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8x8 Modernizes Receptionist Tools With Frontdesk

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A receptionist working at desk
Image: yana_vinnikova - stock.adobe.com
This week at Enterprise Connect, 8x8 announced a new receptionist dashboard called Frontdesk. This product is 8x8’s first proof point of its XCaaS offering that combines UCaaS and CCaaS on a single, cloud-native backend. This trend is hot now, and almost every unified communications (UC) and contact center (CC) vendor is trying to evolve its portfolio to bring a unified solution to the market.
 
Although 8x8 initially jumped into the contact center space with the 2015 acquisition of DXI, its current CCaaS offering, like its UCaaS, is built from the ground up on its CPaaS backend, enabling it to quickly compose unique experiences. The standard UC application or CC agent dashboard works for the bulk of workers, but a large percentage of users, such as a receptionist, do have unique requirements.
 
No UC or CC vendor today would disagree on the premise that the two domains are coming together. What has been difficult to answer is what the benefits are other than purchase order simplicity. I believe Frontdesk is an excellent example of what can be built on a unified backend, which validates 8x8s go-to-market shift with XCaaS.
 
Legacy operator consoles start with a traditional UC frontend but then requires add-on or separate applications, sometimes from multiple vendors. In this case, the receptionist would become the integration point for the data that flows between the apps for the front-end workflow. The receptionist sits at the intersection point of customers and employees, and they often will start a conversation with one and then deflect the call or other channel to the other. If the tools are not integrated, this can cause delays in call handling and customer frustration. Businesses are now competing on customer experience, and Frontdesk can remove much of the human latency in the receptionist process.
 
The Frontdesk app in action
 
An interesting aspect of this product is that it was designed for receptionists by receptionists. In a pre-briefing, 8x8 explained that it consulted customer receptionists and IT teams to develop the product. 8x8 did this to build a user interface that could address the key activities of receptionists and enable them to facilitate and streamline their jobs, so they can provide a better and more personalized experience to customers. Receptionists can complete about 95% of their key tasks with Frontdesk, many with a single click, 8x8 claimed.
 
Another point worth highlighting is the call-handling features coming in a future release. The ability to stack calls, move calls, make annotations to specific contacts, read from scripts, and access anyone in the organization will improve receptionist efficiency or, as 8x8 described, turn them into productivity ninjas. Frontdesk deployment is easy and requires no additional hardware, since it runs in the 8x8 Work application with a wide-screen view. Receptionists can do their jobs in the office or at home, which is ideal for a world where hybrid working has become the norm.
 
It’s important to note that one of the pillars of XCaaS is personalized experiences. 8x8 provides custom filters, so users can tailor the look and feel of Frontdesk, their contact lists, and annotate personal information for each contact. I was glad to see 8x8 call this out, as I believe the era of composable communications has arrived. Composability should lead to greater customization, so we can all work the way we want. For more information on composability, check out my EC21 session on this topic.
 
During the pre-briefing, 8x8 provided a list of customers that were part of the beta program and are currently using it. They include UK recruiting company Bayside Group, legal service provider Wansbroughs, UK IT service provider Charterhouse, and U.S. document filing and retrieval service provider Parasec.
 
Now that Frontdesk is out, this begs the question: What will the next XCaaS application be? On the analyst call, 8x8 provided some guidance and specifically called out salespeople, executive assistants, and field sales professionals. The commonality in these jobs is that they handle internal and external communication and have to be the bridge between them, similar to the receptionist role. 8x8 did not provide timing for these. but if it’s back and is truly cloud-native, it should be able to build these relatively quickly.
 
As an analyst, I’ve been bombarded with every UC and CC vendor pushing their integration story. I liked the 8x8 Frontdesk announcement as it gave a tangible proof point for its version of its unified backend, XCaaS. The company also provided some customer examples at launch and provided an interesting roadmap.

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