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Contemplating CCaaS? Consider These Issues

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Many organizations are discovering the benefits of a cloud-delivered contact center. Modern contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS) options offer increased agility, capability, and scalability over traditionally licensed solutions. The chief financial officer favors the OpEx model, and CCaaS architectures offer a number of modern benefits including flexibility.
 
The CCaaS sector is experiencing significant growth fueled by migrations from existing contact centers as well as new implementations and new use cases. CCaaS eliminates many of the traditional barriers of contact centers such as high upfront costs, long implementation times, and specialized equipment. The CCaaS providers are also very innovative with a regular cadence of new features, app store partners, and AI-powered capabilities that allow subscribers to quickly discover and implement customer experience improvements.
 
Before dialing that toll-free number to order your new CCaaS solution, consider evaluating four philosophical topics that will narrow the options. They are, best-of-breed versus broader suites, direct purchase versus purchasing through a partner, native workforce engagement management service (WEM) versus third-party, and build vs. buy. Allow me to elaborate.
 
UCaaS: Historically, the default supplier for the contact center was the premises-based PBX vendor. The incumbent vendor had the advantage of an existing relationship and was in a position to leverage installed infrastructure components such as trunks, services, and endpoints. This UC-contact center relationship weakened with CCaaS as the new sector emerged with largely pure-play providers.
 
Several enterprise UCaaS providers now offer CCaaS. The combined offering provides single-vendor benefits around procurement and support, but the main driver is the UCaaS promise of improved employee communications and collaboration — agents are (usually) employees too. This benefit became particularly valuable during the pandemic as displaced agents now at home needed new tools to collaborate with colleagues, managers, and subject matter experts.
 
The pure-play options remain viable. They are often ahead of the broader providers with advanced features including global coverage. Pure-play CCaaS providers focus completely on CCaaS — every product, every service, and every employee. Examples of pure-play CCaaS providers include Five9, NICE inContact, and Talkdesk. Providers such as 8x8, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, and Vonage offer CCaaS along with other enterprise communications services, namely UCaaS. There are a few variations as well including RingCentral which offers UCaaS, digital channels, and a co-branded, on-net integration with NICE inContact.
 
Integrator: Licensed solutions were typically sourced through a value-added reseller, and one of the perceived benefits of CCaaS is the opportunity to engage directly with the provider. Most CCaaS providers put out a welcome mat for direct purchase. Services include trials, self-service provisioning, and some providers offer professional services.
 
However, there’s a lot of benefit to working with third-party CCaaS specialists. Integrators such as Carousel, Sabio (U.K.), and Servion specialize in CCaaS implementations. Enterprises with large or advanced requirements may prefer global integrators such as Accenture, Deloitte, and Infosys. Integrators offer a wide range of services and related products, including outcome-focused design, custom integrations, and day one and day two implementation and optimization services. Some integrators also work with several providers and can even create mash-ups between providers as appropriate. For example, Servion now works with AWS, Cisco, Five9, Genesys, NICE inContact, and Twilio.
 
WEM: Workforce engagement management is a critical component of modern contact centers. WEM is an umbrella term for a suite of tools and applications that manage operations and measure contact center performance. Historically, organizations purchased their contact center core routing and interactive voice response features from one vendor, and WEM services from another.
 
In general, cloud-delivered services tend to be more focused on the solution than the application. In UC, for example, the core PBX typically required third-parties for carrier services, call recording, call accounting, and more. Today, all of those services are typically wrapped in the UCaaS offer from a single-provider. The CCaaS suite is also expanding, and there’s a clear trend to obtain the WEM suite from the CCaaS provider.
 
Five9, NICE inContact, and Genesys offer their own, native WEM suite — though they work with third-party solutions as well. Customers that are migrating to CCaaS may prefer to leverage their existing WEM know-how, processes, and investments by continuing to work with Calabrio, Verint, or another third-party WEM supplier. CCaaS solutions from Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys are often paired with third-party WEM providers.
 
Build vs. Buy: The off-the-shelf CCaaS solution still doesn't exist. While quicker to implement than traditionally licensed options, CCaaS still requires considerable configuration and customization. Another option is to build a bespoke contact center.
 
CPaaS services offer plug-n-play, programmable components that developers can leverage without the need to master the esoteric world of telephony. From a development and effort perspective, the middle-ground between CCaaS applications and bespoke solutions is shrinking. However, the creation of a custom, modern contact center remains non-trivial.
 
There can be significant benefits to including native customer engagement capabilities into new or existing customer-facing applications. Only a handful of the applications currently on my smartphone feature customer service capabilities, but they are increasing. If you are looking to create a new digital experience, consider working with a contact center-savvy CPaaS provider such as Amazon Web Services, Twilio, or Vonage. Another option is a CCaaS provider with an extensive software development kit such as Avaya or UJET. SMS and in-app calling are the gateway paths to bespoke customer interactions.
 
Conversely, CCaaS applications are more intuitive and robust than ever before. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if seeking a standalone or integrated state-of-the-art customer engagement application.
 
There are no right or wrong answers to these considerations, but having a clear understanding of these trade-offs will simplify the evaluation process. The providers listed above are illustrative samples from a growing and dynamic sector. The move to cloud-delivered services is a good time to reevaluate many decisions that were likely made when there were fewer alternatives available.
 
Dave Michels is a Contributing Editor and analyst at TalkingPointz.

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