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Zoom's CCaaS Play: Conversational AI Might be Key to Success
This week, Zoom announced Zoom Contact Center, its own cloud-native, omnichannel contact center solution, putting to rest the question surrounding Zoom of: “to contact center or not contact center?”
Zoom’s Road to Contact Center
In the past, the company has hinted at a contact center play and most recently announced Video Engagement Center, a specialized contact center that can be thought of as a specialized customer-care tool. Then, Zoom attempted to acquire Five9, which seemed like a strange move for a company that typically builds features in-house. After all that, the company announced its only product.
In reality, Zoom Contact Center is based on Zoom Video Engagement Center, but the company beefed it up to address broader use cases. Voice, chat, and SMS channels have been added as well as IVR, ACD, skills routing, analytics, and more. The product also includes a simple to use drag-and-drop IVR designer. Through the portal, admins can create menus, greetings, and prompts and can integrate chat and video into a website to speed up the process of a customer being able to interact with a brand.
On a pre-brief, Zoom shared its roadmap for the next year, which included several features that one would expect like expanded channels, CRM integrations, workforce management, quality management. Additionally, Zoom will release several AI-based features like a next-best-action feature, natural-language understanding, and conversational AI.
The product is generally available in the U.S. and Canada, and Zoom will closely monitor early usage and tweak the product based on customer feedback. This is like the release cycle for Zoom Phone. Zoom has plans to expand regional coverage later this year. Also, Zoom will continue to sell partner offerings and has no immediate plans to end those relationships. I suspect that day will eventually come, but Zoom has always done what’s best for its customer. So, I’m sure Zoom will give plenty of notice when it’s ready to do that.
Zoom: Not Just Video
The release of Zoom Contact Center is certainly newsworthy but should not be a surprise. Zoom is best known as the video meeting company, but that’s really a mischaracterization. It’s now a communications platform company, with the video-based UC products being its flagship product. Over the past several years, Zoom has added Rooms, Phone, Developer Platform, and Events as apps that can run on its platform. Contact Center is the logical extension of what it has been building.
Now that the product is out, it begs the question: Can Zoom have success in CCaaS despite being a late entrant? The answer lies in their approach. My research thesis has always been that share gains happen when markets transition, and I believe there are a few that can help Zoom gain share in an already crowded space.
The first is the coming together of UC and contact center. This trend has been well documented on this site and others and is one that almost every UCaaS and CCaaS vendor is working towards. The low-hanging fruit for Zoom is to take its new offering out to its most loyal customers and have them trial it. People love Zoom, and it needs to use the affection its customers have with them to expand its footprint within its customer base. Zoom took this approach with Phone, and now it's strong enough that Zoom can lead with it.
Next is to backdoor Zoom into companies with its proficiency in video. While video will never reach anything resembling ubiquity in contact centers, several use cases exist where video can be useful. High-end retail, financial services, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, or anywhere the personal touch can add value, can benefit with video. This was the idea behind the original Video Engagement Center. Zoom should excel here, as it’s arguable that no company does video better than Zoom. It can use this excellence to get a foothold to land an account and then expand as it builds out its offering.
The third, and perhaps most interesting, is how it plays the AI card. Every contact center vendor is now an AI company, but as I pointed out in this post, the definition of conversational AI is still being written and rewritten. Conversations are more than analyzing chatbots and more than voice. It requires using AI to understand all conversations across the entire customer journey and analyzing data, voice, video, and emotions. I believe conversational AI to be the next big change agent in contact centers, and it will redefine the competitive landscape. This is Zoom’s opportunity for long-term success.