Bridging Contact Centers and Unified Communications
I have to admit, I’m a bit of an isolationist. More than a decade of working in the contact center industry has made an impact on my thinking. I scoff at those enterprise voice people for their”simple” PBX deployments and their”back-office problems.” It’s customer care that drives the business, right? Let’s talk about service level and skills-based routing, not”moves, adds and changes.” Contact center people are different, and we demand our own specialized phones and our own specialized software! Yes, it may be more expensive to purchase and deploy our ACD systems but our communications are so much more important to the business.The contact center culture of isolation runs so deep that there is an entire product category designed to cross that divide between contact center systems and the rest of the IT world (and in some cases the divide between our different components of the contact center itself!) This specialized software is called CTI middleware, and it’s extremely valuable because without it the ACDs and IVRs that are vital to contact centers won’t communicate with any other systems. Why not? Because ACDs and IVRs were not designed with any other systems in mind.Fortunately for enterprises, and unfortunately for the isolationists, change is coming to the contact center.It started at the beginning of the decade with the introduction of IP telephony. The initial IP telephony value proposition revolved almost entirely around the convergence of voice and data and the transition from site-based telephony to enterprise-wide telephony systems. As the decade draws to a close, there is a new wave of change–“œUnified Communications.” An appropriate label I’d say since it’s about even more convergence this time around and everyone’s included, even the contact center. Unified Communications will first bridge, and then merge the contact center and the rest of the enterprise communications applications and infrastructure.Those of us in the contact center like to take credit for the fact that many pillars of Unified Communications are derived from our little island. The Unified Communications evangelists speak of this new capability called”presence” that our contact center systems have had for decades. The new Unified Communications approach is holistic in terms of considering all channels instead of isolated solutions for voice, video, and messaging. Our contact center industry adopted a multichannel approach to communications many years ago. Unified Communications deployments involve integration between communications infrastructure and business applications; yes, we contact center people invented communications enabled business process. The overlap between Unified Communications and contact center may be a source of pride for the contact center community but it also signals the decline in differentiation between the contact center communications applications and the rest of the enterprise. It will bring an end to contact center isolationism.I believe the days are numbered for the isolationists, and the contact center community will need to start thinking differently. Whether you describe it as the contact center expanding into the enterprise or vice versa the resulting picture is the same: a complete Unified Communications system will serve the needs for all communications in and out of the enterprise, including contact center.by Tod Famous, product line manager, enterprise and hosted contact center.