The future of work is increasingly remote as employees work across branch offices, cities and time zones. Consequently, unified communications and collaboration technology needs to provide users with a seamless experience that allows them to do their work better and faster.
“It’s a race in the market for who can blend all these [technologies] and offer a more compelling user experience,” said Aragon Research analyst Jim Lundy.
The global unified communications market is expected to increase from $39 billion in 2017 to more than $65 billion by 2023, according to Lundy. The UCC market is experiencing major growth as various technologies converge, such as video conferencing, business intelligence and contact center.
For many UCC vendors, the convergence of communication and collaboration technology is driven by the need for what Lundy calls people-centric collaboration, where the technology doesn’t get in the way of people communicating and collaborating.
“A lot of tech platforms dictate how to do work because they’re fixed and don’t give flexibility,” Lundy said in a recent webinar that examined the future of the UCC market.
An employee on a phone call with two other people, for example, may want to escalate the call to video. But to do so, everyone on the call must hang up the phone and join a video call. A people-centric approach to collaboration would allow the users to seamlessly transition from voice to video without interruption.
But how do UCC vendors achieve people-centric collaboration in their services? The answer, according to Lundy, lies in AI.
AI could automate collaboration workflows
The introduction of AI to unified communications and collaboration can support more seamless collaboration by automating certain workflows, such as switching communication modes.
By 2021, 40% of UCC providers will offer AI-based digital assistants to support more seamless collaboration experiences, Lundy said. Organizations should start to evaluate where AI digital assistants can benefit their employees and question their UCC providers on their plans for AI.
“Why is conversational AI so important? Many of those assistants are going to help you with getting meetings scheduled and established,” Lundy said.
Chatbots and digital assistants will become more intelligent as the technology matures and function as work assistants. Some UC providers are starting to introduce digital assistants and chatbots to their services, including Amazon’s Alexa for Business, Microsoft’s Cortana and Cisco Webex Assistant.
Intelligent content analytics is another area where AI can improve UCC technology and the user experience. Intelligent content analytics covers four areas: document analytics, voice analytics, video analytics and image analytics. Voice and video analytics in particular are emerging in the UCC market, he said.
Voice analytics includes capabilities such as meeting transcriptions, key meeting insights and sentiment analysis. Video analytics include capabilities such as facial recognition, intelligent meeting rooms and security.
“You can start to see that intelligence is creeping into your meeting and communications experiences,” Lundy said.
When planning a team collaboration strategy, chat apps are a necessary part of the conversation. Team chat apps adoption has ramped up in the last two years, across organizations of all sizes, according to a study from technology marketplace company Spiceworks.
While businesses are hopping on the chat app train, the vendor offerings they deploy appear to be linked to company size. Several factors influence which apps organizations deploy, such as security, reliability, integration with existing platforms, cost and user interface, according to Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar.
The Spiceworks study, which surveyed 900 IT professionals, focused on the adoption of Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Hangouts and Workplace by Facebook. As the study focused on vendor offerings that are considered primarily chat-focused, Cisco’s offering was not included, said Spiceworks analyst and report author, Peter Tsai.
Large businesses with more than 500 employees favored Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts, according to the study. More than half of large businesses have adopted Skype for Business. While Hangouts saw lower overall adoption, large business adoption grew from 11% in 2016 to 18% in 2018 as the app added more enterprise functionality, such as video conferencing.
Larger businesses tend to put more emphasis on reliability, security, manageability and compatibility when evaluating team chat apps. Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams ranked highly, making them popular choices for large businesses, according to the study.
The study also showed mid-size businesses, between 100 and 499 employees, follow in the footsteps of larger businesses but at a slightly lower rate of adoption, with just under half adopting Skype for Business.
Slack saw the most adoption in small businesses with fewer than 100 employees, likely due to the perception that Slack is the most innovative in the chat apps market, according to survey respondents. Slack has a robust developer ecosystem with more than 1,500 third-party integrations. The study also found many IT professionals view Slack to be user friendly, which can reduce the amount of user training needed for deployment.
Adoption of Workplace by Facebook is lagging with businesses of all sizes. Lazar said organizations seem to be buying into Workplace as an enterprise portal or social platform rather than a team collaboration app.
“They are competing more with the likes of Yammer and Jive,” he said. ” As they continue to add capabilities like voice and video, meetings and integrations, they should continue to compete more effectively with other teams.”
The features users are looking for in UCaaS platforms are ever-evolving. Vendors are focusing on adding and improving features based on market demand and trying to keep up with alternative UC offerings. This year’s Gartner UCaaS Magic Quadrant identified four key UCaaS market trends that are driving vendor offerings.
