As always, Enterprise Connect is a great showcase for technology innovation, and this year was no exception. There was a lot to take in, and Enghouse Interactive had some exciting updates to share. I’ve got three takeaways to post about here, and to hear more, please let me know.
We announced this on Day 1, and was our biggest news of the show. More detail is here in the press release, along with a link for a free 30-day trial. Enghouse Interactive has long been a strategic partner with Microsoft, and TouchPoint Attendant provides critical functionality for the Skype for Business Cloud PBX (aka Skype for Business Online), which Microsoft does not provide themselves. When considering Microsoft SfB Online, or any cloud PBX, businesses need a reasonable degree of feature parity with premise-based phone systems, and TouchPoint Attendant closes the gap significantly and fills a critical “white space.”
In distributed organizations, where receptionists and other administrative workers are handling and routing myriad calls, an intuitive, user-friendly attendant console is paramount. Microsoft certainly knows how important that is, not just for everyday workflows, but for getting businesses to see the overall value proposition for SfB in the cloud. While the cloud has appeal for making technology easier to manage, its flexibility also allows for greater personalization. This is part of Microsoft’s holistic view of the cloud, where TouchPoint Attendant allows calls to be handled promptly and in a more professional manner. Considering that receptionists truly are on the front lines with customers and prospects, it should be clear why this announcement is so important to Microsoft and any customer considering SfB Online.
Planning decisions around UC and the contact center are usually done independently, but there are reasons to think about them together, especially where there’s a strong focus on customer-centricity. We’re seeing more of that lately, and one of our customers – HarborOne Bank – got to tell their story during a panel on Skype for Business in the contact center case studies, hosted by Sheila McGee-Smith. The audience heard from HarborOne’s CTO and SVP, Wayne Dunn, about how integrating Enghouse Interactive with Skype for Business in their contact center has made a dramatic impact on service level and efficiency.
Normally, when a customer calls a toll-free number, they reach a centralized call center, but when it comes to financial services, agents can only provide a limited amount of personalized support. With this integration, Wayne explained how on that same call, the agent could identify a branch-level person who knew this customer’s history, and bring that person on to the call to speak directly with the customer to handle the inquiry. This is a great example of how the contact center and UC, integrated effectively, can take customer service beyond the conventional approach of deploying these solutions separately.
It was hard to miss the buzz around Amazon Connect, but it was really just one example of the cloud’s emerging dominance. IP PBX vendors were conspicuously absent or silent, and while we know the realities around making all this technology actually work, there’s a concern that the cloud providers are making things look easier that they really are.
Things are moving quickly, but my caution to IT decision-makers – especially those who didn’t grow up in the analog world – is to pay close attention to the validity of the value propositions being touted. Connecting IP calls to the PSTN will be a requirement for years to come, and that typically means hybrid solutions, not all-cloud. Think about the feature set you’re going to need: call routing for complex situations, the depth of reporting, quality management tools, integrations that go beyond voice, etc.
These are just a few areas that established vendors have addressed over decades of experience, and that cloud providers are trying to replicate seemingly overnight. The deeper the integrations you require, the more carefully you need to be assessing what the true capabilities are for cloud-based solutions. Think about how you use integrated CRM data for routing and agent efficiency; how you want to manage your security; how much control you want over technology upgrades; how you want to use key analytics to drive performance and customer satisfaction. While cloud will eventually become the standard, today’s offerings lag behind premise-based or managed private-hosted solutions in many areas, so make sure you focus on the needs of the business rather than becoming too enamored with the latest technology.