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Contact Center Providers Rise to COVID-19’s Challenge


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As analyst Sheila McGee-Smith, with McGee-Smith Analytics, noted during this week’s Enterprise Connect Virtual session, “Market Report: The Cloud Contact Center Challenge — Transition, not Technology,” the “world has changed” — and contact center providers and managers along with it.
“We are part of essential services. Customers continue to need support, and we’re here to do it,” McGee-Smith declared.
During the session, McGee-Smith walked attendees through various offers contact center providers have put together to support contact centers during this crisis. “There are different alternatives for companies that are suddenly in a position where they have to send agents home to work,” she said.
The first is to “leave the premises contact center system behind and move to a cloud solution,” McGee-Smith said. That entails giving agents laptops, if they have Wi-Fi at home, a phone, etc., and setting them up quickly. That’s not to say contact centers need to flash-cut to the cloud, however. Work-from-home solutions have long been available for premises-based platforms, too, although they’re perhaps not as agile as a cloud-based solution, she said.
“Using the existing technology is also a possibility, so those of you still struggling with sending agents home, make sure to be in contact with your existing vendor because they likely have a solution that can help you even as you start planning toward perhaps a more agile solution for the future,” she explained.
From the session, here’s a quick sampling of how various contact center and customer experience providers have adapted their portfolios to today’s needs:
  • Cisco — Early on, Cisco began offering qualifying healthcare organizations help setting up Webex Contact Center, its contact center as a service (CCaaS), which would be free of charge for 90 days. To address the work-from-home push, it’s offering any business the ability to get Webex Contact Center up and running within five days, for up to 1,000 concurrent remote agents.
  • Salesforce — To address customer care requests, Salesforce announced packages catered to three demographics: employees and customers, industries, and small businesses. For employees and customers, for example, it has created a rapid response package including myTrailhead, Employee Community, Customer Community, Agent Console, and Premier Success, as well as a social community engagement module. “The infrastructure to support [work from home] is what Salesforce cares about,” she added.
  • Avaya — Millions of agents work on Avaya premises-based contact center platforms, including Call Center Elite, Oceana, and Aura. These agents, like any others, now need to work at home, too. Over the last few weeks, Avaya has helped its customers transition over 300,000 agents to remote work around the globe, McGee-Smith said.
  • Genesys — With a mix of customers on premises-based and cloud platforms, Genesys has developed rapid response offerings that address both needs — either enabling premised-based agents to begin working from home or providing cloud licenses free for 90 days, with turn up in 48 hours. Optionally, on-prem businesses can subscribe to a 90-day seasonal license to handle the COVID-19 demand, or transition existing licenses to 90-day work-from-home licenses. In addition, Genesys has removed overage premiums for bursting, McGee-Smith said.
  • Nice inContact — This CCaaS provider launched a CXone@home offer, with the promise of getting agents running remotely in 48 hours and free of charge for the software for 45 days — no commitment, no contract required, McGee-Smith said (see related No Jitter post).
  • Five9 — Among its COVID-related initiatives, Five9 is focusing on helping businesses be empathetic. The messaging is that it not only wants to be able to help companies send agents home, but to help supervisors work with them remotely, and enable solutions like video, in the short term, to help agents better serve customers during this unusual period, McGee-Smith said.
  • Talkdesk — One of its offerings, Talkdesk Boost, enables a company with a premises-based solution to add cloud capabilities on top of that solution to extend it, McGee-Smith said. This could either be implemented in the form of allowing agents at home to use the logic of the existing premises-based contact center but from a Talkdesk application desktop, or by adding digital capabilities on top of, say, a voice-only premises platform. Alternatively, Talkdesk offers Talkdesk Now, for a full CCaaS migration (see related No Jitter post).
Beyond these types of offerings, McGee-Smith also highlighted that help during this crisis isn’t just about CCaaS. As evidence of that, she pointed to Inference Solutions, a conversational AI provider. Inference is allowing companies a speedy way to add five intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) for handling frequently asked questions automatically, with deployment in two days. In addition, Inference has waived licensing fees for the IVAs through June 30.
“So, don’t just think about moving your agents home, but how to offload the frequent questions,” she said.
As this list shows, contact center managers have a lot of choices in how they weather the COVID-19 storm. There are no right answers, as McGee-Smith pointed out. How a business will proceed during this unusual time will depend on a variety of factors, she said. These include size of its contact center operations, number of agents, and depth of integration with back-end systems required.
For more insight and a look at a few more alternatives, catch McGee-Smith’s “Market Report” session on demand.