on and picked the right way to integrate to Lync - UCMA, which means we do Lync at the back office server level, which gives us more flexibility and is Microsoft's favored approach.
Most customers won't flashcut from their existing contact center and PBX solutions and need to exist in both the traditional world with vendors such as Cisco and Avaya, which are longtime Zeacom partners, and in the Lync world.
Q: What are some of the challenges your partners are experiencing?
A: It's hard to decipher what clients need, and differentiating this from pre-existing perceptions of what's happening in the marketplace. Let's take the cloud as an example. Partners need to qualify what the cloud means - should the contact center be in the cloud? What about managed services? Partners have to get past the buzzwords to understand what problems the organization is really trying to solve for their end users.