Contact Center vs Unified Communications and Collaboration: Integration or Cohabitation

It is an old question: Does the contact center integrate or co-habitate with unified communications and collaboration? Voice is re-inventing itself at a fast pace through digital and cloud transformation, and now requires webRTC, video collaboration and unified communications into all customer journeys inside and outside the contact center. The fast adoption of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is expected to greatly influence the contact center business requirements in the cloud and on-premises.

The enterprise communication and contact center markets have always been tied together at the business, technical and operational level. They have matured together through a succession of technology renewals and incremental business requirements.

  • 1980s: Digital hardware switches and built-in ACDs support scalable and reliable call distribution.
  • 1990s: Computer telephony integration (CTI) supports agent productivity (screen-pop), intelligent call routing, reporting, workforce and quality management through integrated software architectures
  • 2000s: VoIP and IP-PBXs support large virtual contact centers, advanced voice applications and managed services.
  • 2000s: Open standard SIP and MPLS networks transform the voice infrastructures and ecosystems. Contact centers are deployed with soft switches and softphones.
  • 2000s: Unified communications disrupts the enterprise telephony market and fosters customer collaboration use cases supported by internet standards (webRTC, Skype, etc.) such as web voice and video calling, social and presence-based contact routing.
  • 2010s: Enterprise cloud communication emerges based on shared infrastructures, data centers and telco networks. Unified communication as a service (UCaaS) and contact center as a service (CCaaS) vendors flourish.

Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) and contact centers share many common technology building blocks but differentiate deeply in terms of requirements and purchasing criteria.

  • UCC selection is most often made by IT organizations based on commoditized offers. While delivering productivity benefits to the whole enterprise, the decision is driven by TCO, SLA, sustainability and vendor relationship.
  • Contact center selection is most often made, or largely influenced, by business organizations (service or sales) based on customized offers. While delivering high-value customer experience and efficiency benefits to a subset of the enterprise. The decision is driven by business requirements, time to market and ROI.

Customers have to balance two opposing strategies.

  • Best-of-suite: sourcing all unified communications and collaboration solutions and contact center solutions from the same one-stop-shop vendor, simplifying the purchasing process and the integration effort, but possibly at the expense of limiting the flexibility of choosing the solution that meets best both IT and business requirements in each domain.
  • Best-of-breed: sourcing separately the UCC and contact center solutions that meet best both IT and business requirements, but possibly at the expense of a more complex purchasing process. Solutions can simply cohabitate or integrate depending on requirements.

There is obviously no single criteria to select the best approach, and the facts show that the market is split between the best-of-suite and best-of-breed. In 2016, Genesys made a contact center market survey with Vennli that showed the following:

  • PBX and third-party application integration is a choice factor of 78% of customers
  • One-stop-shop for contact center  plus unified communications/PBX is a choice factor for 68% of customers

Technology Matters for UCC and Contact Center

The success of SIP-based architectures has reduced dramatically the justification for single-vendor PBX plus contact center platforms. Proprietary ACD/CTI architectures exhibit much higher complexity, TCO and inferior omnichannel capabilities, compared to integrated SIP platforms. As a matter of fact, today when Genesys deploys a new project in the cloud or on-premises, it is almost always based on SIP, without using a third-party PBX in the contact center. Moreover, a majority of legacy customers using CTI architectures a decade ago have migrated to SIP.

The standalone SIP contact center model is relevant in formal contact center environments, on- premises or from the cloud. However, it requires additional integration in PBX/UCC environments in the cases that follow:

  • Remote agents: When agents are distributed in many remote locations, agents will often be required to use the endpoints of the local PBX/UC infrastructure and telephony presence shall be synchronized.
  • Part-time or mixed usage: When the agent needs both agent and enterprise capabilities on the same endpoint, such as directory or voicemail.
  • Contact center and collaboration: When the agent needs both agent and collaboration capabilities with the rest of the enterprise, such as presence, IM, video; screen-share, file share.
  • Multimedia contact center: When the contact center application needs to leverage the unified communications platform to establish multimedia sessions between customers (IM, voice, video, collaboration), agents and employees.

When these use cases are needed, a simple cohabitation between UCC and contact center platforms is not enough. Managing contact center and UCC channels with a unified user experience requires a tight integration at server and client level, therefore the choice of technology becomes a critical success factor. As the industry has not adopted unique standards, it can only be achieved today through either:

  • A single-vendor contact center plus UCC solution offering a native integrated suite.
  • A best-of-breed contact center plus UCC with a certified integration supported by a strong corporate partnership.

Operational Factors in Unified Communications

Ultimately, the selection of the best solution will also need to incorporate the operational requirements of the customers’ organization.

  • Deployment types, migration, and roadmap: premise, cloud or hybrid
  • Operations: the organization is in charge to deploy and maintain the solutions
  • Total Cost of Ownership
  • SLA and compliance

The experience shows that usually smaller organizations prefer single-vendor solutions, while larger contact centers prefer best-of-breed integrations.

Market Solutions

At Genesys, we have experienced in our global market presence a large variety of customer requirements related to UCC and contact center integration or cohabitation. We have always chosen to maximize the business value of our contact center platform while offering to our customers the flexibility between multiple UC options.

For Enterprise businesses, PureEngage supports the following:

For Mid-Sized Businesses, PureConnect supports the following:

For Small-to-Mid-Sized Businesses, PureCloud supports the following:

Want to learn more about the Genesys UCC strategy? Come talk with us at Enterprise Connect March 12 – 15 at the Genesys Booth 713 or during the session Decision Factors in Choosing a UCaaS Provider.