Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Genesys Q&A on UC Trends

February 23, 2010

Genesys, an Alcatel-Lucent company has long been a leading provider of value-rich platform-independent multichannel customer contact products including unified communications (UC). ContactCenterSolutions recently interviewed Jim Krauetler, senior marketing manager, unified communications, Genesys, to get his take on UC trends.

ContactCenterSolutions: What are the key rationales for deploying UC in contact centers, has this changed over the past year and is it changing now? Has the economy shaped the demand and rationales for UC tools? If so, explain.

JK: UC is playing a significant role in enabling contact centers to extend beyond their traditional walls and include back office and branch workers. The poor economy has played an important role as companies are under pressure to show better productivity, in addition to having fewer openings for headcount. The economy has spurred enterprises to look for better ways to use the people they have.

Many companies are looking for ways to better serve the customers they already have – to keep their customers from moving to a competitor. With some UC technologies, companies can make sure their high-value customers speak to the right person, to their unique health care provider, their personal banker, broker, account executive, claims adjuster, and so on. In this way, UC has helped some forward-looking enterprise protect vital, existing revenue streams needed to sustain profitability during the recent economic downturn.

I anticipate these same companies will use the personalized service capabilities they’ve developed to differentiate themselves from the competition going forward. Certain ad campaigns already are talking about the ability to speak to a live person at any time, for example.

ContactCenterSolutions: Are organizations and contact centers holding back on UC investments and if so, why? What steps do they have to take so that they can green-light acquiring these solutions?

JK: All new investments are undergoing great scrutiny and must show a clear business case to move forward in today's environment. UC is no different. For UC to show an ROI in customer service, it must be tightly integrated to existing contact center applications, databases, infrastructure and processes. This is necessary to preserve the best practices each enterprise has developed over time to most effectively and efficiently handle each interaction, to protect customer’s personal information and data, and to measure employee productivity through reporting.

Simply deploying UC systems in both the contact center and enterprise for the purpose of increased collaboration does not amount to an integration that accomplishes these customer service must-haves. Some vendors, like Genesys, offer these integrated approaches. As UC becomes more ubiquitous in the enterprise, contact center technology vendors will increasingly see the opportunity to develop integrated solutions, causing sustainable and applicable contact center focused UC solutions to proliferate. Today, we are in a period where enterprises looking to incorporate UC into their contact centers must choose very carefully in order to secure a solution that provides the increased collaboration, personalized service, and productivity they’ve been promised. One that also preserves the security, efficiency, and accountability their current contact center operations have been carefully engineered to deliver.

In short, top enterprises are only deploying UC solutions that preserve the integrity, security, efficiency, and accountability of customer service operations, and these solutions are few and far between.

ContactCenterSolutions: What changes if any have there been in UC technology and delivery methods and what are the drivers?

JK: Knowledge workers are expensive and UC must have ways to selectively use back office personnel before it will become a widely accepted technology. In customer service, UC is just now able to incorporate business process features, and that is leading to greater acceptance.

Security and regulatory compliance also are huge barriers to adoption of current UC systems into contact center operations. For example, if an agent in financial services has a customer on the line, conferences in a back office expert, and that expert – as with many UC systems – is allowed to add someone to that call, transfer it to another party of their own accord, or even IM vital personal data to another party, that customer security is gravely compromised. In this case, the enterprise’s regulatory compliance has failed. Also, for example, think about the world of health care, where HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] compliance mandates the careful protection of every patient’s information.

Without integration with existing contact center systems and databases, which are providing the interaction reporting needed to ensure security and regulatory compliance, UC presents a significant risk. Until recently, enterprises did not consider this risk very well. These challenges have made themselves known as UC has made its way – by marketing more than adoption – into the customer service realm. Only integrated solutions that preserve existing reporting, routing, and security best practices can deliver the collaboration and productivity benefits of UC without becoming a liability in the process.

ContactCenterSolutions: There has been reluctance by employees and departments outside of contact centers to be connected to them via presence tools in UC. Is this breaking down or is this still an issue? What will happen when the economy bounces back? What are the best practices to obtain and keep buy-in? How do you best manage scheduling and performance across multiple departments? Are there the workforce management tools for this?

JK: For UC to be successful in customer service, employees will require the capability to choose how to set rules on how many calls or inquiries they take, under which circumstances, and what types of customers. Employees will accept the technology if it is easy to incorporate into their regular work lives, but not if it is overly disruptive. In many cases, this will mean that employees outside the contact center must be able to choose whether to accept an interaction. Yet, this also poses a challenge to efficiency. How can you ensure that a customer is not left on hold too long while the correct, available and willing back office worker is identified?

Genesys has developed what we believe are crucial features to address these challenges, which are a bit too detailed to explain succinctly here, but are explained in the whitepaper, “Realizing the Promise of Presence in the Contact Center: Practical Considerations for Presence Management and Expert Integration via Unified Communications,” and our UC brochure, both available for download at

ContactCenterSolutions: More communications are going mobile and to text while social media is becoming a channel in its own right. Discuss how UC is responding including any challenges to these new outreach methods.

JK: UC is just another form of mobility. It is a small, lightweight application that can run anywhere. In that sense, it is perfect for deployment on smart phones and other devices. In addition, it supports collaboration, which is right in line with social media for customer service. Using UC, a number of people can collaboratively solve a problem, and they can be a mix of traditional customer service employees or experts from around the company.

ContactCenterSolutions: What is new with your UC solutions to meet these needs and challenges?

JK: Genesys has added integration with virtually every major UC application. These are simple and easy-to-use integrations that enable Genesys solutions to be used in any environment, even those where multiple UC applications might be used. Genesys solutions also allow UC to be virtually deployed, which helps enable back offices, branches and affiliated partners, such as suppliers, to be brought into the same conversation in a highly structured, secured and accountable way.

In addition, Genesys has integrated UC with traditional CRM systems, enabling companies to track and route inquiries more efficiently and without deploying new customer service applications to do so. We have integrated rules-based capabilities that help companies deploy UC in a more intelligent way, to control when calls are sent to certain people, how that pool of back office resources is managed, and to allow back office resource to accept or decline interaction in real-time. And while providing them with the necessary background information to do so.

Finally, our Genesys UC solution for the contact center maintains the same reporting capabilities provided for interaction in the contact center, even as they extend outside the contact center into branch offices, back office departments, and mobile users.

Brendan B. Read is ContactCenterSolutions’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard