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inContact Introduces Voice as a Service
inContact has announced availability of the Fall 2015 release of its cloud contact center platform. The announcement came at the company's 11th annual user conference, ICUC, and first-ever industry analyst meeting, both taking place this week in its hometown of Salt Lake City.
The company has released a beta version of its Lync/ Skype for Business Gateway, which allows agents to see the Lync/Skype for Business status of users anywhere in the enterprise and initiate phone calls with a click. Agents need not be Lync/Skype for Business users or have the UC client installed. With the release, inContact also extends its support for multimedia channels, adds social media, and enhances its SMS capabilities.
Among all I heard in conversations with inContact executives at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce, which took place in mid September, and during in-depth presentations from the CTO and engineering team during this week's analyst meeting, I'm most intrigued by the company's new voice-as-a-service (VaaS) emphasis. inContact is not the first to use this term -- the earliest references go back more than 10 years -- but it is applying a unique meaning to it. inContact describes VaaS as an optimized voice quality solution for contact centers. And inContact believes that it is uniquely positioned to deliver VaaS.
Carrier-Grade, Voice-Optimized Global Network
inContact began as a facilities-based carrier reseller, and for several years spoke of winding down that business as it rebuilt itself as a contact center solutions provider. But along the way, the company realized the unique benefit it delivered to customers by being a one-stop shop for carrier services and cloud-based contact center.
Five years ago, inContact was telling financial analysts that telecom revenues were being managed into decline. Fast-forward to 2015, and inContact has reported telecom revenue for the second quarter as up 12% year over year, with 96% of that revenue generated from customers using its contact center software and software-related network connectivity.
In recognition of its infrastructure's strategic importance, over the past 18 months inContact has invested "millions" in rebuilding its network with the latest technology. Gone are the Nortel and Lucent carrier switches of the TDM era. In their stead stands state-of-the-art technology from Sonus Networks and Broadsoft.
Voice Quality Scoring and Reporting
inContact has gone one step further, too. It has partnered with Empirix, which provides end-to-end network performance visibility solutions, to monitor and report on the performance of the inContact network. When it comes to voice quality, the mean opinion score (MOS) is an industry standard metric, with a scale from 1 to 5. Callers are typically satisfied with the quality of calls that rate scores of 4.0 to 4.3, and very satisfied with scores above that. Only some callers are satisfied with scores in the 3.6 to 4.0 range, which is typical for most mobile phone calls.
In the last measured week, inContact reported the score on its network was 4.4. inContact will now be reporting the network MOS on its customer trust site. Over the next six months or so, the company plans to deliver MOS by network cluster (of which it has approximately 15) so companies can see how customer MOS is affected at a more granular level. By mid 2016, inContact said it will be delivering not only MOS personalized by customer but also the ability to monitor disconnects or abandoned calls for agent and call-level troubleshooting, using a dashboard like that shown below.
Why did inContact make the investment to deliver VaaS? As CEO Paul Jarman explained, most companies lack the expertise or tools to monitor and manage the voice experience with their customers. Lower voice quality is often the norm with newer technologies (including VoIP and wireless), and generally acceptable -- except during critical moments of truth with a customer.
While it is true that more and more customer interactions are moving to digital channels, voice is the overwhelming choice when customers have important issues they need to resolve. Voice may be declining in terms of the proportion of interactions, but its importance in driving revenue and customer satisfaction has never waned.