- Improved dashboards, portals and tools
UCaaS providers put a heavy emphasis on dashboards, portals and tools this year. The investment in these features is an attempt to catch up to application specialists that have mature offerings containing these features. The tools getting the most attention are focused on onboarding new customers, IT self-administration, and measuring service quality and performance.
- Team Collaboration
The majority of UCaaS providers include team collaboration offerings as part of their UCaaS portfolios. Shared conversational workspaces and content and file sharing are becoming ubiquitous across team collaboration offerings. More users are placing value on team collaboration as they look for applications that allow them to share, converse and track progress. Many of the offerings from UCaaS vendors are still evolving, and have not caught up to more mature platforms like Slack. But the UCaaS market trend toward team collaboration is pushing vendors to close the gap.
Over the past year, UCaaS providers have focused on building out their global capacity to address growing markets in non-English speaking countries. This UCaaS market trend focuses on expanding multilingual services and support staff in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America. While English-speaking countries remain the strongest for services, the gap is beginning to shrink. While most providers feature documentation in multiple languages, 24/7 support for non-English languages has yet to become the norm.
- Video-focused user experience
Video isn’t exactly a new UCaaS market trend, but attitudes and approaches toward the user experience are changing. While vendors have focused on developing and enhancing video capabilities such as screen sharing and whiteboarding, now they’re focusing on improving the user experience through video-friendly design, such as embedded video. These UCaaS platform updates also include interfaces that allow users to hide menus not in use, making it easier to focus on participants and shared content.
On the Horizon
While Gartner identified four main UCaaS market trends, some trends are on the horizon. Virtual assistants, AI capabilities, IoT integration and conversational user interfaces have only recently garnered attention in the UCaaS market. A select few providers that have either already embraced these technologies, or have a road map that includes them in future offerings. According to Gartner, chatbots are an indicator that some of these features may become trends in the near future, as several providers have incorporated chatbots into their team collaboration and contact offerings.
Editor’s note: In this opinion piece, industry analyst Zeus Kerravala shares his thoughts on the omnichannel contact center and Talkdesk’s latest approach.
After years of discussion but low adoption, the use of omnichannel contact centers got a boost this week when contact-center-as-a-service provider Talkdesk launched Talkdesk iQ, an AI-focused tool.
For anyone not familiar with the differences between contact centers, multichannel contact centers allow customers to use a wide range of communications methods, such as voice, chat or email. Omnichannel is similar except the channels are tied together, making it seamless to move from one channel to another.
With multichannel, a customer might start a conversation in a chat and then decide to call. When the call is made, the agent doesn’t know what was said in the chat. With omnichannel, communications modes are bonded together so information can flow between them. This helps agents provide better service and saves the customer from the burden of entering information multiple times.
Talkdesk iQ, announced at Talkdesk’s Opentalk18 customer event in San Francisco, unifies several features, including omnichannel capabilities. With its new release, Talkdesk has expanded the definition of omnichannel beyond traditional email, chat, voice and text to include the following:
- Social listening enables businesses to listen across all social channels to help contact centers be proactive in responding to urgent posts. The feature uses defined keywords or hashtags to act as triggers. Social posts are automatically routed as inbound contacts, then given priority for resolution.
- Chatbot builder gives businesses the ability to build a Talkdesk iQ bot to automate customer inquiries and issues. Chatbot builder can identify when a live agent should be brought into the conversation.
- Reporting provides a deep understanding of the contact center team’s performance with reporting across all interaction channels.
Why the holdup with omnichannel adoption?
Currently, omnichannel is in a strange place. It’s been discussed for about a decade, but adoption is low. I estimate fewer than 10% of contact centers have actual omnichannel capabilities. This begs the question: If it has so much value and customer service is a top priority, why hasn’t adoption been stronger?
One reason is a lack of awareness of the value it can bring. I recently interviewed the contact center manager of an entertainment venue that still has voice-only capabilities. When I asked about other channels, the manager said its audience only wants to communicate via voice, but there was no real research to back that up.
To that point, I caution company leaders never to assume they know what their customers want. Last year I interviewed the IT director at a mobile payment app company. He said the company had bypassed voice as a channel because it was targeting millennials and others who think mobile first and felt voice wouldn’t be a priority. He found out later he was wrong, and voice wound up being a significant channel.
According to my research, more than 80% of customer interactions start via a non-voice channel, and customers use an average of three channels per contact with a company, with voice part of the mix. So, voice is important, but voice only is limiting. Evolving from voice-only to multichannel doesn’t make any sense because it puts the heavy lifting on the customer, and that’s bad for business.
Make the shift to omnichannel
Another reason multichannel has its shortcomings is the transition can be technically challenging and requires a disruption in customer service. The contact center is important to most organizations. But there’s an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality with the platform. This is where a cloud platform can help because there are no upfront costs, and implementation is as easy as going to a web browser. Training, reporting and other issues still need to be addressed, but those issues exist on premises, too.
One of the benefits of the cloud is innovation and product updates are handled by the CCaaS provider, which allows customers to stay current more easily.
Talkdesk, for instance, announced several new features, and customers have access to those immediately. With an on-premises product, every update requires some disruption while the system is upgraded. This wasn’t overly disruptive when updates came once a year, but in this era of microservices and containers, updates can happen multiple times a day. And the range of channels continues to grow so the definition of omnichannel tomorrow won’t be the same as it is today.
I strongly urge businesses of all sizes to make the shift to omnichannel, as there is great risk in standing still. We are in the digital era and customer service is the top brand differentiator. Making customers input the same information over and over creates frustration and can make a 1-minute conversation take 30 minutes.
Omnichannel meets AI and analytics
Research I conducted last year revealed two-thirds of millennials had changed loyalty to a brand because of a bad customer service experience. This isn’t tied entirely to the contact center, but every time customers need to enter a credit card number twice or explain a problem again, they might just hang up and use someone else.
Another point to consider is omnichannel and AI-based analytics go hand in hand. Every business leader I talk to wants to mine company data to find interesting insights. Omnichannel contact centers provide more data from communications tools that can be analyzed to discover game-changing insights.
While machine learning states “good data leads to good insights,” a voice-only or multichannel system creates silos of data that give a partial view. In that case, you can extend the statement to “partial data leads to partial insights.” Long term, this can create a serious competitive issue where the business will risk falling further behind.
The time for excuses is over. The value proposition of omnichannel is clear — better customer service, more data, improved insights. Cloud services can simplify the transition from legacy contact centers to omnichannel. With that understanding, I ask, what are you waiting for? The time for omnichannel contact centers is now.
Google plans to shut down its consumer-oriented Google+ social networking service and focus on a corporate social network for enterprise customers. The tech giant made the announcement last week after it was revealed the company failed to disclose a security breach that exposed the data of nearly 500,000 Google+ users.
Google will phase out Google+ consumer accounts over a 10-month period, while it focuses on adding new features to the enterprise version, according to Ben Smith, vice president of engineering at Google.
“Our review showed that Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product where co-workers can engage in internal discussions on a secure corporate social network,” Smith wrote in a blog.
But Google+ in the enterprise may be a tough sell. Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar said most corporate social network tools, such as Jive and Yammer, have “faded away.” Others, such as Igloo and Sitrion, have shifted their focus toward digital workplace platforms.
“Workplace by Facebook has been the only social platform we’ve seen growing,” he said. Google+ is included as part of G Suite, a cloud-based collaboration and productivity platform. In Google+, users can join communities, follow other users and share content, such as photos and videos.
Google could provide a Workplace-like experience with Google+ as a digital hub for all G Suite apps, Lazar said. To succeed as a digital hub, Google would need to focus on the core user experience rather than delivering Google+ as another app within G Suite.
Google could also take a page from Microsoft, which acquired LinkedIn in 2016. Microsoft has tried to meld LinkedIn’s professional networking features with Office 365 through directory and calendar integrations and new collaboration capabilities, such as co-authoring documents with LinkedIn connections. However, Lazar said Google tends to deliver its applications independently rather than taking a unified approach like Microsoft has with Office 365 and Teams.
Regaining customer trust after the breach
Security is a major issue that Google will need to address with Google+ as a corporate social network. Google did not immediately disclose the API security breach that leaked user data, including names, email addresses and birth dates. The breach was discovered and patched in March 2018.
“That’s a black eye for Google and raises issues with trust with businesses,” Lazar said. “They will have to spend some time regaining that trust.”
Smith said the enterprise version of Google+ will offer security features such as setting common access rules and central controls.
Google has also made its alert center for G Suite publicly available following a beta in September. The alert center brings security alerts and actions under one interface. The service will also notify users when Google itself is investigating G Suite security issues that could affect a business.
Note: Vonage is a client of ZK Research.
The digital transformation era has arrived, and market leadership will be largely based on excellence in customer service. In 2017, ZK Research data showed two-thirds of millennials changed brand loyalties because of a bad experience. Provide a great customer experience and you win, provide a bad one and you lose. It’s that simple.
What’s not simple is understanding what makes a great experience. Sure, it includes the typical suggestions — have a great website, have polite people in the store, be proactive and have well-trained contact center reps. But it also entails enabling customers to communicate with your business the way they want to, using the apps they like.
The ability to place a voice call is obviously ubiquitous, but it’s often not the customers’ first choice any more. ZK Research found that with younger consumers, the majority of interactions are started with a non-voice channel. Businesses need to accommodate these consumers’ preferences. Text messaging is a good option, but there’s a growing desire to communicate in the apps people are already using. For example, consumers may be in Facebook, see an ad for something and want to contact the company. Instead of having to leave Facebook and call or text the company, they should be able to use Facebook Messenger and stay within the app.
Programming social messaging capabilities can be difficult though because there are myriad social platforms, each with its own APIs — creating a programming headache for companies. For global companies, the use of messaging tends to vary by region. A February 2018 study from web measurement company SimilarWeb found that Facebook Messenger dominates in North America and parts of Europe, while WhatsApp is rampant throughout Asia and other parts of Europe.
Vonage Nexmo APIs focus on connecting apps
First, the Nexmo Messages API, which is in beta, enables businesses to integrate apps with social messaging platforms using a single API. The Messages API acts as an abstraction layer to many of the more commonly used messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber as well as MMS and SMS. The use of a single API removes the complexities of managing multiple messaging APIs. In addition, all changes to the external messaging apps are handled by Vonage, so if WhatsApp updates an API, it’s transparent to the developer.
The Nexmo Messages API functionality includes:
- Feature rich media set including messaging, images, audio, video, files and location;
- Single event callbacks that provide information such as timestamps, message status, price and error messages;
- Direct connection to carriers and interface to Vonage’s adaptive routing technology to ensure optimized SMS delivery.
Second, the Nexmo Dispatch API, also in beta, enables developers to add a fallback mechanism to other channels if and when the first message fails to reach the specified recipient. The API can create customized messaging flows to ensure successful message delivery. For example, a college might choose to send out a broadcast message over Facebook Messenger to all of its students regarding an important event on campus. Not all students have Facebook, so in the event of a failure, the message could then be routed to SMS. Vonage’s API would prevent the college from having to send all messages over all chat apps.
Key capabilities of the Dispatch API include:
- Reliability of message delivery via preferred channels. An unread or undelivered message, based on time or message status, will automatically fallback to another channel ensuring better communications with customers;
- A single API call for implementing a custom social strategy making it easier for businesses to leverage a wide range of social channels;
- Callback for developers to detail the total price and outcome of workflow for ongoing analysis and optimization.
As the number of social messaging platforms continues to grow, businesses face increased complexity when looking to use the unique technical requirements of each app. The Nexmo Messages API and Dispatch API simplifies much of that complexity and enable companies to keep up with current social trends as they address the complexities that come with trying to integrate multiple channels. This approach lets business focus on the task of engaging customers instead of trying to navigate a complex sea of APIs associated with the wide range of messaging apps.
When deploying video conferencing successfully, you simply can’t install a video client and give users a webcam. Organizations with a robust video conferencing strategy see more deployment success than organizations with no strategy at all, according to a survey from Nemertes Research, a tech advisory firm based in Mokena, Ill.
A successful video conferencing strategy and deployment includes several factors, such as adoption programs and video analytics, according to a Nemertes survey of more than 400 IT leaders in various industries. Incorporate these five key elements identified by Nemertes to create a successful video conferencing strategy.
1. Funding. How an organization pays for video conferencing deployments is a major factor for success. The IT leaders with the most successful deployments had a dedicated collaboration team that funds video conferencing spending, while IT makes the buying decisions.
“IT has to own the decision,” Nemertes analyst Irwin Lazar said. “The core reason for that is because supporting video is the worst of both worlds from a network perspective.”
Video conferencing can be a nightmare for IT because it requires significant bandwidth and is latency-sensitive. Taking control of the buying decision ensures IT has better control over the system.
2. Adoption programs. A successful video conferencing strategy should include a user adoption and awareness program. Nearly one-quarter of IT leaders surveyed have adoption programs in their organizations. The programs include training, distance learning and train-the-trainer plans. More than half of organizations with a user adoption and awareness program have dedicated marketing staff within IT.
“It’s a hard sell,” Lazar said in a recent webinar. “You need to convince users of the benefits.”
Organizations with a dedicated marketing staff and adoption program had a 67% higher success rate than organizations that simply rolled out video and moved on to the next project, Lazar said.
3. Analytics. A successful video conferencing strategy should include analytics to measure video usage. The majority of organizations use analytics to measure metrics such as video performance, quality and length of calls, Lazar said.
Most organizations use the metrics available from their video conferencing vendors, while a small percentage uses third-party analytics vendors. Lazar said there was no difference in success for organizations using analytics from their video conferencing vendor than organizations using third-party services.
4. Single video vendor. Organizations with a successful video conferencing strategy also used the same provider for their room and desktop video conferencing.
“A single vendor is better than trying to cobble systems together,” Lazar said. Organizations that used a single provider were 22% more successful than organizations that mixed and matched their video conferencing services.
5. Room and desktop video. Successful organizations also used dedicated room systems in small meeting rooms instead of equipping rooms with a PC or laptop and webcam. Lazar said control issues can arise when a laptop or PC is used as the video conferencing endpoint instead of a dedicated system. For example, a software update could keep a PC offline for several hours, or a laptop could be replaced with a newer version that isn’t powerful enough to run video.
Organizations also prefer to use dedicated room systems for noise cancellation, active-speaker tracking and connecting to multiple types of meeting services.
In addition to dedicated room systems, organizations with a successful video conferencing strategy use desktop video conferencing. Two-thirds of IT leaders said they’re using or planning to use desktop video conferencing. Many desktop unified communications clients offer video, which helps boost adoption of desktop video conferencing, Lazar said.
Organizations that want to compete in an increasingly digital world and improve customer experience will find contextual communication benefits with communications platform as a service.
Customers these days are using more communication channels, and organizations need to meet these customers where they’re communicating the most, said IHS Markit analyst Diane Myers. Customers no longer communicate through just voice or SMS as channels such as social media, video conferencing and virtual assistants grow in popularity.
A significant roadblock to customer engagement today is the silos between communication channels. Many customers navigate multiple channels before completing a transaction, which creates a loss of context for customers as they switch channels, according to Francisco Kattan, head of platform marketing at Nexmo, a communications API platform and Vonage subsidiary.
“The problem is while customers think they’re having a single conversation with a brand, the reality is the brand is siloed into multiple channels,” he said in a recent webinar.
Each time a customer moves to a new channel, context needs to be re-established, which includes information such as the customer’s identity and location. Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) can create contextual communication for both customers and agents as communication tools are embedded into an organization’s website, mobile app or contact center platform.
While organizations that use CPaaS today are early adopters, companies that include CPaaS as part of their digital transformation strategies will reap the benefits of contextual communication, Kattan said.
Market disruptors fuel need for CPaaS
Digital-native startups — such as Airbnb and Uber — created communications disruption by using APIs to reach customers on their preferred channels, Myers said. Older, established organizations need to play catch-up to compete with these disruptive startups, and CPaaS and contextual communication can help.
Myers said organizations need to create a roadmap for what they want their products and customer experience to look like five to 10 years down the road. They should focus on building a customer experience that can happen anytime and anywhere regardless of the customer’s channel.
“This enables companies to dive deep and customize their experience that is very unique and direct with their applications,” she said.
CPaaS APIs allow established companies to add new capabilities quickly, such as call recording or real-time transcription, without having to invest in more communications infrastructure, Kattan said.
For example, Staples has used CPaaS as part of its Easy System, an IoT-driven virtual assistant that helps organizations manage office supplies. Staples developed the service to compete with Amazon. Employees can order office supplies, track orders or connect with a contact center agent on various channels, such as voice commands on an Easy System IoT device or mobile app, email, SMS messaging and a Slack integration.
“As more startups disrupt,” Kattan said, “established companies will innovate with communication APIs to deliver a better experience more effectively.”
On-premises contact centers are decreasing in popularity as more organizations look to cloud-based and hosted services for their contact center technology.
According to a recent Gartner Magic Quadrant report on contact center infrastructure, a number of vendors in the market are seeing sales drop for on-premises services as midmarket and large organizations show an increased preference for cloud-based contact center as a service (CCaaS).
Several drivers push organizations toward cloud contact center. For instance, organizations are looking to decouple unified communications (UC) and contact center infrastructure, move from capex to opex cost models and reduce total cost of ownership.
