Uniphore, a provider of Conversational Automation solutions, has announced their intention to acquire Jacada, an Israel-based autonomous customer experience solution provider. Jacada’s low-code/no-code platform will help Uniphore solve complex contact centre challenges using AI and automation. Jacada’s strengths include a low-code optimised interface and AI-enabled contact centre capabilities leading to automation across agent and customer engagements, enhanced knowledge-based guidance for agents and end-to-end analytics and insights.
Jacada has been in the market for around three decades and over time they have built various unified desktop and process optimisation products including RPA for customer service and support.
The acquisition follows Uniphore’s USD 140 million Series D funding round led by Sorenson Capital Partners in March 2021. Earlier this year, Uniphore acquired Emotion Research Lab to add AI and machine learning video capabilities that identify the emotion and engagement levels over video-based communications.
Growing Importance of Agent Assist Solutions
With agents facing pressure in offering customers satisfactory outcomes and at the same time having to manage the high volume of inbound transactions, Agent Assist solutions are high on the agenda for organisations. Remote working has made things even more complex where agents are cut off from their supervisors and not able to walk up to them to seek guidance. These “immediate challenges” have not yet been addressed in every contact centre even a year after the crisis. This presents a good opportunity for Uniphore to own the front and back-office integration piece. The back-office integration segment has become increasingly important as there is a need to fulfill customer requests by ensuring the conversation thread with back-office systems is followed through and communicated back to the agent. This need was heightened during the pandemic due to delays in product arrivals, in shipments, and other delays and miscommunication.
The big challenge also lies in making Agent Assist help the agent perform better and not make their lives more stressful! The design element of Agent Assist is critical. The solution must fit well into the other systems and applications such as CRM, Knowledge Management, and Speech Analytics. You don’t want another solution being pushed on to the agents when they are under pressure to meet customer demands during a 15-minute call.
Conversational Automation and Agent Assist must be evaluated carefully as you are integrating the solution into multiple environments with the clear objective of ensuring that agents only get the right information, in a manner that makes sense for them and at appropriate intervals.
The Growing Importance of Low-code No-code (LCNC)
As contact centres focus on business agility and pivoting fast to cope with sudden market shifts, organisations will benefit from moving programming closer to the contact centre – requiring very little assistance from IT teams.
Having a LCNC platform will now allow Uniphore to build front and back-office experiences in a multi-vendor environment. The need to use intelligent APIs to build workflows is high on the agenda and it helps eradicate the costly efforts and time spent on developers to further extract and build new capabilities at speed.
Jacada has been pushing their value proposition on RPA and Conversational Automation for some time now and this blends well with where Uniphore is going with AI and Automation in the contact centre space. The acquisition will also give Uniphore access to other contact centre technologies that will help them to compete better with a wider range of solutions. With the challenges in managing the agent experience, we can also expect the Workforce Experience Management (WEM) segment to play an important role and intersect with Agent Assist to manage and elevate the agent experience.
GCCs employ around 1 million Indian professionals and has an immense impact on the economy, contributing an estimated USD 30 billion. US MNCs have the largest presence in the market and the dominating industries are BSFI, Engineering & Manufacturing, Tech & Consulting.
GCC capabilities have always been evolving
The journey began with MNCs setting up captives for cost optimisation & operational excellence. GCCs started handling operations (such as back-office and business support functions), IT support (such as app development and maintenance, remote IT infrastructure, and help desk) and customer service contact centres for the parent organisation.
In the second phase, MNCs started leveraging GCCs as centers of excellence (CoE). The focus then was product innovation, Engineering Design & R&D. BFSI and Professional Services firms started expanding the scope to cover research, underwriting, and consulting etc. Some global MNCs that have large GCCs in India are Apple, Microsoft, Google, Nissan, Ford, Qualcomm, Cisco, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Barclays, Standard Chartered, and KPMG.
In the post-COVID world, industry boundaries are blurring, and business models are being transformed for the digital age. While traditional functions of GCCs will continue to be providing efficiencies, GCCs will be “Digital Transformation Centres” for global businesses.
