Multimodal Mobile Apps, Cloud Services, and UC VARs Make Telephone Contact Centers Grow Up

By Art Rosenberg  |  March 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Unified communications is complex because it covers all forms of contact with a person, whether the person is initiating the contact or is the recipient/respondent to a contact. Inasmuch as organizational call/contact centers deal with communication technologies from both perspectives, as well as with automated self-service applications, they can benefit the most from UC-enabled flexibilities. It is therefore time for legacy call center technology silos to grow up and become multimodal through UC-enabled applications.

The question is: How?

UC and smartphones enable different strokes for different folks for different needs.

Because consumers (customers, employees, business partners) are rapidly adopting multimodal, mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) for both business and personal contacts and online applications, the role of the traditional enterprise call center should no longer be focused just on inbound/outbound telephone calls with customers or internal employee help desks to be handled by live agents or voice-only IVR self-service applications. It is time that business contact technologies become interoperable and multimodal for all forms of communication activities, including the various types of messaging, between both people and automated applications (communications enabled business processes).

Even when real-time live assistance is needed, UC will facilitate such on-demand access more efficiently and intelligently from mobile online applications through contextual application click-to-contact (chat, call, conference) options. In addition, UC and CEBP will be able to exploit mobility’s increased accessibility to people for proactive (outbound) time-sensitive notifications that will make mission-critical business processes more efficient for all end users involved, whether internal or external to an organization (business partners, customers). So, the role of the traditional telephone-based contact center operation will be efficiently expanded by being UC-enabled to what I have labeled as the UC contact center.

What About the Cloud?

Cloud-based virtualization of software applications and servers is also facilitating implementation of UC because it enables both public and private clouds to coexist and interoperate across hybrid wired/wireless networks. This network flexibility is what individual end users really need to control and manage all their dual persona (personal, business) contacts with a single mobile endpoint device of their choice (BYOD). This interoperability will enable an individual end user to receive a notification alert in any form, anywhere, anytime and, most importantly, from any source, not just from one organization or business.

Needless to say, the complexities of UC, combined with the challenge of managing external cloud-based services, has raised concerns with traditional IT management in terms of implementation planning, cost implications, and application needs. Service providers now offer different system components as cloud services, including data center infrastructure, operating system platforms, software applications accessible through web browsers, and, lastly, communications as a service, which includes all elements of Internet-based contact connectivity and UC-enabled applications.

Interactive Intelligence recently announced the availability of a free trial of its simplified CaaS contact center applications including analytic performance tools, which can simplify and speed up an organization’s migration to cloud-based technology. This strategy will be particularly useful for trialing new self-service applications, particularly with the help of knowledgeable consultants and UC VARs

The Emerging New Role for Old Telephony VARs

The rise of the cloud, along with mobile device BYOD policies, has also made the migration of premises-based hardware telephony to mobile UC difficult for traditional value-added resellers of telephony equipment. It is changing their old business models, i.e., revenue based on one-time equipment sales and maintenance support, as well as their relationships with communication vendors, other VARs, network services, and cloud service providers. They must now look for new directions and the new opportunities they can find with the combination of UC, mobility, and cloud-based services.

Because we see UC in organizations as being driven by the need to optimize business process performance through UC solutions, we expect that there will be new opportunities for VARs to participate in planning, prioritizing, trialing, training end users, and managing the performance of those business processes. This will be most applicable to VARs who specialize in particular vertical markets that can best exploit mobile UC and mobile apps, e.g., health care, financial services, education, field service, emergency response, etc.

This will also require greater skills akin to consulting services, which may lead to more partnerships between consultant groups and UC VARs.

Bottom Line for UC Planning

For these reasons, all business communications must become UC-enabled and interoperable under a common technology framework that will support both mobile and premises-based end users and their different business applications. This will put all legacy call centers on the top of the list for UC migration planning. Customer interactions will likewise be affected by changing CRM issues because of dynamic mobile contacts, both inbound and outbound, as well as the growing role of social networking.

Now is also the time for the enterprise to start trialing new UC-enabled, mobile self-service applications (mobile apps) for both customers and for internal users to insure that the user experience will be flexible, efficient, and effective. This will be particularly important for business organizations in defining new BYOD policies for their mobile operational staff. Such trials can be done more quickly and less expensively by exploiting standards-based, open CaaS offerings, before finalizing procurement and implementation decisions.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi