The Evolution of Cloud Contact Centres : CCaaS Round Table
What’s next in the Contact-Centre-as-a-Service (CCaaS) environment? Views from Genesys, 8×8, NICE-inContact, Content Guru
The cloud contact centre is growing at an amazing pace.
As more companies continue to recognise the value of having their customer contact solutions ready-to-scale in the cloud, we’re seeing the arrival of endless new technology and opportunities. Already, things like artificial intelligence and IoT are changing the way that companies deliver service.
According to Gartner’s recent Magic Quadrant for the CCaaS landscape, by 2022, CCaaS will be the preferred model of adoption for 50% of all contact centres. That’s an increase from around 10% just in 2019. On top of that, the sector should be worth around $28.6 billion by 2025 too!
To get a better insight into how the CCaaS environment is changing, we caught up with some of the market leaders from the industry. Here’s what we learned when talking to representatives from Genesys, 8×8, ContentGuru, and NiceinContact.
What do you believe is driving this demand for CCaaS?
The demand for CCaaS is greater than ever. Even larger contact centres that previously didn’t have the opportunity to leave legacy equipment behind, are taking their first steps into the cloud. All over the world, the industry is evolving, with some locations like the US and UK moving faster than others.
One of the key trends driving the need for CCaaS is the need for a more flexible and unique method of delivering personalised experiences to customers. But what else is leading the way? Here’s what our experts had to say.
According to Director of Commercial Sales at Genesys, Mark Armstrong, one of the many reasons that organisations are now looking at CCaaS, is to manage the rapid changes in customer service and support. A lot of brands are still using legacy systems, hybrid environments, and mixed systems for customer engagement that don’t match today’s requirements.
Armstrong told us that businesses need to be available where their customers are.
“CCaaS enables companies to connect with customers on any channel while also delivering the highly personalised experiences today’s consumers expect”
“The cloud provides brands with tools to ensure they maximise the value of data and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse customer history and behaviour in real-time.”
CCaaS offerings are flexible and scalable solutions, designed to adapt to what the customer base needs right now. CCaaS is built on modular, easy-to-customise architecture that takes days to update, not months.
Chris Marron, the 8×8 Director of Competitive and Market Intelligence agrees with the idea that better customer service is essential. He notes that custom support for clients is now a business-critical concept.
“You only have to look at the number of companies whose adverts now include TrustPilot ratings to see that there is a real need for businesses to exhibit the highest levels of customer service.”
Marron told us that businesses today need to be agile, flexible, and based in the cloud, so that they can respond quickly to the changing demands of the modern customer. Businesses need to deliver a services that matches the exact preferences and communication styles of various generations, from baby boomer to Gen Z.
“CCaaS is a key piece of what enterprises need to allow companies to deliver this excellent service while also giving businesses the flexibility to keep up with both consumer and contact centres’ needs”
The Senior Director of Product Marketing at NICE inContact, Laura Basset said that confidence in the viability and security of CCaaS has increased. Now, the question isn’t “if” you should move to cloud, but how and when you should begin the migration.
One major factor leading the transition to cloud, according to Laura, is customer behaviour.
“Consumers are increasingly digital-first and want seamless interactions regardless of channel”
“CCaaS provides the agility to build and maintain contact centre solutions alongside consumer preferences rapidly.”
Another concept to consider is flexibility; companies need more elasticity with their contact centres, and appreciate the lower costs and reduced barriers to entry with CCaaS. Workforce flexibility allows unmatched capabilities for at-home agents, better disaster recovery, and more.
Basset also said that value is a factor too. “The unrivaled speed of innovation and the ability for contact centres to reap the benefits of enhancements and features in a seamless, no-hassle fashion continuously, ensures they are always on the latest and greatest.”
Deputy CEO and Co-Founder of ContentGuru, Martin Taylor, says that as customer experience becomes more essential to businesses, the demand for a modern contact centre is higher than ever.
“The traditional view that the contact centre is a place to make savings is being blown out of the water.” “Instead, the contact centre has the potential to be a hugely rewarding value centre for organisations”
According to Taylor, the demand for CCaaS is being driven by a widespread investment from countless C-level executives keen to improve customer experience and engagement. In the next two years, there’s likely to be an increasing number of companies shifting from on-premise into a cloud-based omni-channel infrastructure.
What Customer Experience trends did you see developing in 2019?
Since customer experience is at the heart of the demand for CCaaS for a lot of businesses, the trends that are changing the CX landscape are crucial to companies investing in new contact centre tools.
For some time now, we’ve seen the potential that the cloud can bring to the contact centre environment. However, the arrival of new technology, ranging all the way from AI to sentiment analysis, is changing the way that we can address customer needs. Here’s what our experts had to say about the customer experience trends that developed over the last year.
