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By Art Rosenberg
I didn't have to say it, but Time did in a recent post entitled "Stop Calling Your Smartphone A Phone!"
Whatever consumers want to call their personalized mobile device they are using instead of legacy wired phones, the bottom line is that the device is going to be used less and less for voice conversations and more and more for text messaging and access to information. Given that major shift by consumers, traditional call/contact center operations will have to change accordingly, as recently discussed by UC Strategies experts as the "UC Contact Center."
Consumer mobility is turning out to be the biggest validation for UC enablement of contact center applications, particularly for self-service business applications or customer "mobile apps." While there have been major efforts by the major telephony vendors to justify UC for "collaboration" and internal user productivity through simplified conferencing, the fact that consumers/customers are moving quickly to multi-modal smartphones means that their interactions with an organization will exploit more informational interactions rather than person-to-person contacts, and the latter to more text-based than voice connections.
The wireless carriers have recognized this in new business models as reflected by Verizon Wireless's just announced "Shared Data Plan," which emphasizes data usage pricing (particularly entertainment music and video) and "throws in" unlimited phone calls and messaging. They encourage using the wireless service by many users and for many different endpoint devices. The pricing is not cheap and is still being debated, but the approach is definitely going to have ripple effects with mobile consumers and their interactions with "UC Contact Centers."
For openers, will contact centers eventually get rid of toll-free access numbers? Not just because there will be no charges for incoming subscriber calls, but also because customer contacts will become IP-based through enterprise web portals.
More important to contact center operations will be the impact of UC-enabled self-service applications, both inbound and outbound, and their ability to access live assistance on-demand with a customer's choice of modality (voice, video, messaging, etc.). Enterprise self-service "mobile apps" have to be supported by the wireless carriers without penalizing the customers who use them, and it's not clear how these will be offered.
At a recent consultant's meeting hosted by IP Telephony provider ShoreTel, the impact of mobility and "cloud"-based UC applications left some of the consultants with questions about their clients' contact center needs. So, expect to see more contact center developments in the near future.