How Contact Centers Empower Agents and Users Via Confluence of Cloud, Unified Communications and Data-Driven Insights
How Contact Centers Empower Agents
and Users Via Confluence of Cloud, Unified
Communications and Data-Driven Insights
Transcript of a discussion on how contact center-as-a-service capabilities are becoming
more powerful to provide optimized and contextual user experiences for agents and
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Download the
transcript. Sponsor: Serenova.
Dana Gardner: Welcome to the next edition of BriefingsDirect. I’m Dana Gardner,
Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator.
More than ever, businesses have to make difficult and complex decisions about how to
best source their customer-facing services. Which apps and services, what data and
resources should be in the cloud or on-premises -- or in some combination -- are among
the most consequential choices business leaders now face. As the confluence of cloud
and unified communications (UC) -- along with data-driven analytics -- gain traction, the
contact center function stands out.
Contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) capabilities are becoming
more powerful as a result of leveraging cloud computing,
multimode communications channels, and the ability to provide
optimized and contextual user experiences.
We’ll now hear why traditional contact center technology has
become outdated, inflexible and cumbersome, and why CCaaS
is becoming more popular in meeting the heightened user
experience requirements of today.
Here to share more on the next chapter of contact center and
customer service enhancements, is Vasili Triant, CEO of
Serenova in Austin, Texas. Welcome, Vasili.
Vasili Triant: Thank you. I appreciate you having me today.
Gardner: Let’s put some context around this. What are the new trends reshaping the
contact center function?
Triant: What’s changed in the world of contact center and customer service is that we’re
seeing a generational spread -- everything from baby boomers all the way now to Gen Z.
There’s more than one way to respond
With the proliferation of smartphones through the early 2000s, and new technologies
and new channels -- things like WeChat and Viber -- all these customers are now
potential inbound discussions with brands. And they all have different mediums that they
want to communicate on. It’s no longer just phone or e-mail: It’s phone, e-mail, web chat,
SMS, WeChat, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and there are other channels coming around
the corner that we don't even know about yet.
When you take all of these folks - customers or brands - and you take all of these
technologies that consumers want to engage with across all of these different channels –
it’s simple, they want to be heard. It's now the responsibility of brands to determine what
is the best way to respond and it’s not always one-to-one.
So it’s not a phone call for a phone call, it’s maybe an SMS to a phone call, or a phone
call to a web chat -- whatever those [multi-channels] may be. The complexity of how we
communicate with customers has increased. The needs have changed dramatically. And
the legacy types of technologies out there, they can't keep up -- that's what's really
driven the shift, the paradigm shift, within the contact center space.
Gardner: It’s interesting that the new business channels for marketing and capturing
business are growing more complex. They still have to then match on the backend how
they support those users, interact with them, and carry them through any sort of process
-- whether it's on-boarding and engaging, or it’s supporting and servicing them.
What we’re requiring then is a different architecture to support all of that. It seems very
auspicious that we have architectural improvements right along with these new
Triant: We have two things that have collided at the same time – cloud technologies and
the growth of truly global companies.
Most of the new channels that have rolled out are in the cloud. I mean, think about it -
Facebook is a cloud technology, Twitter is a cloud technology. WeChat, Viber, all these
things, they are all cloud technologies. It’s becoming a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-
The easiest and best way to integrate with these other cloud technologies is via the
cloud -- versus on-premises. So what began as the shift of on-premises technology to
cloud contact center -- and that really began in 2011-2012 – has rapidly picked up speed
with the adoption of multi-channels as a primary method of communication.
The only way to keep up with the pace of development of all these channels is through
cloud technologies because you need to
develop an agile world, you need to be able to
get the upgrades out to customers in a quick
fashion, in an easy fashion, and in an
inexpensive fashion. That's the core difference
between the on-premises world and the cloud
At the same time, we are no longer talking
about a United States company, an Australia
company, or a UK company -- we are talking
about everything as global brands, or global
businesses. Customer service is global now,
and no one cares about borders or countries
when it comes to communication with a brand.