The New Age GCC in the post-COVID world
On one hand, the pandemic broke through cultural barriers that had prevented remote operations and work. The world became remote everything! On the other hand, it accelerated digital adoption in organisations. Businesses are re-imagining customer experiences and fast-tracking digital transformation enabled by technology (Figure 1). High digital adoption and rising customer expectations will also be a big catalyst for change.
In last few years, India has seen a surge in talent pool in emerging technologies such as data analytics, experience design, AI/ML, robotic process automation, IoT, cloud, blockchain and cybersecurity. GCCs in India will leverage this talent pool and play a pivotal role in enabling digital transformation at a global scale. GCCs will have direct and significant impacts on global business performance and top line growth creating long-term stakeholder value – and not be only about cost optimisation.
GCCs in India will also play an important role in digitisation and automation of existing processes, risk management and fraud prevention using data analytics and managing new risks like cybersecurity.
More and more MNCs in traditional businesses will add GCCs in India over the next decade and the existing 1,700 plus GCCs will grow in scale and scope focussing on innovation. Shift of supply chains to India will also be supported by Engineering R & D Centres. GCCs passed the pandemic test with flying colours when an exceptionally large workforce transitioned to the Work from Home model. In a matter of weeks, the resilience, continuity, and efficiency of GCCs returned to pre-pandemic levels with a distributed and remote workforce.
A Final Take
Having said that, I believe the growth spurt in GCCs in India will come from new-age businesses. Consumer-facing platforms (eCommerce marketplaces, Healthtechs, Edtechs, and Fintechs) are creating digital native businesses. As of June 2021, there are more than 700 unicorns trying to solve different problems using technology and data. Currently, very few unicorns have GCCs in India (notable names being Uber, Grab, Gojek). However, this segment will be one of the biggest growth drivers.
Currently, only 10% of the GCCs in India are from Asia Pacific organisations. Some of the prominent names being Hitachi, Rakuten, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, and Foxconn. Asian MNCs have an opportunity to move fast and stay relevant. This segment is also expected to grow disproportionately.
New age GCCs in India have the potential to be the crown jewel for global MNCs. For India, this has a huge potential for job creation and development of Smart City ecosystems. In this decade, growth of GCCs will be one of the core pillars of India’s journey to a USD 5 trillion economy.
The views and opinions mentioned in the article are personal. Anupam Verma is part of the Senior Leadership team at ICICI Bank and his responsibilities have included leading the Bank’s strategy in South East Asia to play a significant role in capturing Investment, NRI remittance, and trade flows between SEA and India.
Last week Microsoft announced the acquisition of Nuance for an estimated USD 19.7 billion. This is Microsoft’s second largest acquisition ever, after they acquired LinkedIn in 2016. Nuance is an established name in the Healthcare industry and is said to have a presence in 10,000 healthcare organisations globally. Apart from Healthcare, Nuance has strong capabilities in Conversational AI and speech solutions to support other industries. This acquisition is in line with Microsoft’s go-to-market roadmap and strategies.
Microsoft’s Healthcare Focus
Microsoft announced their Healthcare Cloud last year and this acquisition will bolster their Healthcare offerings and market presence. Nuance’s product portfolio includes clinical speech recognition SaaS offerings – Dragon Ambient eXperience, Dragon Medical One and PowerScribe One for radiology reporting – on Microsoft Azure. The acquisition builds on already existing integrations and partnerships that were in place over the years.
“Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare offers its solution capabilities to healthcare providers using a ‘modular’ approach. Given how diverse healthcare providers are in their technology maturity and appetite for change, the more diverse the ‘modules’, the greater the opportunities for Microsoft. This partnership with Nuance also brings to the table established relationships with EHR vendors, which will be useful for Microsoft globally.
The Healthcare industry continues to struggle as the world negotiates the challenges of mass vaccination. But on the upside, the ongoing Healthcare crisis has given remote care a much-needed shot in the arm. Clinicians today will be more open to documentation and transcription services for process automation and compliance. The acquisition of Nuance’s Healthcare capabilities will definitely boost Microsoft’s market presence in provider organisations.
