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Editor's note: This two-part series explores the relationship between unified communications and contact-center services. This article explains why the two technologies make sense together, while a second article examines integration obstacles.
When making business decisions about unified communications (UC), the focus is usually on employee needs. Similarly, for contact-center services, the focus is on agents and customer-facing communications.
UC and contact-center services have existed in parallel universes for a long time. But with today's technology -- and the cloud, in particular -- those two worlds are converging, since they actually have several commonalities.
UC and the contact center could certainly continue along their established trajectories, but the synergies between the two technologies present viable business opportunities. Seeing those opportunities, however, may require a different perspective, as decision-makers haven't had a reason to look at these synergies previously.
Here are three commonalities between UC and contact-center services, as well as reasons to integrate them.
The need to move on from legacy technology
Both UC and contact-center services feel constrained by existing technologies. For enterprises still using legacy telephony, the inherent limitations are clearly not aligned with today's needs; and, to a lesser extent, the same is true for IP PBX systems.
When using voice over IP in a stand-alone fashion, it's essentially a telephony service, rather than a piece of a broader communications strategy. The contact center faces the same issues, as legacy systems may support their intended function well, but lack the flexibility to adapt to the multichannel world that has become the norm.
The need to adapt to changing preferences
Aside from addressing the needs of IT, end users must be considered, and their communication preferences have definitely changed in both UC and the contact center.
Internally, employees might struggle to keep up with the pace of business and balance work and life demands. All of this points to a need for more communication capabilities, especially real-time modes like voice and video. This is core to UC's value proposition, so the benefits are clear.
These needs are equally important in contact-center services, where the limitations of legacy systems put agents at a disadvantage for providing good customer service. Consumer expectations are higher now, driven largely by technology, and UC can really help agents engage effectively with whatever channels the customer prefers.
The need to consider cloud services
Building on the two commonalties above, this third point should not come as a surprise. While most UC deployments are on premises, hosted variations are gaining momentum. This shift presents new possibilities, not just for enterprise-based needs, but also for integrating with contact-center services.
In both UC and the contact center, budget limitations prevent the needed upgrades to aging, on-premises systems, which means employees cannot collaborate effectively, and agents cannot support customers properly. In both scenarios, the Opex-based XaaS model is financially viable, and the cloud offers great scalability, as deployments extend across the organization.
Additionally, the trend of working remotely is growing, both for internal roles and contact-center agents. While this setup helps reduce operational costs -- and caters to the preferences of today's workers -- remote working is far easier to support from the cloud than with premises-based technology.
Furthermore, service providers are validating this hybrid approach, as they're increasingly offering both on-premises and cloud services to address those needs in an integrated fashion. In a hybrid system, the providers can support remote workers and contact-center agents in the cloud, while also supporting office-based UC with an on-site service.
Market forces are also playing a role here, as heightened service expectations are leading businesses to become more customer-centric. This model extends to everyone in the organization. When hosted in the cloud, UC enables contact-center agents to engage with all employees, so they can access expertise to address customer needs.
Call centers need to provide agents with the right tools.
Legacy technology stalls customer-facing communications.
Top UC cloud products offer contact-center capabilities.