Voxeo Acquires IMified, Strengthening UC & Unified Self-Service
Voxeo is filling out their strategy to provide Unified Self-Service.
Yesterday's acquisition of IMified greatly enhances Voxeo's UC portfolio, and is a key component in its Unified Self-Service strategy. IMified is the world's largest hosted instant messaging application development and deployment platform, enabling the delivery of automated IM services (also known as IM bots or IM Agents) that work with most of the popular IM platforms, including Google, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and Cisco/Jabber. IMified takes the complexity out of building and hosting IM agents by providing developers with an easy to use Platform as a Service (PaaS) API to communicate with any IM network or platform, so they don't have the integration hassles of connecting to multiple proprietary or standard IM platforms. They also don't have the headache of continuously improving on the integration as the PaaS API is continuously improved.The importance of this announcement is that Voxeo is adding instant messaging capabilities to its product portfolio, allowing companies to provide IM to their end users, but also IM capabilities for contact centers as well, which is an important twist on the use of IM. With this acquisition, Voxeo is enabling their 37K plus developer community to easily add IM-based "services" into the contact center and unified communication applications they are developing. The IMified platform allows developers to create IM bots that help with business applications, such as customer service inquiries, surveys, order status, package tracking, and pretty much the same functions as you could provide through a voice portal or live agent. That is the key. Voxeo is filling out their strategy to provide Unified Self-Service, which are self-service applications that you develop once and deploy across multiple channels for customer self-service.
Unified Self-Service is an interesting concept, and is to the contact center what unified communications is to the enterprise. With Unified Self-Service, the "unified" has two meanings. The first is the premise (which the entire contact center industry has embraced) that you should be able to provide customer service across multiple touch points for your customer, so that customers can access and interact with your business in the manner that they are comfortable with. A core principle of this, which not everyone has embraced well, is that all the back-end things that happen when a customer interacts with a business, no matter if its through the web, contact center, IVR, IM or whatever, should provide the same service, access the same databases and be current no matter how the customer gets to the business. So for example, if I do a web transaction, finish, panic that I've forgotten something and call the company, the live agent should have current information based on the web transaction I just made, etc.
The second meaning for "unified" is that a developer should be able to write an application once, and deploy it across multiple channels, not have one group handle the contact center, another developer write the IVR application, and another do IM. Voxeo's mantra is develop once, deploy once, which is as is should be, saving an enterprise a lot of development and integration cost up front.
To date Voxeo has about 37K developers and they have been adding about 8K a year. IMified has 7500 developers, just doing IM applications. Although most of the players in the contact center industry have been adding chat capabilities for awhile, we haven't seen really broad deployment of chat within contact centers, although this is changing. This announcement has the real potential to be an accelerator in this change, in that it is wonderfully cost effective to deploy. Instead of "Hmm, maybe we should add chat to the contact center," you can now add it while developing the other contact center applications with minimal effort and without the high integration cost.
The really beautiful part about these IM services is that they have the potential of being automated or partially automated. Instead of just providing chat with an agent, imagine offloading the tedious part of the customer interaction, such as asking for the customer's account number, product part number or even what their issue or question is, and then handing the interaction off to an agent. Think of it as Interactive Instant Messaging Response instead of Interactive Voice Response. The payback is huge. Just with IM alone, Voxeo states that chat is 1/10 the cost of IVR, which is 1/100th the cost of a live agent call.
The gating factor is still the human one. That is, training the agent to do chat instead of simply taking voice calls. This is the same issue we have had with teaching agents to be both inbound and outbound agents. There is a mind set to changing modes. However, with agents traditionally coming from younger pools of workers--those that nowadays are born texting --this is less of an issue. Plus, on the consumer side, with growing ranks of consumers who also prefer text to voice for interactions, or who think to contact businesses while mobile, this really bodes well for vastly increasing the number of deployments within contact centers.Voxeo is filling out their strategy to provide Unified Self-Service.