High Priority

New Kids on the Contact Center Block

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  October 01, 2011

It’s time. Your existing communications technology is reaching end of life, the service costs are exorbitant, and you just don’t have access to the kind of feature richness that can keep your business competitive. It’s time to migrate your enterprise communications infrastructure to an IP environment.

Now you have a decision to make, for there are countless options, though more than likely, you’re at least considering a hosted or cloud-based solution, thanks to their many benefits over premises-based options.

But, like many businesses, you also have an aging call center platform, which will soon also require replacement to an IP-based alternative. Again, you have multiple options, but you will most certainly want a platform that integrates easily with whichever enterprise communications system you choose.

Why not go to one vendor for both? Why install two separate systems, have to integrate them and manage and maintain both? Instead, take the benefits of an IP infrastructure to heart and seek a solution that meets both your enterprise and call center needs. It will be easier to deploy and manage, will be more cost effective, and will drive the business efficiencies you seek by putting all your resources on one system.

Not to take anything away from the multitude of excellent call center platforms available, but I’ve long believed long-term success will favor those vendors that offer solutions that can handle both sides of a business’ communications needs. That’s why companies like Interactive Intelligence have been successful, and it’s why 8x8’s (News - Alert) acquisition of Contactual is a smart move.

From a services perspective, the acquisition officially gives 8x8 a complete cloud-based offering, including a full-featured, scalable call center platform to meet the needs of its SMB and enterprise customers, and furthers 8x8’s up-market growth initiatives. 8x8’s Vice President of Business Development Huw Rees told me almost two years ago, when 8x8 moved into its then new headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., the company was making inroads in the enterprise and government markets.

“They have been watching from the sidelines and realize there are real advantages, not the least of which is cost savings, but also mobility, flexibility and ease of use and management,” he said then.

At ITEXPO (News - Alert) West in Austin, Texas, he reinforced the company’s commitment to the enterprise market, noting significant growth not only in customers buying its services, but also in the size of those customers.

The reality is that, for 8x8 and its customers, little will change in the way of services and support. 8x8 has been reselling Contactual’s (News - Alert) contact center solution since 2007; that accounted for approximately 10 percent of its sales last year. This deal is a logical extension of that four-year relationship, during which 8x8 has been able to provide customers with converged communications and contact center services. That ability to offer a rich contact center suite in addition to its unified communications capabilities has helped drive growth, particularly in the enterprise markets, according to Rees.

Though the two product sets are already integrated at the IP layer, and Rees notes there won’t be much work to be done to bring the Contactual contact center suite fully in house, the purchase will ensure even tighter integration, enhanced support and service capabilities, and faster rollout of new features and capabilities, increasing 8x8’s competitive force in the enterprise market, along with increasing its expertise in the customer interaction management and contact center markets.

“It’s a very good fit in terms of mentality, logic and the operations,” says Rees. “We are very familiar with the technology and have built close relationships with the operations and technical staff. They have done a great job building reliable services that are in line with 8x8’s reliability standards.”

The deal also brings with it some international exposure through Contactual’s installed base, meaning access to larger, distributed organizations, many of which will benefit from the ability to deploy a full communications suite from a single vendor.

While the existing installed base will serve as a driver for growth in the enterprise market, bringing the Contactual product in house will also allow 8x8 to scale it down to deliver an enterprise-class call center suite to smaller customers looking for a fully integrated platform.

8x8 has been part of the cloud movement from the beginning, and through major enhancements to its unified communications solution and now, by adding a complete on-demand contact center offering, it is emerging as a competitor in nearly every market. As cloud services continue to grow, and as businesses continue to seek ways to become leaner and more efficient, providers like 8x8 that are able to deliver complete packages comprising both enterprise and contact center solutions will continue to build momentum.

“We really have a complete offering now, with a variety of core, mission-critical applications and services,” says Rees.

8x8 may be the new kid on the block when it comes to contact centers, but its history and experience in the cloud services space won’t leave that impression.

Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow Erik on Twitter (News - Alert) @elinask.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi