UC and CC Come Together in Unexpected Ways

Back in the days of call centers, private branch exchanges provided telephone connections for companies, and automatic call distributors connected customers with agents. Vendors like Avaya provided both solutions, and companies appreciated the ability to get their PBX and ACD from the same vendor. Typically, there was little or no integration between the two systems.

As much as the world changes, much stays the same. And as the average contact center manages 20 vendor relationships, telephony and contact routing are two key technologies that companies need for customer service. Getting them from the same vendor simplifies purchasing, billing, and most important, eliminates a lot of finger-pointing when there is a technical problem. This has always been the primary reason companies preferred to get their unified communications (UC) and contact center (CC) solutions from the same vendor, and that has not changed.

From a technology perspective, though, several things have changed that can be very impactful for the contact center and the larger company as a whole. Here are a couple of key things to consider:

  • The ability for agents to collaborate with experts: If agents need help from an expert, they typically try to call that person. If the expert is not available, the agent might need to give up on first contact resolution and promise the customer that she will get back as soon as she can get a hold of the person. With collaboration capabilities that are part of modern UC systems, this process improves greatly. And if that interface is integrated into the agent desktop, so much the better.
  • Shared reporting to better understand the full customer journey: Customers don't always start with the contact center, and they might need to get to an expert who is not in the contact center. Having shared data and reporting allows the company to understand the full customer journey into and beyond the contact center.

Here's the catch: Functionally, UC and CC are coming together, but they are doing so in a manner that does not require a single vendor to provide the solution. Most contact center platforms have a strong integration into Microsoft Teams, and for companies using Teams, switching to a UC vendor's separate messaging platform is likely a non-starter. UC vendors that provide integrated reporting that spans the contact center and the rest of the company are rare. Most UC vendors that sell contact center systems sell two separate product stacks with minimal shared reporting. The comfort of a single vendor's support when things go wrong and a tightly integrated technology stack are no longer tied so closely together.

When you think about bringing UC and CC together, you need to prioritize what you want and need. Is consolidation of vendors and the thought of having one number to call when something goes awry your primary concern? Or are there elements of the technical integration that matter most to you? If your company is committed to Teams or Slack, then that integration is probably more important than any integration a UC vendor might have with an alternate collaboration toolset.

As you do your research, you need to clearly identify your priorities and find the mix of vendor offerings and integrations that best meet the unique needs of your company.

Max Ball is a principal analyst at Forrester Research.