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Unified communications and contact centers have always existed in the same playground, but they weren't playing the same game. Now, the market is shifting toward UC and contact center offerings from a single vendor or vendor partnership. With integrated options, contact center agents have better access to rich communications capabilities.
Traditionally, contact centers were developed to focus primarily on the tools specific to customer and agent interactions, said Jon Arnold, principal analyst at J Arnold & Associates, based in Toronto. Contact centers were treated as separate from the rest of the business, cutting agents off from workers in other areas of the organization, he said.
UC as a service offers real-time communications and collaboration tools that benefit contact center agents, leading to a rising demand for contact center integrations with UCaaS, Arnold said.
The benefits of a UCaaS and contact center integration
Connecting UCaaS to contact center is achieved through an API integration, which gives agents access to the same UC tools as the rest of the business. Twilio, for example, enables its customers to piece together customizable contact centers using premade API building blocks, such as interactive voice response, analytics and chat channels.
A UCaaS and contact center integration means agent communications are no longer limited to agent-customer interactions. UCaaS gives agents the ability to reach out to anyone in the company to assist with a given interaction.
Robin GareissAnalyst, Nemertes Research
What once may have taken several hours of phone calls and back-and-forth emails can now happen in a matter of minutes with real-time communications tools available from UCaaS, Arnold said.
"Companies are no longer looking at contact center as an island," said Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research Group, based in Mokena, Ill. "With UC, contact center becomes a more integrated part of the company."
When agents and employees from other areas of the business are all available in the same directory, it creates inherent operational efficiencies by streamlining communication and ensuring consistent UX across the organization. UCaaS- and contact center-integrated offerings carry the added benefit of needing to reach out to only one vendor for support, Arnold said.
Competition reshapes the vendor landscape
According to a Nemertes study, 42% of organizations have integrated UC and contact center, while 32% will adopt integrated platforms by the end of next year. Organizations are increasingly asking for single vendor-integrated offerings, which is leading vendors to expand their portfolios, Gareiss said.
"Pushing UC and contact center together is an attractive option for vendors looking for a greater wallet share," Arnold said.
A crowded UCaaS market is making it difficult for any one vendor to grab the attention of new customers, Arnold said. As a result, UC vendors are enhancing their UCaaS platforms with contact center API integrations to increase profit from their current customer base, he said.
Established contact center providers, like Talkdesk, are also partnering with UCaaS providers, like Mitel, to strengthen their value propositions and defend their corner of the market from cloud providers, like Amazon and Google, Arnold said. Amazon and Google have begun to offer their own contact center services, as well as partner with UC providers. Google, for example, partnered with Avaya to bring contact center AI to Avaya's platform.
Gartner's 2019 Magic Quadrant for contact center as a service showed several CCaaS vendors, such as 8x8 Inc., Evolve IP and Vonage, are offering CCaaS and UCaaS as both integrated and individual platforms.
Not all vendors are following the integration trend, however. Genesys, for example, offers both UC and contact center but doesn't market its offerings as a single platform.
"Genesys will integrate if a buyer requests it, but it's not focusing on integration, which is a missed opportunity as interest in integrated offerings will only grow," Gareiss said.
More organizations are deploying UC and contact center from a single vendor, such as Cisco, 8x8 and RingCentral, Gareiss said. Single-vendor offerings streamline communications because organizations don't need to worry about interoperability between platforms, she added.
The Nemertes study also found organizations that deployed integrated offerings had a higher success rate than those that deployed UC and contact centers separately.