• Large-scale enterprises are rushing to equip their system with tools and technologies to become one-stop service centers.
  • The value inserted within the service centers is the lifetime driver and not just a single time.
  • The focus is also moving towards reducing the toggle for customer center agents to decrease the working hours and complete work through efficient technology.

Customer support is a significant battleground in enterprise technology as software vendors such as Microsoft and Salesforce race to arm organizations with the best tools to create a one-stop destination for all service needs. The focus is now being put on the call center, a backwater unit that has suffered from turnover rates and minimal corporate investment to date.

Organizations such as Salesforce, ServiceNow, Twilio, and Genesys Cloud Services see the call center as an important component of their efforts to transform and strengthen the customer base from a sea of faceless portfolios to several unique personas. It is considered a crucial factor that can improve customer service and create brand loyalty at a time when businesses are increasingly concerned about the churn rate.

In a bid to gain a foothold in the contact center industry, Zoom Video Communications Inc, an American communications technology company, was willing to shell over USD14.7 billion in stock to buy Five9 Inc, an industry-leading provider of cloud contact center solutions. However, shareholders of Five9 Inc decided to reject the deal as the price was too low. This is proof of the massive growth this sector is expected to see in the coming years.

Traditionally, a customer support system has been viewed as a major drain on one’s financial resources: Systems that are essential to address customer complaints and inquiries but give no returns. Many firms just wanted to choose a product, deploy it and forget about it. Because of this, the market was highly distributed, with just a few vendors such as Genesys, Cisco systems, and Avaya dominating the market.

But as more and more systems shift the system to the internet, this mindset has undergone a sea change. In the last few years, the focus has shifted to providing the best customer support service with the help of call center agents who also cut down on service time. This has meant that organizations are taking steps to consolidate different applications onto one desktop interface, thus alleviating the need for agents to toggle between different tabs to view customer data stored in various places

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to play a significant role in the future of call center software. Many companies, such as Genesys, Amazon Web Services, and Five9, are already investing in natural language processing, which is one of the types of AI focused on empowering machines to interpret and understand how humans communicate, including interpreting conversations and analyzing them for sentiment.

The ultimate aim is to use the technology of power to power software that can give insights about customers to agents to improve communications during calls.

A Crowded Market
The goal, though, is broader. A number of providers, including Salesforce, Microsoft, Zoom, Adobe, ServiceNow, are forecasting a future beyond the call center to one that focuses more on better customer experience regardless of how they interact with a business.

The ultimate aim is to make the data-sharing process between various programs easier, like those managing the website, customer relations, marketing, e-commerce, and social media. As for customers, this kind of system will ensure smooth interactions with businesses.  It may be possible that an individual talking to an agent on the phone may want to switch to an online chat and want the history of the previous discussion to be carried over.

With all the information stored in one system – what is referred to as a customer data platform, or CDP by vendors – will allow organizations to run analysis and glean deeper insights into their customers.

It may also be difficult to construct a system where all those programs work together. For the past 20 years, software-as-a-service providers have built guardrails around their products that do not allow data to be shared easily. This has helped customers adopt the applications quickly, with huge sales growth, but challenges remain for businesses that increasingly want those systems to talk to one another. It’s why vendors that provide the technology to link disparate programs, like Informatica Inc. and Workato Inc., are seeing a boom in business.

A Web of Partnerships
It’s unlikely that any single vendor will provide all the services that customers need in one offering. This is the reason why software companies are forming new alliances with vendors, forging new alliances with rival companies centered on integrating programs to capture the bulk of how customers use them.

Last year, Genesys, a leading provider of call center software, announced that it had raised USD 580 million in funding from a group of investors, including ServiceNow and Salesforce – all these companies, too, want to expand their reach in the call center industry. Salesforce has a platform for call center agents competing with Genesys’ systems. But it’s viewed as a viable option only for customers that are already robust Salesforce users or smaller companies that don’t have as much legacy software lingering around, according to Gartner’s Kraus.

It’s noteworthy that Salesforce has a strong partnership with AWS, which sells its call center product, Coonect, which is competing with Genesys.

Genesys, too, has launched partnerships with other companies, such as Adobe Systems Inc. and Google. Genesys, which makes contact center software, has an ongoing collaboration with Microsoft, which also sells a contact center application. Despite the investment from Salesforce, Genesys CEO Tony Bates sees no reason why the effort with Microsoft can’t expand, underscoring the industry’s complicated web of partnerships.

Experts view

“Instead of being a cost center, it’s a lifelong value driver,” said Vasili Triant, COO at UJET, a San Francisco-based call center cloud software provider. As a result, “this space has attracted a lot of attention. Businesses need to improve their experience. Because of that, a lot of money was invested in it. When the money is flowing there, people see a huge opportunity.

“A lot of people are realizing this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, unclaimed pot of gold out there,” said Gustavo Sapoznik, Chief Executive Officer of Asapp Inc., one of those startups focused on the area. “The big opportunity is to elevate human performance, to make the people working these jobs much better by building technology that allows them to.”

“It’s all having to come together because what companies want is a full system to help them see all of their interactions,” said Paul Jarman, Chief Executive Officer of Nice CXone, the cloud software product from Nice Ltd. And nobody “has figured it out because it’s all been siloed.”

“Certainly, we don’t see that as any kind of barrier to growing our business,” he said. “The world is a massive world of cooperation.”