10 Important Cloud Apps For SMBs
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The telecommunications giant has entered into a partnership with inContact to provide a cloud-based portfolio of contact center services that would be branded as the Verizon Virtual Contact Center. The contact center would manage a wide range of customer interactions with companies via e-mail, instant messaging, chat, and social media. The deal is one of a number of partnerships and acquisitions in the contact center market this year, analysts said.
Although Verizon has offered contact center solutions of its own, the inContact offering is more comprehensive, said Lori Anne Pollock, group manager of Verizon contact center services product management.
"We needed a partner who could deliver a carrier-class service that would satisfy Verizon business requirements," said Pollock. "They need a contact center solution that allows them to service their customers regardless of how they want to contact them and when they want to contact them."
The Verizon Virtual Contact Center offering could replace a disparate array of hardware, software, and services that companies have to manage with different solutions for e-mail, phone, chat, and the like, she added. Receiving all those services from one provider and paying for it as a cloud-based service can reduce the total cost of ownership.
[ For more background, see The Hidden Cost Of Technology Failure In The Contact Center.]
Beyond a call center, which handles only phone calls, a contact center handles multiple methods of communications between company and customer to reinforce a positive image of the company, including social media such as Twitter, Pollock said. "You want to have them tweeting pleasant things about your company."
Features of the inContact solution include an automated call distributor (ACD) that routes incoming calls to the next available operator, integrated voice response (IVR) that recognizes the caller’s voice commands, and computer-telephony integration (CTI) that queries a customer database to inform the operator of the identity of the caller and their account information. The platform also includes eLearning modules for employee training between calls and a survey feature for callers to take after they’ve been helped.
The Virtual Contact Center also incorporates features of social media so that a company can more closely interact with its customers, said Mariann McDonagh, chief marketing officer of inContact.
"The contact center was actually built as a strategy to keep the customers away from the executives," said McDonagh. "Social media has really done a great job of crossing the bridge over the moat and making the business accountable, and in some ways vulnerable, to the opinions and perspectives of customers."
The deal with Verizon follows a similar partnership inContact made with Siemens Enterprise Communications in June.
Although Verizon is touting its cloud-based offering as a one-stop-shop solution, enterprises should carefully consider which contact services to outsource and which to retain on-premise, according to a report by the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
"Another important consideration revolves around which solution provider to partner with for the long term and their capability to integrate with existing on-premise systems," the firm stated.
The contact center market is dynamic, with as many as 50 providers offering services, including phone companies such as Verizon, service providers such as inContact, system integrators, and other vendors.
There also has been a lot of recent merger and acquisition activity in the space, noted Richard Snow, vice president and research director at Ventana Research, in a Nov. 2 blog post. The cloud communications and computing vendor 8x8 acquired Contactual in September, and Avaya acquired Aurix, a provider of speech analytics and audio data mining technology, in October. Verint acquired Vovici in August for its customer feedback management technology, and then acquired GMT in September for its workforce management tools, another feature of contact centers. In October, Oracle acquired RightNow Technologies, a provider of cloud-based customer service.
"I don’t see an end to this acquisition activity," Snow wrote. "The contact center is undergoing more change now than I have seen in 15 years. It looks like a busy time ahead."
Cloud Connect's comprehensive cloud computing workshops are back for 2012. To attend, register now with Priority Code CPMWCC07 for $100 off a Platinum Pass or Monday Workshops pass. It happens in Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 13-16. Sign up now.