I’ve been writing about my perspective of UC and contact centers for a long time, and those of you who’ve been following my articles will note that I describe contact center applications as becoming high-value applications that are benefiting from consumer BYOD, UC-enablement, and “cloud” services.
Customer services used to be locked in together in different technology platforms that were difficult to integrate. As a result, only big organizations could afford to invest and support implementing all the pieces involved with legacy telephony call centers. Because, of contact center application complexity and costs, many SMB organizations could not afford to implement such contact center technologies by themselves. Adding to the challenge of customer services has been the advent of “Mobile UC” and multi-modal live assistance and self-service applications.
As confirmed in many recent market studies, mobile customers are now expecting:
- More access to mobile online self-services
- Pro-active mobile notifications and alerts, rather than calling in or checking online
- Greater flexibility in choice of user interfaces (voice, visual)
- Options for multiple forms of “smart” access to live assistance when needed
While UC-enabled business communications focused initially on internal organizations and collaborative contacts, the SMB markets were pretty much stuck on old CPE-based call center telephony. Now, however, “cloud” based applications are making big waves in all customer service applications.
Companies like Interactive Intelligence realize the importance of the SMB market, and are moving to make it easier for this segment to access contact center capabilities through the cloud. Interactive Intelligence recently introduced CaaS Small CenterSM, aimed at organizations with between 10 and 50 contact center agents. For a practical rundown, on Interactive Intelligence’s track record, listen to this very enlightening interview with Interactive Intelligence’s Jason Alley by Jim Burton. As Jason mentions, CaaS Small Center offers significant value in four main areas: improved ability to deliver a great customer experience; lower TCO and reduced impact on the customer’s internal organization; expense protection and a safer migration to the cloud; and long term investment protection. Caas Small Center is a packaged suite that can be customized based on customer size and customers can upgrade it as their business requirements change. Similar to Interactive’s larger CaaS offering, the service includes multichannel routing and queuing (voice, email, fax, text, and the web), IVR, multichannel recording, supervision and reporting, quality management, real-time speech analytics, automated customer satisfaction surveys, and Salesforce.com integration.
Cloud Offerings for the Big SMB Market
I have always felt that customer services will really be the same for small or large organizations. The main differences showed up in areas such as:
- How big your market is
- How much live assistance and expertise will be needed by different customers
- Software tools for running operations smoothly, training customer-facing staff,
- Management tools and metrics to insure customer responsiveness satisfaction (“Experience!”)
- Customization of self-service applications for different types of applications, especially “mobile apps.”
I was glad to see Interactive Intelligence going after the SMB market, since such businesses need most of the same technologies as their larger brethren – they just need them for different volumes and numbers of agents. There are clearly more SMB operations than there are larger enterprise organizations, which means more opportunity for vendors. With “consumer BYOD,” the opportunities have increased for offering the expertise of channel partners and consultants supporting “public,” private,” and hybrid clouds environments.