Cloud Contact Center: Watching the Shift

by Sandra Gustavsen

Acceptance and adoption of hosted/cloud solutions for business telephony and unified communications is well underway. This includes a shift toward cloud contact center services as businesses recognize the benefits in subscribing to a contact center solution “as-a-service” rather than purchasing and installing hardware and software on-site. There are obvious budgetary advantages to selecting a cloud solution – reduced capital expenses, fewer IT personnel and predictable per-user monthly fees, to name a few. But, there are also strategic advantages in terms of scale, consistency across a network and the ease of adding future innovations that are particularly appealing to organizations with multiple, geographically-dispersed offices and remotely-located employees such as contact center agents and supervisors.

Data from a number of market research firms confirms that cloud-based contact center solutions are increasingly becoming the preferred deployment model. A 2015 Call Center IQ research study concludes that cloud technology is the “new normal” for contact centers with some 52% of surveyed organizations already actively investing in cloud contact centers, and 76% expected to be investing by the end of 2016. CCIQ adds that organizational discussions about cloud contact center have shifted from “if” cloud is the right strategy to “how” best to integrate cloud solutions and which parts of the business will benefit the most from a transition to the cloud.

These statistics line up with numerous analyst forecasts tracking trends in the cloud contact center market. IDC forecasts U.S. spending on hosted contact center services to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.7% to reach $2.0 billion in 2019. Research and Markets estimates the worldwide cloud-based contact center market will grow from $4.15 billion in 2014 to $10.9 billion by 2019, a compound annual growth rate of 21.3%.

New in 2015

A large number of cloud unified communications (UC) providers – including those that sell a portfolio of cloud and premises-based solutions as well as cloud-only providers – are already on board and offering business customers a cloud contact center alternative. Below are some of the new services that entered the market in 2015.

8×8 has been rolling out a steady stream of new services, including a number of new contact center related solutions in 2015. Recent 8×8 enhancements are aimed at improving the customer experience such as the integration of 8×8’s telephony/UC service and its contact center service for shared presence status information across both solutions (Expert Connect) and new global reach technology for the contact center that reduces the audio latency when connecting calls across long distances and geographically-dispersed agents (VCC Global). 8×8 is also expanding its portfolio through acquisitions, recently purchasing DXI, a UK-based contact center business that specializes in outbound contact center technology and Quality Software Corporation (QSC) that offers call recording, screen capture, live monitoring, speech analytics and other quality management solutions.

Avaya is addressing the hybrid cloud opportunity with new partnerships and services aimed at businesses transitioning toward a public cloud delivery model. Among these partnerships is a new service called Customer Engagement OnAvaya™ Powered by Google Cloud Platform. With this collaboration, Avaya’s IP Office Contact Center technology is now offered as-a-service for a monthly subscription fee through Google Cloud. The solution, which supports from 10-250 agents and up to 50 supervisors, is co-branded and will be sold to small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and mid-market companies through certified Avaya and Google business partners. Customer Engagement OnAvaya is generally available as of April 27, 2015 in the U.S., with expansion to other countries expected later. See the related write-up Avaya and Google Partner to Offer Cloud Contact Center for SMBs for more detail.

Interactive Intelligence continues to expand its PureCloud suite of unified communications and contact center applications running on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The latest offering, PureCloud Engage, is a cloud service for contact centers that enables multichannel routing, speech-enabled interactive voice response, outbound campaign management, multichannel recording and quality management, reporting, customer relationship management integration and graphical scripting. The service initially targets smaller contact centers with up to 100 agents, but support for 1,000 agents is expected next year and up to 10,000 agents in the future. Some advanced capabilities are on the roadmap such as allowing customers to browse agent personality profiles, and behavioral analytics that will match customers and agents according to personality profiles. PureCloud Engage is available in North America, Australia and New Zealand as of June 30, 2015, with Europe and Japan set to follow.

NEC’s new UNIVERGE Cloud Service Contact Center utilizes partner technology to deliver a suite of cloud services that includes inbound multi-channel communications, outbound dialing, intelligent routing and queuing, self-service via Interactive Voice Response (IVR), multimedia recording, quality monitoring, real-time and historical reporting and more. The subscription-based contact center service can be deployed as a public cloud offering (hosted in an NEC data center) or as a privately managed service (hosted in an organization’s own data center). It is closely integrated with NEC’s unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) cloud-based solution, but can also function with an on-site system such as NEC’s UNIVERGE 3C or with the NEC SV9000 communications server or even an IP-PBX system from another vendor via SIP trunking. The cloud solution is available as of April 9, 2015 in the United States (other regions will follow). See the write-up NEC Introduces Contact Center in the Cloud for more detail.

RingCentral and inContact are partnering to offer RingCentral Contact Center, powered by inContact. The subscription-based contact center service enables efficient handling of customer communications, whether these are telephone, email, text or web chat interactions, along with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) capabilities and Web-based reporting tools for measuring, monitoring and managing performance. Rather than simply reselling the inContact service, RingCentral has integrated the contact center functionality with its RingCentral Office hosted business communication service. The tight integration enables workers functioning as contact center agents to use RingCentral endpoints (desk phone, mobile app or softphone) as their voice interface and allows them to view and share presence status information with all other connected users. RingCentral Contact Center, powered by inContact, is available as of May 2015 in the U.S. and Canada. See the related write-up RingCentral and inContact Partner for Cloud Contact Center for more detail.

ShoreTel Connect Contact Center is a redesign of ShoreTel’s earlier multi-channel contact center solution, with some new capabilities and, perhaps most importantly, with deployment either on-site or in the cloud (ShoreTel’s earlier cloud call center offer was an informal, inbound, voice-only offer). Notable features of Connect Contact Center include a new agent Web experience, an integrated chat capability and remote connectivity without the need for a third party VPN; the solution supports up to 1,000 concurrent agents. ShoreTel partners are now officially quoting Connect Contact Center, along with the company’s other Connect solutions. A hybrid networking capability that enables the networking of cloud and premises deployments (Connect HYBRID Sites) is expected later this year. See the related write-up “ShoreTel Addresses the Hybrid Cloud with New Connect Platform” for more detail.