Mark Armstrong believes that one of the major trends will focus on predictive customer engagement strategies, and how companies can serve clients before they come to them. Businesses already have a lot of information about their customers, but the historical data available might not be used to its fullest potential when figuring out when to engage customers and make suggestions that are relevant to their needs.
“Here is where technologies such as AI can help brands in determining when to engage with the customer, with the right resource or offer and help to determine the next best course of action.”
Armstrong also acknowledged that while cloud might have been a crucial trend in the IT industry for a long time now, organisations haven’t been as quick to move their contact centres fully into the cloud. Now, we’re reaching a nexus of change in the industry. “Today, we are at a point where it is no longer a question of if businesses will move their contact centres to the cloud but when.”
Chris Marron of 8×8 said that the industry is beginning to see more businesses recognizing that while the contact centre is crucial to good customer interactions, exceptional experiences require more coordinated solutions from the entire business. Creating these opportunities requires close teamwork and collaboration across sectors.
“As businesses recognise that a siloed approach to customer service is ineffective they are also identifying that a siloed approach to business systems is equally ineffective. My prediction is that we will see considerable consolidation in the space as vendors scramble to deliver a combined UCaaS and CCaaS offering to meet the enhanced requirements of modern businesses.”
Laura Basset for NICE inContact told us that the trends of personalisation and specialisation are particularly significant in the current landscape. “For 2020+, each of these will only grow in necessity and intensity as we head towards hyper-personal, hyper-specialised experiences where real time AI helps augment humans in the process.”
According to Laura, we’re also seeing an increased demand for more all-in-one products with unified interfaces for everything, including CRM technology. Organisations don’t want to just manage bolt-on applications or panic about cross-vendor dynamics. They want a solution that gives them everything that they need in one place.
Digital transformation is also becoming the new normal, as multiple companies start to pivot to address changes in customer behavior. In 2019, we saw a rising demand for seamless omni-channel solutions and increased adoption of digital channels. Additionally, “during 2019, we saw a lot of buzz around “AI” and “Bots.” Many organisations don’t really know how they would implement it, but they are looking to CCaaS providers to help them blaze the trail.”
Martin Taylor said that the idea that chatbots might be able to deliver the secret sauce solution to all customer problems has only recently be debunked. Over the last year, many companies have realised that while chatbots are useful, they’re better suited to act as one part of an entire omni-channel portfolio of customer service offerings.
There has been a massive resurgence in voice-based interactions. In part, this has been driven by the arrival of home assistants like Amazon Alexa, and the fact that human beings generally still prefer to speak to other people for important conversations. It’s this that’s ushering a new “golden age of voice”, according to ContentGuru.
Taylor also said that during 2019, NLP (Natural Language Processing) started to step out of the Proof of Concept stage and become more of a mainstream solution in the unified communication space. Over the past year, the NLP solution has become a tool that can deliver unprecedented insight into voice data and customer journey analytics.
What is going to be the next big thing in Customer Experience/ CCaaS?
It’s never easy to see into the future in any part of the communication landscape. As soon as we believe we have a grasp on where the industry is heading, a new trend comes along to shake everything up. The good news is that we know there’s a lot of value in the contact centre landscape to be tapped into. The global market for contact centre solutions should grow to a value of $50 billion by 2025.
What’s more, with only 36% of call centres now using cloud technology, there’s still a lot of opportunity here for vendors to capture a large share of the market. Here’s what our experts believe will be coming next for the CCaaS and CX spaces.
According to Mark Armstrong, most brands are struggling to differentiate on price or product alone. That means that the best way to stand out is to deliver an impeccable service.
“The next big thing in customer experience will be about businesses being able to deliver a higher level of personalisation at scale for every customer. It is important to note that we are beyond talking about targeting personas or market segments. Today’s consumer is more discerning and expects more services tailor made just for them.”
Mark also told us that while brands are getting better in this area, a lot of them are still facing the challenge of trying to connect the full journey of their customers and employees across various systems and locations. This discontinuity is happening because the technologies behind interactions aren’t always connected. “This results in a fragmented customer and employee experience and can lead to loss in brand reputation, lost sales opportunities, unhappy customers and a high employee churn.”
8×8’s Chris Marron told us that initially, the artificial intelligence solutions in the contact centre were often focused on automation and call detection. However, companies are beginning to look beyond these options, now that we’ve seen the potential AI automation has to increase the barrier between the business and customer.
“Now, we are seeing the emergence of a more potent form of AI, focused on enhancing the capabilities of agents during calls and enabling them to better serve customers in real time.”
By leveraging the ability to extract intent from discussions, AI can make real-time recommendations and assist agents in delivering more personalized customer experiences. These recommendations include everything from personal and relevant information, to appropriate responses and best actions to take. AI solutions can even advise the best person for a customer to talk to in a business if they need extra information.