However, Healthcare is not the only industry that Microsoft and Nuance are focused on. The Microsoft Cloud for Retail that was launched earlier this year aims to offer integrated and intelligent capabilities to retailers and brands to improve their end-to-end customer journey. Nuance has omnichannel customer engagement solutions that can be leveraged in Retail and other industries. As Microsoft continues to verticalise their offerings, they will consider more acquisitions that will complement their value proposition.“
Microsoft’s Focus on Conversational AI
Microsoft already has several speech recognition offerings, speech to text services, and chatbots; and they continue to invest in the Conversational AI space. They have created an open-source template for creating virtual assistants to help Bot Framework developers. In February, Microsoft announced their industry specific cloud offerings for Financial services, Manufacturing, and Non-Profit, and also introduced a series of AI and natural language features in Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Office Lens and Microsoft Office mobile to deliver interactive, voice forward assistive experiences.
“There is no slowing down in this space and the acquisition clearly demonstrates the vision that Microsoft is building with Nuance – a vendor that has made speech recognition, text to speech, conversational AI the foundation of the company. This is a brilliant move by Microsoft in the Conversational AI space and a win-win for both companies.
This move could also mark further inroads for Microsoft into the contact centre space. With Teams now being integrated into contact centre technologies, working with large customers using speech and conversational AI, Dynamics 365 could herald the start of more acquisitions for Microsoft to bolster a wider customer engagement vision.
The Conversational AI war is heating up and various other cloud vendors such as Google and AWS are starting to get aggressive and have made investments in recent years to enhance their Conversational AIcapabilities. Google Dialogflow has been seeing rapid uptake and they now have deep partnerships with Genesys, Avaya, Cisco and other contact centre players. Microsoft coming into the game and acquiring a company with years of history and IP in the speech space, demonstrates how the cloud battle and the war between Google, Microsoft and AWS is heating up in the Conversational AI. All of a sudden you have Microsoft as a powerhouse in this game.”
Uniphore, a Conversational Service Automation (CSA) provider in the contact centre space announced two new services – U-Trust portfolio and U-Assist Assurance solution to support call centre agents and operations. The U-Trust portfolio includes U-Trust Agent to authenticate agents using unique voiceprints and U-Trust Environment to protect sensitive data. The other offering, U-Assist Assurance integrates RPA along with conversations AI and machine learning to track and deliver commitments made by agents in real-time during the call, to align with customer expectations and manages fulfilment post calls.
Security and Automation Driving Investments in Contact Centres
With agents working from both their home and the office, security is a bigger issue today than ever before. In 2021, contact centres will be under pressure to ensure all security requirements are met. For example: agents taking screenshots and photos of confidential information; family members having access to customer conversations and data; how agents access customer data. These are pertinent concerns that must be addressed and mechanisms around securing customer data will be of utmost priority. Any form of misuse of customer’s private information can have negative implications on the brand of a company.
With security efforts high on the agenda for contact centres, Uniphore is addressing critical issues faced by contact centres. The U-Trust portfolio aims to leverage biometrics for voice authentication and ensure safety in customer data handling. Uniphore is clearly listening to the market and have identified “problematic areas” that must be addressed. Ramping up security efforts especially with the work from anywhere model will be high on the agenda for every contact centre.
What is sometimes not talked about often enough in contact centres, is the integration to the back office. There are often follow ups required after the customer interaction – for example when a product needs to be ordered or serviced, the back office has an integral part to play in delivering customer experience. As contact centres realise that back office integration is critical there will be greater Investments in workplace collaboration, robotic process automation (RPA) and other automation technologies.
Uniphore is carving out a name in Conversational Service Automation. They are investing heavily in building an end-to-end automation solution for contact centres across Conversational AI, RPA and security capabilities. Cost pressures are rising and the need to automate will be greater than ever in 2021.
Uniphore focused on Growing AI/Automation Capabilities through Acquisitions & Partnerships
The last 12 months have been impressive for the company in terms of partnerships and acquisitions. For example, last October they partnered with NTT Data and will license NTT’s RPA technology for contact centres. The company issued a press release saying based on internal projections and the opportunities currently underway, this partnership could generate more than USD 50 million in revenue over the next five years. They also announced a partnership with Sitel. Through the partnership, Sitel will deploy Uniphore’s solution to its customer base. These are global partnerships that will help Uniphore scale its presence with outsourcers and in-house contact centres and help them with their customer experience transformation efforts.
