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ShoreTel Broadens Cloud Contact Center Story

Being the contact center geek that I am, my news alerts focus on the latest and greatest customer experience items. On the morning of Aug. 18, I tweeted "@DonJoos CEO of @ShoreTel rang the @NASDAQ bell because of #ContactCenter!" and provided a link to the company's press release on the new ShoreTel Connect Contact Center solution. At least an hour had passed before I realized ShoreTel had issued another release, announcing the availability of ShoreTel Connect, the company's anticipated communications solution with onsite, cloud, and hybrid deployment models.

While the NASDAQ marketing event was likely driven by the broader ShoreTel Connect news, the contact center story is pretty exciting as well.

As Ed Wright, director of product management at ShoreTel, shared with me when we spoke, "If we took the Connect announcement out of the picture, and I just said that ShoreTel is moving from having a voice-only cloud contact center solution to offering multichannel on a single pane of glass, that alone would be a big announcement." Agreed.

The table, below, tells the story. Before this week's announcement, if a ShoreTel customer wanted a cloud contact center solution, it got it through ShoreTel Sky, a platform based on Callfinity technology ShoreTel gained through the 2012 acquisition of M5 Networks, which had earlier bought Callfinity. The Sky Contact Center only supports inbound voice routing. Now, as you can see in the table, all of the capabilities available with the ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center are available for onsite and cloud deployment.

portable

The change in feature set should help ShoreTel better meet the needs of larger companies wanting to move to the cloud. Today the average number of agents supported with ShoreTel's premises-based contact center is 50. In the cloud, with a much simpler solution, that number has been 20 to 25 agents, Wright noted.

The change in cloud functionality will alter how ShoreTel competes for contact center business in some areas, but not others, Wright said.

ShoreTel still anticipates competing against Avaya and Cisco for premises deployments, as always. But the new opportunity comes in the cloud, he said, where companies like 8x8 and RingCentral have been the "liveliest" UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) competitors and, as described on No Jitter, have been working hard in 2015 to improve their contact center offerings. Indeed, ShoreTel Connect Contact Center will certainly compete more effectively with these UCaaS competitors and their upgraded contact center solutions.

ShoreTel sees the primary target for ShoreTel Connect Contact Center as companies that are interested in UCaaS and in need of a powerful contact center, Wright emphasized. But he also said he believes it is conceivable that a 30-, 40-, or 50-agent contact center with an old but serviceable PBX will look to ShoreTel as it considers cloud alternatives. Today such a prospect might look at inContact or Five9, but the advantage that ShoreTel can offer is cloud contact center today and seamless integration to UCaaS when the company is ready.

With ShoreTel, hybrid deployment of contact center remains more of a future than a delivered capability. Today, for example, a Connect Onsite customer with 40 agents is not able to add five email agents via Connect Cloud. In ShoreTel Connect "1.0," ShoreTel CTO Pankaj Malhotra explained, a customer contact center either has to be completely premises-based or in the cloud.

The design philosophy for future releases is to make applications themselves more hybrid, but ShoreTel has not yet released a specific roadmap or timeline.

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