Recent Contact Center News
There’s never a dull moment in the contact center world, and the past couple of months have been no exception. Here’s a quick review of some of the recent news, from Five9, Talkdesk, Genesys, Glance Networks, Avaya and Cisco.
Let’s start with Five9, which just wrapped up their virtual industry analyst event. The host or MC of the event was the new CMO, Genefa Murphy, who brings a ton of energy and enthusiasm to the role. While new to the contact center world, Genefa dove in right away and has already shown herself to be an asset to the company. CEO Rowan Trollope kicked off the event by explaining Five9’s mission, which is to “Enable customers to deliver a reimagined CX by delivering practical AI & Automation, persistence and personalization, and powering the multi-modal workforce of the future.”
Rowan noted that everything the company does is around five key elements: the team and culture, product and platform, enterprise cloud transition, international and channel scale, and AI-drive automation.
In the past few years, Five9 invested a great deal to totally rearchitect its platform to be a hyperscale architecture leveraging the public cloud. CTO Jonathan Rosenberg spent a lot of time explaining the architecture and how the hyperscale architecture helps Five9 deliver velocity, reliability, and a global footprint without having to sacrifice one for the other.
The new architecture and agile development have also led to faster development cycles. Anand Chandrasekaran, EVP Product Management, noted that the company released over 165 new features, 83 new microservices, and did over 1,000 software deployments to customers in 2020 – pretty impressive numbers.
Five9 also made some important acquisitions that lets them own the entire stack, including Whendu for Workflow Automation and helping contact centers with complex legacy integrations migrate to the cloud, Virtual Observer for workforce optimization, and Inference for Intelligent Virtual Agent (IVA). AI and automation were a key focus, thanks to both acquisitions and internal development.
Clearly AI and Automation was a big focus, with the mission to “Create a digital workforce to augment humans in the contact center through a relentless focus on making AI practical – democratizing it so it is accessible to all. We believe AI should delight consumers rather than frustrate them.” Five9 has previously approached AI as separate functions, such as IVA, Agent Assist, etc., but now the company is building a digital workforce platform with one AI that can do multiple tasks, such as routing, speech analytics, etc.
This platform, built on the hyperscale architecture, is grounded on being easy to develop, easy to train and maintain, and accessible to partners.
Day 3 focused on Go To Market. Five9 made significant investments in strengthening its partner program, partner marketing activities, and onboarding process. In 2020 the company experienced 212% growth for reseller sales, and 227% growth for System Integrators. The company’s sales organization grew 30-40% in 2020, including an expanded international presence across sales, service, and channels.
Moving upmarket has been a goal for a while, and Five9 has been successfully gaining new enterprise customers, including some very well-known names. 2020 saw 45% growth in enterprise subscription revenues, as well as an 83% increase in enterprise business customers, with 91 customers representing over $1 Million in annual recurring revenue (ARR).
As Andy Dignan, SVP, Global Partners and Services, noted, what differentiates Five9 is its large services team, which works hand-in-hand with its partners. By selling with and delivering with partners, Five9 can deliver on customer CX expectations and help its partners be more successful. Delivering an integrated experience with partners, including white-glove service, are key to Five9, as evidenced by this slide:
Another big focus is international expansion, as Five9 tripled its international bookings in 2020, and accelerated its global plans.
It was nice to hear about the success Five9 has been experiencing and how it will strive to maintain its growth in the coming years. And a shout out to Jonathan “Darth” Rosenberg for making May the Fourth a bit more fun.
Other recent news is from Talkdesk, which introduced new branding and is focusing on a digital-first, automation-first customer experience solution. With a new website, new logo, new tagline (Experience. A better way.), and new colors (purple has always been one of my favorite colors), Talkdesk introduced a marketing relaunch and global advertising program to “reflect the company’s commitment to being at the forefront of customer experience (CX) innovation. I especially like the new advertising tag line “We should talk,” featured in different ads. For example, one says “If you're customer-obsessed, we should talk,” another says, “If you want to deliver a better patient experience, we should talk” – you get the idea.
Talkdesk also introduced two additions to Talkdesk CX Cloud – Talkdesk Workspace and Talkdesk Builder.
Talkdesk Workspace is a new customizable user interface that can be completely personalized for any role in the contact center - agents, supervisors, administrators. Using Builder, templates, and microservices, users can customize the desktop for their specific needs and preferences. Workspace can be on the agent desktop or web browser with the same look and feel, and is available in several languages.
Talkdesk Builder is used to customize the Workspace. Builder provides a set of tools for increased contact center customization across workspaces, routing, reporting and integrations. It uses low-code, and no-code tools – which has become the latest trend for development.
Genesys completed the acquisition of Bold360, the second largest acquisition in Genesys history. Bold360 will help Genesys accelerate its digital -first capabilities and expand into adjacent markets beyond the contact center, including sales and marketing, which is becoming an important trend for CX companies. Bold360 is known for its digital engagement suite, conversational AI, and its knowledge base that helps customers and agents access information.
Bold360 will become part of the Genesys Digital business unit led by Barry O'Sullivan, Executive Vice President and General Manager. Genesys already has significant digital capabilities, but Bold360 adds onto this and adds AI-powered analytics. This addition will enable Genesys to have a digital-first approach, which is increasingly required by customers.
Genesys expanded its multicloud capabilities, announcing that Genesys Engage now runs on Microsoft Azure. This builds on the Genesys Multicloud strategy, providing customers with a choice of which public cloud to use. While some companies have standardized on the Microsoft stack including Azure, some large retailers, for example, don’t want to be on AWS, as Amazon is a competitor, and they prefer an option like Azure. In addition to the technical integration, Genesys and Microsoft also announced a joint co-selling and go-to-market strategy for Genesys Engage on Microsoft Azure.
A growing trend in the contact center space is the use of video and visual tools. One company that’s been a leader in this area is Glance, which just announced Glance Video as part of its Glance Guided Experience.
According to Glance, whether in a sales or service type of interaction, customers are often driven (I’d say forced) into self-service channels that can’t address their issues and end up needing help at critical moments in their customer journey. Guided Experiences are used to let agents and advisors (including knowledge workers such as bankers or tax preparers) guide customers through a support or selling interaction and visually show the customer how to do something or complete a transaction. Glance is now adding video to the Guided Experience and embedding video into the experience.
Glance Video lets companies engage visually with a customer with 1, 2, or multi-way video directly from the customer’s web browser or mobile device without requiring any downloads or extensions or even WebRTC. Glance Video is an embedded solution that enables one-to-one and many-to-many video sessions directly in a website or app. This keeps all engagements in the branded property, and eliminates the need for businesses to use third party videoconferencing services. Glance Video is an overlay application and can work with whatever telephony, audio, and CRM the business is using.
Glance Video combines web sharing and video, and works with both Glance’s cobrowsing and screen sharing capabilities. It provides full video controls for both the agent and customer, including background blurring, video muting, and video resizing. The advisor or agent can invite and bridge guests to join the video when appropriate. For example, during a home mortgage application process, the advisor can invite and bring in the customer’s spouse.
Working within a company’s app or on their website, the video capabilities allow for an in-brand experience that is in the moment and in context.
As the use of video expands and consumers become increasingly comfortable using video, tools that support video-enabled customer engagement and provide video support will become even more important.
In addition to expanding its OneCloud CCaaS into 40 countries, Avaya added a new AI Workflow capability for Avaya OneCloud CCaaS. The AI-powered workflow tool connects voice, digital and AI applications using a visual design environment featuring a graphical low code/no code conversation composer. The AI Workflow capability comes with a number of pre-built AI features, and lets organizations build their own custom capabilities and integrate with voice, digital, and AI applications including Google, Nuance, Amazon, IBM Watson, and others into a single user interface.
Low code/no code is an increasingly important software development approach in the contact center space, enabling developers and non-developers to more easily create customized customer experiences to meet their specific needs. Avaya is at the forefront of using low code/no code tools for creating composable experiences. With the AI workflow, both developers and domain experts can build on top of OneCloud CCaaS, adding AI features and capabilities, and composing and customizing applications.
Cisco’s recent contact center news is its acquisition of imimobile, a CPaaS provider that offers omnichannel capabilities and adds messaging and social channels, including WhatsApp, RCS, Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WeChat. It also supports standard channels such as voice, chat, SMS, email, and in-app notifications. In addition, imimobile provides CPaaS and programmatic capabilities to let businesses create their own applications or embed communications in existing experiences.
What I like most about imimobile is that it provides context to the customer interaction. For example, if the interaction starts in WhatsApp but ends up in a phone call, the call history and information from the WhatsApp interaction is passed to the phone agent, maintaining context for the interaction. In addition, imimobile provides CPaaS capabilities that can be used by Cisco customers to create customized applications and integrations. With imimobile’s Flowbuilder, APIs, and low code/no code approach, enterprise customers can embed multiple interaction channels and change workflows as needed without requiring a developer or having to deal with the complexities of integrating the various channels.