Last month saw Uniphore collaborating with Idiap Research Institute, and joined World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Innovators Community. Uniphore and Idiap will work on the development of speech recognition algorithms, spoken language and signals for detection of emotions and semantic and pragmatic applications to generate insights and enhance customer experience. As a member of WEF, Uniphore will focus on co-designing and developing policy frameworks, standards for protecting children, creating an AI regulator for the 21st century and addressing concerns of facial recognition technology.
They also acquired Spanish video and emotion AI start-up Emotion Research Lab. Through this acquisition, Uniphore is looking to create advanced AI-based voice and video products for innovations in conversations service automation services and to expand its footprints in the European market. Moreover, combining voice and video AI with automation and machine learning will open up new use cases, including customer experience, sales, marketing, HR and other critical areas of business.
The comprehensive portfolio solution aims to strengthen overall contact centre interactions between customers and agents, optimise the connection through RPA and improve the contact centre security aspects through agent verification and data security.
2021 will see contact centres, dealing with new ways of working by employing various AI and Automation capabilities. See how you can empower your teams and agents to deliver exceptional customer experience in 2021. We outline the contact centre trends for 2021 in our Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Contact Centre Trends for 2021 report.
Last week saw 8×8 and Verint announce a partnership that aims to deliver integrated cloud-based contact centre services and workforce management applications to medium and large enterprises worldwide. The integrated solution will leverage 8×8’s expertise in unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and contact centre as a service (CCaaS) with Verint’s workforce management solutions.
The Need for Better Workforce Optimisation Solutions
Talking about the need for integrated solutions such as this in the Contact Centre space, Ecosystm Principal Advisor for Enterprise Communications and Contact Centres, Audrey William, says, “With agents working from both their homes and the office, contact centres will be challenged with managing staffing requirements and scheduling. The key to delivering exceptional customer experience will be to have the right agent working on the right assignments, across the right channels. On top of that, contact centres have to manage shifts, flexible work hours and part-time agents working across multiple locations. This does not make workforce optmisation an easy task!”
“Driving better employee experience is a top priority for contact centres – and this will include investments in solutions that can alleviate stress for the agent. The industry continues to be challenged by agent attrition – the most common causes being work overload and stress. To provide a consistently good customer experience, contact centres have to listen better to their agents, understand their workloads better, show empathy, and monitor their emotional well-being A workforce optimisation solution will ensure that inbound enquiries are not impacted, and agents’ times are better utilised, through forecasting and better scheduling.”
Synergy between 8×8 and Verint
The single-vendor integrated communications and contact centre solution is anticipated to create better customer engagement and smoother remote operations by empowering employees and agents to plan, forecast and schedule contact centre activities and manage workloads through omnichannel routing.
William says, “8×8 has been establishing its presence in the unified communications and contact centre solutions space in Asia Pacific, particularly in small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Partnering with a market leader in workforce management such as Verint is a positive step. Verint’s strengths in gap analysis from historical data patterns and predicting will help 8×8’s customers to drive optimisation and accuracy in planning in the contact centre. This will have an impact on reducing overstaffing and overtime. Additionally, it will give agents greater control over their schedules and the flexibility to plan their shifts around their desired hours of work.”
“While 8×8 has its own workforce engagement solution, this partnership demonstrates how 8×8 is elevating its game and wants to offer its customers a more robust workforce management solution through Verint Monet and Verint Enterprise. This solution is also out of the box for 8×8’s customers without the need for professional services. That is a plus!”, says William.
There is a lot of hope on AI and automation to create intellectual wealth, efficiency, and support for some level of process stability. After all, can’t we just ask Siri or Alexa and get answers so we can make a decision and carry on?
Automation has been touted as the wonder formula for workplace process optimisation. In reality it’s not the quick fix that many business leaders desire. But we keep raising the bar on expectations from automation. Investments in voice technologies, intelligent assistants, augmented reality and touchscreens are changing customer experience (Figure 1). Chatbots are ubiquitous, and everything has the potential to be personalised. But will they solve our problems?
100 percent automation is not effective
Let’s first consider using automation to replace face-to-face interactions. There was a time when people were raving about the check-in experience at some of the hotels in Japan where robots and automated systems would take care of the check-in, in-stay and check-out processes. Sounds simple and good? Till 2019, if you checked into the Henn-na Hotel in Japan, you would be served and taken care of by 243 robots. It was viewed by many as a template for what a fully automated hotel could look like in the future.
