The pandemic accelerated several trends in the contact-center industry that were already underway, chiefly: moving infrastructure and software applications to the cloud, and rethinking the process of managing agents. One byproduct of these trends is a renewed look at the similarities between business-phone systems (also known as unified communications, or UC) and contact center systems (CC).
Moving either or both toolsets into the cloud has created market segments (UCaaS and CCaaS) that allow vendors to consolidate and streamline their products, while also seeking new customers for their product lines.
This is where 8x8 sits: it offers businesses a more complete palette of telecom-related options that are still delineated into UCaaS and CCaaS but have a great deal of commonality.
The relocation of the workforce during the pandemic revealed the need for collaboration and communication tools in order to stay connected to peers and supervisors. As a result, contact centers are more likely to look at UCaaS solutions in tandem with CCaaS than in the past.
At the same time, organizations with contact centers are widely considering more advanced features that allow them to handle omnichannel interactions, to retrain and upskill agents, and to automate as much of their operations as possible. We believe that, ultimately, nearly all contact center seats will move to the cloud in some form. Competition between vendors has tightened as the innovation cycle for new features quickens. That suggests that vendors in the cloud contact-center market will need to differentiate themselves based on intangibles such as their vertical industry expertise or the reliability of their customer support and customer success programs. Also important will be their effectiveness at onboarding new customers, the speed of innovation, and the timelessness of their update cycles.
We assert that by 2023, one-quarter of organizations will look to UCaaS and CCaaS technology to collaborate in the enterprise and with customers more effectively.
8x8 is a global software provider of UCaaS and CCaaS software. Its main product is the Open Communications Platform which incorporates components across those two market segments: contact-center routing, business telephony, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven analytics, and team collaboration (including chat, meetings and file sharing).
Some important items in its Winter ‘20 release include integrations to Zoho CRM and Microsoft Teams, the incorporation of Verint’s Workforce Optimization platform as an option for organizations, an update to its outbound dialer and improvements to the coaching feedback and quality analytics systems.
This release appears to be squarely aimed at fulfilling the needs revealed by events of 2020: better agent management and tighter integration into existing business software applications.
By putting both unified communications and contact center into a single offering, 8x8 is taking the position that these two modes of communication share technology at the fundamental level to entice organizations into taking both from a single vendor, perhaps even at the same time.
The company makes the case that a small-to-midsize contact center should integrate more efficiently with the rest of the business, as with back-office applications such as a CRM. As evidenced by the integrations 8x8 has made with other software platforms, it expects the contact-center market to be better aligned with the rest of the application stack used by organizations and recognizes a need to integrate into a common platform.
8x8’s Open Communications Platform should appeal most directly to organizations that have small or informal contact centers, especially those that need to provide contact-center features to knowledge workers outside the main center. One example might be sales teams that have a heavy communications footprint due to a large volume of outbound calls. The expectation is that those organizations will expand their contact center use cases across organization, taking more components of the offering. The reverse also occurs, where organizations who deploy the contact-center components extend their usage to the business side with cloud-based PBX tools for other workers.
Organizations looking for UCaaS and CCaaS should assess 8x8 as a combined offering rather than as two distinct product lines. 8x8 should be a consideration for organizations that plan to have a tighter integration between their business-phone infrastructure and contact-center telephony.
8x8 does a particularly good job of explaining the use cases and benefits of AI in the contact center. The company has robust analytics capabilities, suggesting that it should be telling a more detailed story around its use cases, especially when talking to the middle of the market where analytics is often overlooked but can be highly valuable.