“By enhancing the capabilities of individual agents, AI is able to not only increase the efficiency of the contact centre but also to improve the customer experience provided.”
Laura Basset believes that the next big thing in CX won’t be limited to just a single idea. Instead, she feels that the future of contact centres is going to revolve around the expanded adoption and capabilities of native AI. These tools have the potential to bring additional efficiency to agents, and better support to customers.
Basset cited a number of potential applications that may arrive in the contact centre, including AI and bots that can become more incorporated into how work is done. “Anything that can be efficiently and accurately automated, will be… even Agent experiences beyond the desk like notifications to ensure on time arrival, or scheduling a parking spot upon arrival.”
Expansion and the embedding of new digital channels will also be a consideration according to Laura. Additionally, companies will need to think about how they’re managing those channels with advancements in real-time monitoring, supervisor alerts, and digital channel takeover.
“AI/ ML are only at their beginning in the brave evolving world of CX. Brands have a fantastic opportunity to improve CX through true omni-channel and to predict and match the service requirements of consumers in a way that enhances loyalty and profitability.”
Martin Taylor believes that massive advances in the CCaaS environment in 2020 will be achieved by developments in sentiment analysis, which represents the next chapter in the NLP journey.
“This is where a sophisticated mix of keywords, tone of voice, and volume create a much deeper picture of the caller and their needs for the agent. With this information, businesses can ensure that each caller is routed to the agent or department best equipped to deal with their enquiry.”
Taylor noted that if sentiment analysis finds that a client may be upset, the call can then be routed to an agent who’s experienced in handling these forms of conversation. This streamlines processes and ensures customers are always better-served by the most suitable agents.
What’s the appetite like for video like in today’s contact centres?
It’s not just demand for AI and sentiment analysis that’s increasing in the contact centre environment. As customers continue to search for more effective ways of having contextual face-to-face conversations with companies, the request for video is increasing too.
In today’s contact centres, we’re seeing an evolution in the use of video collaboration and conferencing tools alike. Here’s what our thought-leaders had to say on the topic of video in the CC environment.
Genesys’ Mark Armstrong said that video still has a crucial place as a channel in the wider eco-system for customer experience. It can be very useful in industries like finance, where some banks can connect to mortgage advisers and other experts from the comfort of their own home.
“However, beyond the financial industry, we are seeing that most organisations are primarily interested in using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies.”
According to Armstrong, Genesys has conducted research on the preferred methods for customer service in the UK. The company discovered that the large majority of customers said that they would prefer to use phone or self-service automation to resolve queries before video. “Where video was something that made UK consumers feel uncomfortable, it wasn’t their least preferred method of contact. If shoppers had the choice between contacting a brand via social media or video, they would opt to use video.”
According to Chris Marron from 8×8, there’s a common misconception when it comes to talking about video that we’re going to see a lot of customers suddenly chatting with agents face-to-face using a screen. However, research indicates that people don’t really want this kind of interaction.
While video may have a role to play in the future, Marron believes that the impact it has will be different. “The key will be to use video when it is of genuine benefit to the customer and adds value compared to a phone call. For example, doctors using video to help diagnose a patient’s symptoms, or during an insurance claim, showing the damage to a car. In these scenarios, video will speed up the results to the customer and provide a true added value and convenience.”
Some contact centres are already investing in this strategy, and we may see demand grow in the next few years according to 8×8.
According to Basset from NICE inContact, improvements in the quality of mobile networks and a rising popularity in consumer video chat services like WhatsApp and Facetime has made video calling almost as natural as using phone or text. Customers are expecting the same experience in B2B and B2C industries too.
“Video is still in its infancy in the contact centre space for several reasons – customer familiarity with the method, the ability to handle and skill video calls, and agent training for a video call environment. However, we do see increased interest for certain industries; Healthcare (nurse video consult), Tech product support (setting up a new cable modem).”
According to Laura, in some scenarios, escalating a conversation to a video-enabled agent could deliver huge benefits. Large financial institutions in the UK have already reported that the NPS (Net Promoter Score) of video channels is 44% higher than telephony channels. “While this is a technology that is mostly used in high value transactions, the business impact of adding video to a contact centre can offer great potential.”
ContentGuru’s Martin Taylor told us that consumer apps are making video chat into a typical part of our personal lives. Because of this, it’s only a matter of time before consumers expect to see the same from customer service experiences.
“Video chat has been the ‘next big thing’ in the contact centre for a good number of years. However, recent global health scares may accelerate the integration of video chat into a wider omni-channel portfolio, as more and more customers choose to interact online rather than in-person.”
Taylor notes that for now, contact centres are focusing on integrating things like AI technology, NLP and sentiment analysis. “But as we move forward, this Golden Age of Voice we are in may be followed by the Golden Age of Video. After all, nothing compares to face-to-face customer service.”