The hotel had an in-room voice assistant called Churi. It could cope with basic commands, such as turning the lights on and off, but it was found to be deficient when guests started asking questions about places to visit or other more sophisticated queries. It was not surprising that the hotel decided to retire their robots. In the end it created more work for the hotel staff on-site.
People love the personal touch when they are in a hotel; and talking to someone at the front desk, requesting assistance from hotel staff, or even just a short chat over breakfast are some of the small nuances of why the emotional connection matters. Many quarantine hotels today use robots for food delivery, but the hotel staff is still widely available for questions. That automation is good, but you need the human intervention. So, getting the balance right is key.
Empathy plays a big role in delivering great Customer Experience
Similarly, there was a time when many industry observers and technology providers said that a contact centre will be fully automated, reducing the number of agents. While technologies such as Conversational AI have come along where you can now automate common or repetitive questions and with higher accuracy levels, the human agent still plays a critical role in answering the more complex queries. When the customer has a complicated question or request, then they will WANT to speak to an agent.
When it reaches a point where the conversation with the chatbot starts getting complicated and the customers need more help there should be the option – within the app, website or any other channel – to escalate the call seamlessly to a human agent. Sometimes, a chat is where the good experience happens – the emotional side of the conversation, the laughter, the detailed explanation. This human touch cannot be replaced by machines. Disgruntled customers are happier when an agent shows empathy. Front line staff and human agents act as the face of a company’s brand. Complete automation will not allow the individual to understand the culture of the company. These can be attained through conversations.
Humans as supervisors for AI – The New Workplace
Empathy, intuitiveness, and creativity are all human elements in the intelligence equation. Workers in the future will need to make their niche in a fluid and unpredictable environment; and translating data into action in a non-replicable way is one of the values of human input. The essence of engineering is the capacity to design around human limitations. This requires an understanding of how humans behave and what they want. We call that empathy. It is the difference between the engineer who designs a product, and the engineer who delivers a solution. We don’t teach our computer scientists and engineering students a formula for empathy. But we do try to teach them respect for both the people and the process.
For efficiency, we turn to automation of processes, such as RPA. This is designed to try to eradicate human error and assist us in doing our job better, faster and at a lower cost by automating routine processes. If we design it right, humans take the role of monitoring or supervisory controlling, rather than active participation.
At present, AI is not seen as a replacement for our ingenuity and knowledge, but as a support tool. The value in AI is in understanding and translating human preferences. Humans-in-the-loop AI system building puts humans in the decision loop. They also shift pressure away from building “perfect” algorithms. Having humans involved in the ethical norms of the decision allows the backstop of overly orchestrated algorithms.
That being said, the astute use of AI can deepen insights into what truly makes us human and can humanise experiences by setting a better tone and a more trusted engagement. Using things like sentiment analysis can de-escalate customer service encounters to regain customer loyalty.
The next transformational activity for renovating work is to advance interactions with customers by interpreting what they are asking for and humanising the experience of acquiring it which may include actually dealing with a human contact centre agent – decisions that are supported at the edge by automation, but at the core by a human being.
Ecosystm research shows that process automation will be a key priority for technology investments in 2021 (Figure 2).
With AI and automation, a priority in 2021, it will be important to keep these considerations in mind:
Making empathy and the human connection the core of customer experiences will bring success.
Rigorous, outcome-based testing will be required when process automation solutions are being evaluated. In areas where there are unsatisfactory results, human interactions cannot – and should not – be replaced.
It may be easy to achieve 90% automation for dealing with common, repetitive questions and processes. But there should always be room for human intervention in the event of an issue – and it should be immediate and not 24 hours later!
Employees can drive greater value by working alongside the chatbot, robot or machine.
Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Customer Experience Trends for 2021
Download Ecosystm’s complimentary report detailing the top 5 customer experience trends for 2021 that your company should pay attention to along with tips on how to stay ahead of the curve.
