Chris Vitek
Chris Vitek manages the Contact Center Practice within Cognizant's Conversational AI Venture and he is also a member of the...
Read Full Bio >>

Chris Vitek | August 23, 2016 |


Communications-as-a-Feature: How Salesforce Will Replace Your ACD

Communications-as-a-Feature: How Salesforce Will Replace Your ACD With WebRTC-based communications tools like Live Agent for real-time chat, Salesforce is knocking on contact center doors.

With WebRTC-based communications tools like Live Agent for real-time chat, Salesforce is knocking on contact center doors.

Whether your organization uses WebRTC or not, software developers are clearly beginning to seize the opportunity afforded by including communications tools in their interfaces -- a la "communications as a feature." Look no further than CRM giant to see the potential of this business model.

Salesforce has introduced three solutions that follow the communications-as-a-feature theme -- Live Agent for real-time chat, Omni-Channel for skills-based routing, and SOS video chat and screen sharing. This is the first in a series of articles that will outline the path that Salesforce is blazing.

In short, if you thought you would always have automatic call distribution (ACD) from Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, Interactive Intelligence, or Unify in your contact center, then think again -- and start following Salesforce, because it is going to unplug a lot of these systems. At a minimum, the availability of these solutions from Salesforce will cause traditional contact center vendors to lose market share.

For contact center operators, this may be a rapid transition because Salesforce has been very aggressive. It is including Live Agent and Omni-Channel in most contracts. It positions these offerings as "free," with the cost amounting to little more than rounding error in the overall deals.

For now, I will focus on Live Agent and leave the Omni-Channel and SOS (comparable to Amazon MayDay in name and function, and with extensive use of WebRTC) for future posts. Do note, however, that if an organization has provisioned these capabilities, entitled users get access to Omni-Channel and SOS content and sessions by logging in to Live Agent (in other words, it works like a complete solution for chat, audio, video, and screen sharing). Further, SOS is only available in mobile interfaces at this time. Salesforce has said browser support will be available in late 2017.

A Look at Live Agent
Live Agent is a well-integrated text chat-based solution for websites. Here is a summary of what contact centers can do with Live Agent:

  • Offer text chat as a static or dynamic element on a Web page, depending on logical conditions. When no agents are logged in or available, for example, the contact center can dynamically turn this feature off by removing it from the customer's Web interface
  • Use performance reporting tools to manage agent and queue productivity; includes average speed of answer, average handle time, wrap-up, and abandonment
  • Provision a record button in the customer's interface, if so desired
  • Import a chat session into Salesforce case or customer interfaces using pre-built APIs
  • Implement logical masking of fields to support security rules (PCI and HIPAA). Syntax and page coordinates can be part of the logic
  • Provide supervisor monitoring, assist, and whisper functions. Supervisors have visibility into every chat engagement for agents they oversee, and can intervene at will
  • Provide blended queues so agents can handle chats and ACD calls in sequence; requires some integration between the telephony system and Salesforce to prevent ACD and chat engagement calls arriving at the same time. ACD manufacturers are not making this easy
  • Allow agents to reach experts who may not have full Salesforce license entitlement using Chatter, Salesforce's enterprise social and workflow messaging platform. This is surfaced with a separate window, and not necessarily integrated into the Live Agent transcript
  • Use automatic screen populations triggered by chat engagements for any Salesforce interface
  • Implement pre-chat pages for input of customer information like account numbers or authentication values. Security-minded buyers will find that this type of asymmetrical authentication is much harder for hackers to crack
  • Optionally, integrate Social Queue for real-time alerting and response to social posts on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.
  • Enable Boolean searches on chat content via an integration with Salesforce Knowledge. This is a powerful tool for assisting agents at the moment of need
  • Establish pre-set responses for automatic or manual "quick" texts
  • Provide context for and insight into the customer's journey by sending agents the information about the pages a customer viewed prior to initiating a chat
  • Better prepare agents to address customer needs via a type-ahead feature that allows them to see what a customer is typing before hitting "Enter"
  • Allow agents to block abusive customers
  • Give administrators the ability to configure the number of concurrent chats each agent can handle
  • Direct customers to post-chat pages for Web-based information or surveys. Survey results can feed into Salesforce

These features and functions are just the high-level elements. Contact centers can invoke myriad other utilities and features.

A word of caution: Neither Avaya nor Genesys make it easy to automate the management of state (available, unavailable, aux-work, etc.) at the agent desktop, particularly at scale. This means that blended queues that support interleaved engagement/call assignment are problematic. In other words, in the absence of CTI-based state management, agents will need to be scheduled for either Live Agent interactions or ACD (voice) interactions.

Land and Expand
You can find many stand-alone contact center chat solutions today, but Live Agent is one of the better ones. A skilled Salesforce developer should be able to assemble a prototype within hours, and many Salesforce customers have put this "free" communications feature into production.

Once Live Agent is in use, Omni-Channel and SOS are much simpler to implement. This is a classic "land and expand" play that allows contact center operators to begin the process of migrating the control of real-time media away from the PSTN and toward a WebRTC-based text, audio, and video automatic engagement distribution, or AED, system.

Communications-as-a-feature is the next logical step for many software manufactures. We in the communications business have created barriers to truly integrated information and communications systems with complex CTI solutions for the last 25 years. Clever programmers will use WebRTC to make these barriers irrelevant.


August 29, 2018

Moving your voice services to the cloud introduces new challenges for 9-1-1 services. These include the need to serve multiple locations, and the increased mobility that comes with having a phone t

August 8, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a reality for your contact center. But to turn the promise of AI into practical reality, there are a couple of prerequisites: Moving to the cloud and integr

June 20, 2018

Your enterprise may have adopted SIP Trunks, but are you up to date on how the latest technology is driving evolution in approaches?

In this webinar, youll learn how the new generation of SI

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.