From Fragmented to Unified: The Case for CX Platforms Over Point Solutions

Take the long view while meeting short-term needs and turn your new technology pursuit into a contact center bonanza. Many contact centers are ready to pursue new technology. The need for change might spring from resource limitations in IT and a shift in sourcing strategy that triggers a readiness for cloud solutions across the organization.

This blog was written by Lori Bocklund, Founder and President of Strategic Contact.

Take the long view while meeting short-term needs and turn your new technology pursuit into a contact center bonanza.

Many contact centers are ready to pursue new technology. The need for change might spring from resource limitations in IT and a shift in sourcing strategy that triggers a readiness for cloud solutions across the organization. Some have old solutions that need replacing. Others have known gaps that impact their ability to meet operational needs and serve customers in excellence. The lucky ones are simply growing and maturing.

As independent consultants, many companies engage with us to help with technology strategy and planning, as well as technology requirements and selection projects. The scope of needs can be wide-ranging — omnichannel routing and reporting, workforce engagement management (WEM), voicebots and chatbots, knowledge management (KM), automation and agent assist, and even good old telephony for the rest of the enterprise. Or they might be focused on addressing a specific pain point, meeting a vision for change or targeting a competitive gap.

Typical questions that surface include:

  • Should I just replace my IVR first? Should I just buy a bot?
  • Should I (or can I) keep my current solution(s) — workforce management, knowledge management, chatbot?
  • Should we use Microsoft Teams Voice (or Zoom or something else) for the telephony? Or can the contact center vendors help us there, too?
  • How will I integrate the new technology with my CRM system, Core/CIS, etc.?

Contact centers are frequently overwhelmed by the mind-numbing array of options and fear making the wrong choices or missing out on something they heard or read about last week. They wonder if all their needs can be addressed with a single solution or, failing that, how all the pieces will fit together. Meanwhile, they’re living with limitations on time, money and resources.

If you’re struggling with these tortuous and competing perspectives, I offer these thoughts to help you break the logjam and find your way forward.

Overcoming the Allure of the Point Solution

Contact centers with entrenched technology and/or limited resources for projects often find point solutions irresistible. They may be anxious to fill known gaps in functionality and reap the benefits touted by vendors and their customers. Conversational bots, speech analytics and knowledge management solutions are typical examples. When excitement builds for a new technology, the prospect of a quick win can sometimes overtake a more comprehensive look at current and future needs.

While momentum can be a good thing, a hasty approach to filling gaps generally comes with longer-term headaches when the point solutions aren’t fully integrated with the overall technology environment. In most cases, the end-to-end customer experience — or agent and supervisor experience — is viewed as something to tackle down the road, and that can be very bad for everyone. For example:

  • Customers using bots find the need for agent-assisted service when their concerns cannot be addressed. A customer hanging up on a voicebot or exiting from a chat session doesn’t necessarily indicate success. If the agent doesn’t receive data about the customer and reason they’re contacting the company, both parties start from ground zero. In addition to the inherent frustration, it adds handle time and compromises important data about interaction efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Speech analytics leverages conversation recordings. Text analytics leverages digital interactions. Ideally, both are tied into performance scorecards and coaching sessions and are used with a wealth of other information about customer interactions and center performance — all available through a common user interface. When these are standalone solutions, that value across the ecosystem is compromised.
  • A knowledge management system might be a great improvement over homegrown notes and simple file sharing, but it’s far less useful when it doesn’t integrate with the agent desktop or provide context-sensitive assistance for inquiries. It forces agents to be more specific in their search criteria and prolongs contact time while they fumble around looking for answers. And, of course, a standalone solution might not be accessible for customer self-service.

Independent of these deficits, point solutions might not feed into the center’s reporting, quality monitoring, and workforce management processes, creating more effortful (and less precise) support processes.

A strategic perspective really matters. It must consider the various use cases that determine what customers do, how the contact center provides great service, how agents succeed and how the leadership manages performance.

Genesys blog diagram bocklund 2023[20]

Figure 1. Why a strategic perspective matters: Everything is connected.

The Vendor Counterpoint

Vendors and value-added resellers understand the buyer’s dilemma and respond with a strong message about how they can address it all — in one swoop if the buyers are ready and able. They talk about their platforms and suites of capabilities that integrate well, allow contact centers to leverage what they can on Day 1, and evolve to more comprehensive solutions when ready. In short, the message is: “Don’t worry! Our solution will meet your needs today and tomorrow.”

While seller messaging might ring common notes, the differentiators are in these eight key areas:

  • The depth and breadth of the capabilities the vendor offers — e.g., while every “Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)” vendor might have omnichannel routing and reporting, they’re not all equal in those functions and the surrounds of bots, WEM, KM, etc.
  • The user interfaces — for agents, supervisors, analysts and administrators — and how they work across the broad suite and tie into critical desktop applications, such as CRM systems
  • The platform architecture and what has been done to bolster the foundational elements of reliability, security, resiliency and scalability
  • The platform openness and accessibility to leverage APIs for integration; do unique things; and create an environment where buyers, partners or others can readily innovate
  • How they work with unified communications (UC) solutions, whether that’s Teams or another tool, to create good end-to-end experiences across the enterprise
  • The approach to implementation, bringing not just speed to “go live,” but best practices and insights that help buyers leverage everything the new platform solution has to offer (and do new things!)
  • Sustained support and responsiveness in a continuing relationship that helps each buyer in their ongoing journey to do more with their system’s capabilities
  • Innovation that assures buyers that they will never feel like they are falling behind again

The Way Forward

It’s easy to be cynical and think you can’t have it all. It is also easy to be fascinated with the latest technology (especially if “AI” is in the description) and think a single change will be transformational.

In my experience, intriguing point solutions often fall short of expectations. Picking a partner, a platform and a suite of capabilities launches companies onto new paths for continuous improvement of customer, supervisor, analyst and agent experiences. The difference is an exploration of all that’s possible across an extended horizon versus a short-sighted view of one pain point or opportunity.

As you explore what’s next for your technology, don’t push the big picture and your long-term success out of view. Even if you don’t do it all in that first implementation cycle, buying a platform from a vendor that can truly serve your current and future needs makes more sense than finding a “quick hit.” Take an approach that helps you address those wide-ranging needs ensures you don’t miss out and proves you can do it all — on your timeline.

For additional insights, I encourage you to listen to a recent webinar “Fresh Thinking to Fuel Your RFP Process.” The session explores:

  • How to create a transformation mindset at the organizational level
  • The state of the customer experience (CX) market and technology buying process
  • The ins and outs of vendor evaluation best practices
  • What a great cloud CX implementation looks like
  • Multi-industry, real-world organizational examples of cloud migration and implementation