If you hadn’t noticed, telephony vendors are trying to move quickly into the UC arena, where voice communications are being subsumed by other forms of contact. That applies to both real-time and asynchronous messaging, where the old business telephony functions are starting to move to UC-enabled end user options.
The big driver for this trend has been the rapid consumer take-up of multi-modal smartphones and tablets that is slowly starting to change the legacy ways of customer phone calls. This will be especially important because the telephone call has been a dominant form of remote customer service support. Although consumers can readily find information and self-service applications online, the ability to dynamically “click-for-assistance” is primarily to access live assistance via chat. Because consumer residence phones have been kept separate from online desktop applications, we haven’t yet seen simple options for a consumer to initiate a contextual voice conversation with a contact center agent from within an online application.
All that is starting to change with the rise in IP telephony, CEBP (Communications Enabled Business Processes), and Mobile UC. As mobile carriers increasingly provide 3G and 4G mobile broadband access, we will see more and more self-service “mobile apps” being used by consumers. However, as always, users of self-service applications will always need live assistance when they have a question or a problem with their app. So, don’t expect the old contact center staff to disappear, but you can expect them to work differently than in the past as customer “BYOD” and multi-modal smartphones change the old telephone answering game.
While there has been a big pitch for UC capabilities to support person-to-person “collaborative” teamwork productivity within and between organizations, the value of UC enabled applications to improve customer services and the “customer experience” is just starting to be exploited. Although I have been writing about what I call the “UC Contact Center,” the subject was recently discussed in depth with my UC Strategy colleagues.
I recently attended a meeting of consultants hosted by ShoreTel, who have developed a “streamlined” IP telephony switch that is very “open” and flexible to support integrations with legacy telephony systems, as well as the new capabilities of UC-enabled applications. After the ShoreTel team had gone through all the details of their product technology, they indicated that their acquisition of M5 would also soon allow “cloud”-based services to be available as well.
When all was said and done, a couple of the consultants indicated that their clients were most concerned about their call center operations and wanted more details from ShoreTel on contact center issues. So, when “push comes to shove,” customer services” may well trump “collaboration!”