For those of you who follow me as contributor and editor of our popular Contact Center Solutions community, you know that gaining insights from industry experts is a passion. Heading into TMC’s (News - Alert) annual ITEXPO Miami event, it seemed like a perfect time to check in with a person I rely on and urge you to look up in Miami, Tim Passios, senior director of Solutions Marketing, Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert).
Once you read Tim’s views on what lies ahead in 2013 for the contact center solutions marketplace on such hot and critical topics as cloud, mobility, BYOD, social media and improving the customer experience, my suspicion is you will want to meet him in person. As he related in answer to a question about what he is looking forward to most in Miami he said, “Spending time at the Interactive Intelligence booth.”
What follows are some questions we posed to Tim that are sure to be hot topics in Miami.
TMC: What technology is driving businesses transformation today?
Passios: No doubt, the cloud. Today, businesses look for ways to reduce costs, streamline operations, increase flexibility, and create a tighter focus on core business objectives. The cloud makes all this possible.
TMC: How has the cloud changed the way Interactive Intelligence operates?
Passios: Years ago we revamped our cloud offering to address what our customers were telling us were still barriers to the hosted model – namely, security, reliability and flexibility. Since then we’ve continued to invest in our cloud offering. We currently have nine global data centers and a growing, dedicated communications-as-a-service team. Virtually all of our premises-based features are available via our CaaS model. Moving forward, we anticipate cloud-based orders to represent about 50 percent of our total orders. Clearly, the cloud is having a major impact on our business.
TMC: Have those barriers to cloud adoption been overcome?
Passios: Advances in technology and educating the market have convinced most companies that cloud vendors can offer a more secure environment than they can provide for themselves. While there are still markets, such as healthcare and financial services, which show caution about moving their communications to the cloud, their concerns are rapidly disappearing.
TMC: How has social media altered your relationships with your customers?
Passios: Perhaps it’s because we’re a business-to-business company, but we haven’t seen a major shift in how we manage our customers. While we certainly engage in social initiatives via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (News - Alert) to reach out to our customers, they aren’t aggressively using these channels just yet. Today, our customers still most commonly use the more traditional forms of communication, such as voice mail, e-mail, and increasingly Web chat.
TMC: “Customer Experience” is now a global C-level priority. In fact, 2013 is being called “The Year of Customer Experience.” What is Interactive Intelligence doing to improve your customers’ experiences?
Passios: Yes, 2013 appears to be the bellwether year for all things customer-focused. Having said that, our business was founded on improving customer service. The development of our software nearly two decades ago was based on a glaring lack in the market for a communications system that unified multiple modes of communication and easily integrated with data systems that housed vital customer information – the end result being faster and more effective customer service. So that’s the benefit to our customers’ customers. And we continue to raise the bar on that front with recent advancements that include real-time speech analytics that monitor conversations as they occur, mobile customer service tools to help companies provide service across any mobile device, and much more.
The other way we look at the customer experience is how we can make our software easier to install, manage and customize for our customers. This improves the experience we can give to them, but it also enables them to pass on the benefits to their customers.
TMC: BYOD is no longer a phenomenon but a growing and pervasive reality for enterprises. Will BYOD heavily influence what you are doing internally and externally for customers in 2013?
Passios: We’ve used our own communications software internally since we were founded back in 1994. Today, as a global, fast-moving technology company with a diverse mix of remote and work-at-home employees, giving access to our software via any device to help us all interact faster and more effectively is even more vital. We’ve taken this same approach with customers by ensuring our software runs on a multitude of end-point devices, including laptop computers, smart phones and tablets.
We have not moved beyond BYOD. Everyone is still finding ways to accommodate it and leverage its value. For instance, we now have the capability to make many apps accessible via multiple devices, but most companies are still working out security issues. The influx of Millennials into the workforce will demand a BYOD policy, however, which will accelerate advances in security.
TMC: Unified Communications (News - Alert) and VoIP are another area where the markets have rapidly matured and gone main stream. What significant issues still remain that businesses must contend with as they determine when and how to migrate to IP-based communications?
Passios: Ironically, given the term “unified,” companies will continue to struggle with fragmentation. That’s because most vendors still treat UC like their legacy platforms of the past – a loosely integrated mix of point solutions. Companies must coordinate their various business unit needs, then look under the hood of these so-called UC solutions and ensure that they encompass as much of their required features on a single platform as possible. It’s really important to keep in mind that network convergence (e.g. VoIP) is not the same as applications convergence.
TMC: Will 2013 finally bring widespread video communications adoption?
Passios: We see more and more market demand for video communications. However, that demand is not widespread. It’s focused on niche verticals, business units, and application needs within an organization. There are many reasons for this, but here are two: first, video hasn’t replaced the phone as the simplest, most effective way to communicate; second, the majority of people still aren’t comfortable being on video.
So there you have it. A taste of time, and a lot of food for thought. Baseball has its hot stove league this time of the year, and we have ITEXPO (News - Alert) for hot topics interactions sure to get the juices flowing. By all means drop by the Interactive Intelligence booth and meet Tim and engage him on his observations. Feel free to find me as well. The good news is that as a community, we have a lot of opportunities and challenges to discuss, and Miami is a wonderful place to get warm, get educated and get engaged in the industry conversations. Hope to see you there.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.