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Unified Communications
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UC Mag
Paula Bernier
Executive Editor,

IP Communications Magazines

Contact Centers Lead the Way with UC, but Are Unique from the Enterprise at Large

This article, as noted on the editorial calendar of Unified Communications magazine, was listed as "Leveraging Unified Communications in the Contact Center." But Joe Staples, chief marketing officer with Interactive Intelligence Inc., suggested that we strike that and reverse it, given the contact center is typically the first part of an organization to employ unified communications.

If you look at UC and what people are touting - like presence or click-to-call functionality - relative to it, Staples says, that's been in use in the contact center for a long time. What's happening now, he says, is that UC technology already in use in the contact center is now migrating out into other areas of the enterprise.
In any case, he says, two of the biggest trends related to both UC and the contact center are an uptick in communications as a service, or a hosted vs. an on-premises model, and the move to utilize communications technology to automate business processes.
To the first point, Staples says, there is a lot of traction in the CaaS space because it makes UC more economically feasible for more customers, allows for faster deployment and doesn't require a high level of internal IT support.
To the second point, he adds, using UC to automate business processes moves the technology - which initially was being justified based on a soft ROI around productivity - to a hard return on investment. For example, if a business can use UC to gain visibility into and automate its process and in that effort shorten a procedure such as loan approval, he says, that business can do more with fewer resources. And that's key, he says, because it's amazing how many manual processes are used in a wide range of businesses, from finance to insurance and beyond.
Although the contact center space has been a pioneer in using UC, those unified communications suppliers that want to target contact center applications would do well to partner with call center specialists, says Bob Barnes, executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development at CallTower.
"The contact center is a whole beast on its own," say Barnes, who adds that CallTower has a partnership with inContact to integrate its UC solution with its contact center.
Barnes says that considering that unique requirements of contact centers and the fact that they are about a tenth of the total user base at most companies and typically operate as completely separate entities from the rest of their organizations, he's not sure the UC suppliers can tackle this space alone.
"I see the two as being very complementary, but very different," he adds.
That may shed some light on why quality assurance vendor Empirix recently merged two of its business units to focus specifically on IP contact centers within the enterprise.
Of course, UC also enables the contact center to reach into the rest of the enterprise, notes Jorge Blanco, vice president of product marketing for contact center at Avaya.
For example, UC can leverage presence information to allow a contact center agent to see if a resident expert is available to help him answer a caller's question. If that expert is available, the contact center rep could then use the IM capability of a UC system to ask the question - and this internal consulting can take place without passing the caller on or even letting the call know a third person is involved.

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