Predicting enterprise communications innovation in 2017

In the new year, expect the use and security of phone numbers to expand to accommodate customer-facing operations. Also, cloud-based telephony is cleared for takeoff.

It's always fun this time of year to gaze into the crystal ball and consider the enterprise communications innovation that's poised to disrupt the market in the year ahead.

In recent years, we've seen a dramatic transformation in how businesses use telecommunications and phone numbers to engage with customers. For example, think of the last time you texted a driver with a car-sharing service or booked a vacation rental through a mobile app.

This type of communications platform as a service (CPaaS) allows businesses to use voice and messaging services in new ways to improve the customer experience, add functionality to existing products and increase profits. Analyst firm ZK Research sized the CPaaS market at over $400 million in 2015; it is now forecasted to reach $8.1 billion by 2019.

Amid this communications innovation, the definition of a communications provider has also changed greatly.

While telephony carriers were initially founded to provide a simple dial tone over a wire, the emergence of voice over IP has spawned a new class of cloud-based carriers that enable businesses to deploy, provision and manage voice and messaging services directly through the network. These types of providers are disruptive because they aren't tied to a physical infrastructure -- everything operates via software and the cloud, making it simpler, faster and less expensive to deploy and provision communication services.

So, given these industry changes, what's ahead for 2017? Let's look at four key trends that will drive communications innovation as companies seek new services to reach new audiences:

1. The use of telephone numbers will expand dramatically.

In 2017, the importance of phone numbers will go far beyond just making voice calls. Phone numbers can provide identity information about a caller or an event -- allowing businesses to create new value-added services for their customers.

For example, by buying and assigning different phone numbers for each of their television, radio and direct mail ads or campaigns, marketers can measure concrete results from each medium and better understand the customer's path to purchase.

2. Phone numbers will require added security.

As phone numbers start to play an increasingly strategic role in the enterprise -- spanning marketing and operations, for example -- security will become critical to ensure both business and customer data behind those numbers remain secure.

In 2017, phone numbers will mandate additional security measures -- essentially requiring them to be locked down much like a virtual private network token, in order to eliminate the ability to spoof phone numbers and steal confidential identity-related information.

3. The distinction between OTT and the PSTN will become increasingly cloudy.

With more developers looking to integrate communications into their applications, the need for infrastructure-less carriers that support voice and messaging over a high-speed internet connection will become critical. Traditional legacy network carriers -- such as those that provide wired internet connectivity -- cannot provide developers with direct access and control of telephony resources.

Therefore, 2017 will be the year of the cloud-based IP communications provider, with a business model based on delivering open access to telecom resources, such as phone numbers, inbound and outbound calling, text messaging and advanced signaling data.

4. More businesses will embrace contact center as a service (CCaaS).

Despite the rise of chatbots and social media customer service, traditional call centers rank among the most widely used method for customers voicing a complaint. However, as businesses continue to integrate communication tools and implement IP telephony, customer service agents are no longer in one set location.

In order to modernize and improve the customer experience in 2017, we will see the broad adoption of the CCaaS model, which will provide businesses with control, flexibility and the opportunity to improve customer engagement.

It will be interesting to see how this communications innovation unfolds next year. One thing, however, is certain: Enterprise communications -- as we have known it -- is going to be redefined dramatically. 

Bayan Towfiq is CEO and founder of Flowroute, a communications software provider.

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