The adoption of CCaaS affects how vendors offer on-premises contact center technology. Many vendors are evolving their offerings from primarily on-premises services to include cloud-based capabilities. Several vendors in the Gartner report have made acquisitions to strengthen their cloud-based offerings, including Cisco’s BroadSoft acquisition, Mitel acquiring ShoreTel and Avaya’s Spoken acquisition.
Several other factors are influencing the market. Traditionally, contact center infrastructure purchases have been linked to an organization’s telephony vendor. However, as organizations tie telephony decisions to their broader UC strategies, they want flexibility from their contact center technology if they switch telephony vendors, according to the report.
For example, some organizations use Microsoft Skype for Business for telephony, but Microsoft doesn’t offer robust contact center infrastructure. As a result, organizations may select a contact center infrastructure vendor whose enterprise communications application business is not heavily tied to an enterprise telephony or UC product suite, according to the report.
Additionally, organizations are looking to add multichannel engagement by adding non-voice channels, such as web chat and email, to their customer service environments, the report found. For the past five to 10 years, organizations have looked to customer relationship management (CRM) offerings for these additional features, since contact center infrastructure has traditionally focused on telephony.
However, more contact center vendors are adding non-voice channels, which create a significant technology overlap with CRM. While few vendors in both markets overlap, Gartner anticipates the two markets will merge over the next several years.
Tied to the push for multichannel engagement is the shift to a holistic view of customer engagement, which includes breaking down communication channel silos and creating an integrated view of customer activities and workflows. However, multichannel engagement is still in the early phases of adoption and Gartner found more vendor hype than actual deployment in organizations.
Cisco, Genesys and Avaya were named market leaders in the report. Aspect Software and SAP were named visionaries. Huawei, Enghouse Interactive, Mitel and NEC were named challengers. Vocalcom and ZTE were named niche players. Unify was dropped from the report since it did not meet Gartner’s criteria for premises-based contact center product and service revenue.
Organizations that want to drive greater value from their unified communications deployment should look to integrate communications into other parts of their business.
Integrated communications extends the value of UC capabilities, such as messaging and video conferencing, by bringing them to other business apps. This fusion of resources drives greater productivity and supports digital transformation, according to IHS Markit analyst Diane Myers.
Organizations are turning to digital transformation to improve internal and external communications, according to Brian Gilman, vice president of product marketing at Vonage. Companies want to improve day-to-day interactions within the organization and external communication with customers. Integrated communications can enable greater collaboration with the apps brought into the network.
Internally, organizations are looking to enhance employee productivity. With integrated communications, an organization can enable click-to-call capabilities within Salesforce, for example, so employees can make a call and create a record of that call within the app. Creating a streamlined communications workflow within Salesforce aids productivity and ensures records are accurate, Gilman said in a recent webinar.
For external customers, organizations need to address their expectations for communication. Most companies only provide a certain number of communication channels, but customers want to communicate in various ways.
“They’re using their phones for SMS, self-service and email,” Gilman said. “The last thing they use a phone for is making a call.”
The more innovative companies circumvent the challenges of external communication by enabling customers to talk wherever and however they want, he said.
UCaaS and APIs support integrated communications
The path to integrated communications is paved with APIs and unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) providers who offer similar capabilities.
Organizations of all sizes are adopting UCaaS to improve employee productivity and support digital transformation, Myers said. With the help of the cloud, organizations can extend UC capabilities further into their business.
Choosing the right vendor is an important factor for integrated communications. Organizations should evaluate UCaaS vendor capabilities, their experience with integrated communications and the security of their offerings.
“When you’re moving to integrated communications, there is a new set of capabilities you want your provider to have, especially if you don’t have it in-house,” she said.
Access to APIs also gives organizations greater flexibility to integrate UC capabilities with business apps and offers resources they may not have in-house. Organizations can develop communication tools with APIs purchased in a UC bundle or as standalone services, Gilman said.
“APIs are going to allow for hooks back into existing business apps and help enable better contextual communication,” he said.
Molding horizontal capabilities for vertical use cases
Integrated communications offers horizontal capabilities, such as SMS notifications and geofencing. Organizations can tailor these tools for vertical market needs to improve workflows, Myers said.
To determine the vertical context for integrated communications, organizations should evaluate the type of interaction between an organization and its customers, such as exchanges between a doctor and patient or financial advisor and client, Gilman said.
Organizations can then apply horizontal capabilities in a vertical manner. SMS notifications, for instance, could remind patients to refill a prescription. Or, geofencing could provide ambulances with access to electronic health records so a patient’s information is ready when arriving at a hospital.