Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Q&A With BroadSoft on Unified Communications

January 07, 2011

Unified communications (UC) is becoming an invaluable tool in both contact centers and general enterprises for its ability to tie subject matter experts and other knowledge workers to contact center agents, shorten business processes by having everyone knowing who is available and when, and bolster collaboration at lower costs. Questions remain though about UC ROI and on getting non-contact center workers to be willingly available via presence.

BroadSoft supplies hosted UC services. To obtain insights on UC trends and issues, ContactCenterSolutions recently interviewed Leslie Ferry, vice president of marketing for BroadSoft.

ContactCenterSolutions: Is UC a contact center tool or is it more of a general business/enterprise solution?

LF: From our perspective, UC is consistently moving toward an enterprise solution fully integrated with voice capabilities currently utilized in the contact center. This is being driven by a number of factors among them: hosted UC solutions for the contact center becoming available and affordable for even small organizations. Also, organizations are hyperconscious of customer satisfaction given brand damage customer can wreak via online sites and social networks the need for creating a consistent customer experience across all touchpoints. Current UC tools can be useful for organizations to gain awareness of UC benefits for the contact center, but ultimately the most powerful value proposition will be realized through a full-featured enterprise solution that is scalable, affordable and flexible.

As an evolving enterprise solution, we are seeing the integration of UC options into the call center such as chat and video calling in order to further strengthen customer satisfaction and the customer experience.

ContactCenterSolutions: How important is UC in contact centers when in most instances agents (employer-premises or home-based) are tethered to their seats and have long been receiving and engaging in integrated multichannel communications?

LF: We view agent exposure to integrated multichannel communications as a plus for the potential of UC, given that these individuals have established a level of comfort and expertise with these services. Many of these solutions to date, however, have been premise-based, so the shift to hosted UC solutions can deliver more dramatic cost savings, new service options for organizations that could not previously afford or support UC services, and better business continuity in the event of downtime.

What has in some cases been lacking within the call center is full and more seamless integration of voice with UC services such as unified messaging, conferencing, CRM and other business applications, ACD and video. Through this integration – as well as the mobility enabled by a hosted solution – users can easily transition between different environments (home, office, remote), while organizations can ensure a more consistent customer experience and more effectively management of customer-agent interactions.

ContactCenterSolutions: One of the benefits of UC is presence: the ability to tie in subject matter experts and other informal agents to the contact centers. Yet how much take-up has there been of this feature -- or will there be -- and what are the drivers? What are the benefits, challenges and best practices of this presence/UC approach?

LF: Presence integration with telephony status is one of the most widely requested services when considering new communication options. This is only amplified and needed when an agent is on a call with a customer and needs an answer fast. End users are always connected and they now expect to have immediate access to everyone in an organization, and presence is just one way to deliver on this desire.

An example here is videoconferencing, whereby an agent can add another subject matter expert to a customer call. Immediate access to everyone throughout an organization drives very high customer satisfaction, which is the ultimate objective for a call center.

ContactCenterSolutions: The argument has been made that in this era of cheap consumer-morphed-to-business communications applications such as Skype and social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter et al, is UC relevant. Please discuss UC vs. these tools in contact center use.

LF: Certainly Skype-driven call center solutions, Twitter and other emerging applications offer some communications and collaboration capabilities that will appeal for some businesses. Yet customers should recognize they differ from UC in some key areas, including the robustness of ACD, scalability of UC solutions and reporting and monitoring capabilities available via UC. In addition to these differences, UC can be better suited to enable CRM integration with industry-leading CRM applications; unified messaging that is more tightly and fully integrated with the contact center application.

An additional key point of distinction is that while social network-enabled interaction can provide customers with general information, to truly understand an issue with their customers requires contacting the company directly. For this reason, call centers need to ensure they are delivering on the immediate desire for information, and UC enables immediate access to answers. The traditional call/contact center capabilities such as a robust ACD to call handling reporting are only further enhanced with UC services.  By integrating traditional call center capabilities with UC communication options, customers are able to quickly get to their desired answers.

ContactCenterSolutions: What contact center-aimed UC solutions have BroadSoft devised or will be rolling out to meet which need, how do they accomplish this and what is the ROI?

LF: We have developed the BroadWorks ACD and call center application that delivers an integrated, flexible ACD solution for businesses of every size, supporting everything from individual users and workgroups, to small businesses and to formal, large-scale contact centers. The size and needs of each enterprise customer will determine which services and features it will utilize, but the key UC features of the BroadWorks solution include:

Agent mobility (agents receive calls from anywhere anytime and have call states tracked and reporting measurements captured);

Unified messaging fully integrated with the call center application;

Enabling users to retrieve voice messages via the voice portal or e-mailed messages;

Conferencing fully integrated with the call center application;

CRM integration as well as a fully video-enabled application service that includes options to load video greetings and announcements for all services

In addition, through its BroadWorks Agent and Supervisor desktop client, BroadSoft enables users in high volume call centers to quickly and efficiently manage calls and their ability to receive calls.

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

Edited by Tammy Wolf