Takeaways From EC18 Part 2, a Vibrant Contact Center Market

In the first part of this article, we covered Twilio’s Flex announcement and the evolving enterprise contact center landscape. In this second part, I want to cover the broader customer interaction management market.

Contact center is hot

Enterprise Connect is first and foremost an enterprise communications event. Four of the five keynotes from Cisco, Facebook, Microsoft, and Slack were focused on team collaboration. We got used to contact centers taking the back seat at the show. It was not the case this year. Participants felt actually that contact centers were disproportionately present with an explosion of new solutions. Many were on display in the expo area:

This energy shows an active market. I have been keeping track of all contact center software vendors. Their number has kept on ballooning, crossing the 100 mark earlier this year. It is also interesting to note in the above list a growing number of speech and analytics providers.

Speech is heating up

I have already discussed the renaissance of speech technologies. This maturity was palpable at Enterprise Connect with a dedicated track. Furthermore, it was the topic of the innovation showcase and Amazon made Alexa for Business the focus of its keynote. There is a natural propensity to oppose digital and voice channels and take digitization progress as a loss for voice. This is all wrong!

Speech technologies have made tremendous progress on three fronts. Machine learning has brought the accuracy of transcription to and from text to new levels. Voice interactions should rapidly become natural, including for speakers having an accent like me! Artificial Intelligence is also opening up new possibilities for making sense of huge amounts of spoken information. Eventually, these technologies are much better packaged. It reduces dramatically the amount of professional services required for implementation and makes solutions available to a broader set of enterprises and midsize businesses.

Three use cases are enjoying the most traction:

  1. meeting transcription including speaker identification, summarization, and extraction of action points
  2. intelligence assistance using speech making poor Interactive Voice Response (IVR) experience a thing of the past
  3. speech analytics on calls and conversations making contact center reporting more actionable

Unified Communications and Contact Center got one step closer

If we put aside Fuze sharing the strengthening of its partnerships with Five9 and NICE InContact, all the main Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) providers announced steps towards bringing closer together communications and contact centers. This trend is not new but the fact they all made this combination the focus of their announcements at an event targeting communications and collaboration caught my attention.

8x8 unveiled its X Series Platform. It will combine communications and customer interaction features into a set of user profiles, ranging from simple telephony to customer service agent. All employees, regardless of their function, will be able to participate in customer-facing activities. 8x8 was already providing analytics to track customer activities across all departments. With the X series, 8x8 is adding CRM capabilities to maintain and enrich contact information and interaction history.

RingCentral made three product announcements. One related to conferencing and two related to contact centers, including a tool letting contact center agents and supervisors better collaborate using its Glip collaboration application. They all relate to areas where the company had been partnering, private labeling contact center software from Nice InContact and meeting software from Zoom. They point to the company desire to better integrate these capabilities into its platform.

Vonage, also a partner of NICE InContact, introduced a skills-based routing application. Built on the Nexmo platform, the component is provided as open source. It also shows an appetite towards providing its own contact center capabilities.

These announcements show not only that UCaaS vendors are federating communications and contact centers on their platform but making it a strategic focus.

The coming months should be very interesting and I made a note to go back to Enterprise Connect in 2019!


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