Probe Group has been expanding its business presence since being acquired by Five V Capital in early 2018. At the time, Probe acquired Salmat’s Contact business, a broad-based CX operation which helped Probe expand their presence in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. Looking out for further opportunities, in December last year Probe Group acquired Australia-based and Philippines-focused Beepo and quickly followed this with an acquisition in January this year of the Philippines outsourcing agency MicroSourcing, a counterpart to Beepo which greatly expanded Probe’s Philippines offering. These acquisitions helped Probe extend their service offering from CX into Shared Services and Knowledge Services.
This is a brilliant move as Stellar is one of the most successful contact centre outsourcing providers in Australia. With successive growth for 22 years and having a strong footprint in both the public and private sectors, the acquisition will give Probe Group entry into some large accounts. Additionally, Probe will gain a large pool of well-trained agents in Australia and other locations across the globe.
The merger comes at an interesting time when we are seeing several organisations re-evaluate their outsourcing strategy. There is also an active interest in enhancing CX through AI/automation. Both the Probe Group and Stellar understand the Australian market and consumer sentiments and the merger is expected to drive better customer outcomes in the Australia market.
Prior to COVID-19, Probe Group employed 8,500 agents. With this acquisition, they will have 12,600 agents and an expected turnover of USD 420 million. That is not only impressive but will help Probe offer a variety of services including both onshore and offshore, to take on their rivals.
Rise of Onshore Activity will see New Shifts in CX Delivery Models
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about several changes to the outsourcing sector. The disruption caused by services in many key offshore markets led to organisations re-evaluating their contact centre outsourcing strategy and some have started moving contact centre jobs back to Australia. Westpac is the latest organisation to announce that they are moving 1,000 jobs back to Australia. They have stated that while they expect productivity benefits over time, there is clearly a cost to adding 1,000 roles – likely an uplift of around $45 million per annum in its costs by the end of 2021.
The cost element is bound to creep in over time and contact centres will ask outsourcing providers to help drive costs down. Options would include moving some services offshore, while the critical remain onshore. Striking that balance to manage costs will be important and so will be the ability to offer various options for customers. Additionally, we can expect to see an increased demand for self-service technologies. Many organisations are in the midst of re-evaluating the use of AI and automation technologies not only as a way to drive great CX but as a way to also reduce costs (Figure 1).
Contact centres are starting to realise that to modernise their contact centre, the ability to lead with machine learning and AI technologies are critical. It will drive the deployment of natural language understanding (NLU) and conversational AI, sentiment analysis, transcription capabilities – and ultimately provide intelligence about the call even prior to the call being fielded. However, it is worth noting that whilst automation is on the rise, the role of the agent is not going away anytime soon and will grow in importance. We will see the rise of the “super-agent’’ and the agent’s role will evolve over time and AI/automation will generate rich insights to help aid the agent and the contact centre team to better predict customer behaviour and patterns.
The Next Generation of Outsourcing Providers must Drive Innovation for their Customers
Companies today are not outsourcing just to save labour costs. While cost remains an important angle, it will not often be the main driver for outsourcing in the future. The next generation of outsourcing providers will have to build rich solution capabilities, customer journey maps and help customers understand how to align all channels. This involves working with many different technology providers to build the right capabilities for their client organisations. Organisations are keen to modernise their contact centre operations to achieve excellence in CX. Outsourcing providers must have the capability to deliver that innovation.
Ecosystm research finds that 63% of organisations that outsource their contact centre functions are challenged with finding the right partner that can drive innovations (Figure 2).
Contact centre outsourcing providers have a role to play in some of the following areas:
The ability to adapt to change and take on risks together with the client
Ensuring that all forms of security and governance measures are in place. This includes considering factors such as data security, data handling, and security features enabled across devices, applications, and the network. This is especially true for Government and Financial services contracts. Additionally, with some organisations preferring the work from a home model, there are security issues that must be addressed for the scenario.
Helping the move from a traditional contact centre to a contact centre that delivers the highest levels of CX for its customers. Applying technologies such as AI and machine learning, NLU, biometrics, speech analytics, customer journey analytics and robotic process automation (RPA) will be key to modernisation.
Being able to build a business continuity plan (BCP) for their customers in the event of another crisis.
