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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

UC Contact Centers Need Solution Integrators

Copyright © 2012 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Mobile Apps, Cloud Services, and “Solution Integrators” Make Telephone Contact Centers "Grow Up"

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View/ UC Strategies Expert

The old telephone call center for both inbound and outbound customer contacts is fast transitioning to “UC Contact Centers” in the wake of both new communication technologies, as well as changing consumer needs for more flexible forms of contact. 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 and self-service applications, they can benefit the most from UC-enabled flexibilities. So, it is time for legacy call center technology silos to “grow up” and become multimodal through UC-enabled applications. The question is how?

The Why: Mobile Devices Demand “Different Strokes For Different Folks For Different Needs” from Contact Centers

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, internal employee telephone “Help Desks,” or even voice-only, IVR self-service applications. It is time that business contact technologies become interoperable and multimodal for all forms of communication activities, especially for the various types of messaging between people and automated applications (Communications Enabled Business Processes or CEBP).

Even when real-time live assistance is needed, UC-enabled “mobile apps” will facilitate such on-demand access more efficiently and intelligently through simple contextual “click-to-contact” (chat, call, conference) options. In addition, UC and CEBP integrations 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. This will be true whether those end users are internal or external to an organization (business partners, customers). So, the role of the traditional telephone-based contact center operation can be efficiently expanded by being UC-enabled to what I have labeled as the “UC Contact Center.”

The How: 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 from anyone, in any form, anywhere, anytime and, most importantly, from any authorized automated business process application, not just from people.

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, integration challenges, cost implications, and specific application requirements. Service providers now offer different software components as “cloud” services, including data center infrastructure, operating system platforms, software applications accessible through Web browsers, and, lastly, communications as a service (CaaS or UCaaS), which includes all elements of Internet-based contact connectivity and UC-enabled applications.

Interactive Intelligence recently announced the availability of a free trial of their 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 Solution Integrators (formerly known as telephony VARs).

The New Role For Old Telephony VARs

The rise of the “cloud,” along with mobile device “BYOD” policies, has also made the migration of premise-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.

The contact center has always been important for satisfying customer needs for information as well as for live assistance. However the limitations of the telephone for information delivery restricted its value for information access. With smartphones and tablets, those limitations are disappearing and it is time to upgrade the role and value of the contact center accordingly.

Because we see UC adoption in organizations as being driven by the need to optimize business process performance through UC-enabled applications, we expect that there will be new opportunities for traditional telephony VARs to participate in planning, prioritizing, integrating, and trialing UC enabled applications. In addition, they may also help in training end users and managing the performance of those business processes. This will be most applicable to VARs who specialize in those 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 on the part of VARs, akin to consulting services, which may lead to more partnerships between consultant groups and UC Solution Integrators.

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 premise-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 mission critical 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 order to define new BYOD policies for their mobile operational staff. Such trials can be done more quickly and less expensively by exploiting standards-based, open CaaS/UCaaS offerings, before finalizing procurement and implementation decisions.

UC Summit For UC Channels and Consultants

Reseller channels can learn more about where business communications are going within the expanded context of UC by joining unified communications industry leaders at UC Summit 2012, the only channel and consultant-focused event for the Unified Communications industry.

The unique, invitation-only UC Summit in May, hosted by UC Strategies, is the place for experienced channels to get objective, expert advice. This includes learning where UC-enabled applications are going, what leading vendors and service providers are offering in the way of software applications and tools, and opportunities for partnering with complementary specialist channels to satisfy the complex UC needs of a user organization.

Invitations are limited, so apply now to qualify for acceptance.