Probe Group started off as a business specialising in outsourcing services in the credit and collections segment. Their customers in 2016 ranged from organisations across Financial Services, Utilities, and Federal and State Government. At that time, Probe employed about 300 people and their turnover was about USD 25 million. They did not rest on their laurels and realised that organic growth combined with strategic acquisitions would give them a foothold across various geographies and add new capabilities to their portfolio. With the rise in onshore activity, they will now be in a strong position to offer their customers various services and models of engagement to help drive CX excellence. The acquisition of Stellar will help Probe Group propel to greater heights and we see a new CX outsourcing giant being born.
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The move comes as many businesses and governments are witnessing a spike in inbound contact centre volumes since the outbreak of the pandemic. The telecom company aims to help the contact centre industry through its on-demand contact centre suite of solutions that can be scaled up or down according to the organisations’ requirements. It can be combined with existing CRM platforms in a single dashboard for better access to data and resolution support.
Vodafone Connect is built on the AWS Connect cloud contact centre solution and uses data analytics and machine learning tools to automate customer interactions across multiple channels – email, messaging and social media – to support the contact centre agents with real-time information.
COVID-19 has accelerated the move to the cloud
The recent pandemic has seen many organisations make a leap almost overnight to cloud contact centre technologies. Many organisations that previously had concerns around data privacy, and securing customer data – and were thus hesitant about deploying cloud contact centre solutions – have moved to the cloud model. The cloud model helped get agents that were forced to work from home up and running in a short duration. The immediate urgency was primarily due to a massive spike in voice calls and non-voice activity such as emails. During the COVID-19 crisis, many organisations used Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections to their legacy on-premises phone system to enable the remote agents. However, there have been challenges reported by many organisations with that approach such as increases to IT budget, difficulty in scaling easily, and the requirement for more IT support that could have been avoided.
Ecosystm research finds that only 30% of organisations have fully migrated their cloud contact centre solutions on the cloud.
This indicates a market opportunity for vendors in the cloud contact centre space. The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely triggered a strong move towards the cloud model. It has become imperative for vendors and solutions providers to strengthen their cloud capabilities.
Driving an Omni-Channel Experience has become increasingly difficult
Ecosystm research also finds that organisations find siloed organisational data as one of the biggest challenges in driving consistent customer experience.
This has been further exacerbated by the high volume of interactions that organisations have been having with their customers, and the need to accommodate work-from-home policies for their customer care agents. At the same time, nearly 60% of organisations want to drive an omni-channel experience to improve CX. This provides a huge opportunity for contact centre vendors and partners to offer consulting services to help organisations bridge the gaps in achieving an omni-channel experience. For many organisations there has been a greater push to integrate CRM, the voice of the customer/surveys, customer journey analytics to the contact centre technologies and this is not an easy task as it involves different stakeholders with different sets of KPIs. Having a single platform that can manage this omni-channel experience will be a huge benefit for many organisations.
New Players in the Competitive Landscape
AWS is a relatively new player in the contact centre market, but it is starting to disrupt the existing players, with a global installed base. However, it is worth noting that Avaya, Cisco and Genesys have a higher installed base and they continue to win new deals. The move to the cloud is witnessing more service providers, telecom providers and other contact centre partners push more cloud-based solutions in the market. Apart from AWS, other important players include NICEinContact, 8×8, Talkdesk, Twillio, Five9, and UJet. The competitive battleground is heating up and there are a lot of options for customers to choose from. It will all come down to working with a vendor that can help them achieve their desired CX outcomes.
There are other important elements in CX that are growing in importance and these include conversational AI, voice biometrics, knowledge management systems, machine learning and CX management solutions. Contact centre solution providers are having discussions around these areas with tech buyers. This will mean that we can expect deeper partnerships and acquisitions in the short to medium term. Security has also emerged as an important issue to be resolved, especially with agents working from home. This is from a compliance perspective and pertaining to how agents are viewing and handling customer data. These new trends indicate that customers will need to work with different vendors to solve the variety of issues they are facing.
The Vodafone Connect solution on AWS Connect is one of the many examples of how more partners of contact centre solutions are gearing up for the rapid move to the cloud. Globally, Vodafone also sells contact centre solutions from Cisco and Genesys. The next 3 years will see a great movement in the market and this will include vendors from North America that will set up operations to push their offerings across Europe and the Asia Pacific.
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