Customer service is
global now, and no one
cares about borders or
countries when it
communication with a
Gardner: We have been speaking about this through the context of the end-user, the
consumer. But this architecture and its ability to leverage cloud also benefits the agent,
the person who is responsible for keeping that end-user happy and providing them with
the utmost in intelligent services. So how does the new architecture also aid and abet
Triant: The agent is frankly one of the most important pieces to this entire puzzle. We
talk a lot about channels and how to engage with the customer, but that's really what we
call listening. But even in just simple day-to-day human interactions, one of the most
important things is how you communicate back. There has been a series of time-and-
motion studies done within contact centers, within brands -- and you can even look at
your personal experiences. You don’t have to read reports to understand this.
The baseline for how an interaction will begin and end and whether that will be a happy
or a poor interaction with the brand, is going to be dependent on the agents’ state of
mind. If I call up and I speak to “Joe,” and he starts the conversation, he is in a great
mood and he is having a great day, then my conversation will most likely end in a
positive interaction because it started that way.
But if someone is frustrated, they had a rough day, they can’t find their information, their
computers have been crashing or rebooting, then the interaction is guaranteed to end up
poor. You hear this all the time, “Oh, can you wait a moment, my systems are loading.
Oh, I can’t get you an answer, that screen is not coming up. I can't see your account
information.” The agents are frustrated because they can’t do their job, and that
frustration then blends into your conversation.
So using the technology to make it easy for the agent to do their job is essential. If they
have to go from one screen to another screen to conduct one interaction with the
customer -- they are going to be frustrated, and that will lead to a poor experience with
The cloud technologies like Serenova, which is web-based, are able to bring all those
technologies into one screen. The agent can have all the information brought to them
easily, all in one click, and then be able to answer all the customer needs. The agent is
happy and that adds to the customer satisfaction. The conclusion of the call is a happy
customer, which is what we all want. That’s a great scenario and you need cloud
technology to do that because the on-premises world does not deliver a great agent
Gardner: Another thing that the older technologies don't provide is the ability to have a
flexible spectrum to move across these channels. Many times when I engage with an
organization I might start with an SMS or a text chat, but then if that can’t satisfy my
needs, I want to get a deeper level of satisfaction. So it might end up going to a phone
call or an interaction on the web, or even a shared desktop, if I’m in IT support, for
The newer cloud technology allows you to intercept via different types of channels, but
you can also escalate and vary between and among them seamlessly. Why is that
flexibility both of benefit to the end-user as well as the agent?
Triant: I always tell companies and customers of ours that you don't have to over-think
this; all you have to do is look to your personal life. Most common things that we as
users deal with -- such as cell phone companies, cable companies, airlines, -- you can
get onto any of these websites and begin chatting, but you can find that your interaction
isn’t going well. Before I started at Serenova, I had these experiences where I was
dealing with the cable company and -- chat, chat, chat, -- trying to solve my problem. But
we couldn't get there, and so then we needed to get on the phone. But they said, “Here
is our 800 number, call in.” I’d call in, but I’d have to start a whole new interaction.
Basically, I’d have to re-explain my entire situation. Then, I am talking with one person,
and they have to turn around and send me an email, but I am not going to get that email
for 30 to 45 minutes because they have to get off the phone, and get into another
system and send it off. In the meantime, I am frustrated, I am ticked off -- and guess
what I have done now? I have left that brand. This happens across the board. I can even
have two totally different types of interactions with the company.
You can use a major airline brand as an example. One of our employees called on the
phone trying to resolve an issue that was caused by the airline. They basically said, “No,
no, no.” It made her very frustrated. She decided she’s going to fly with a different airline
now. She then sent a social post [to that effect], and the airline’s VP of Customer Service
answered it, and within minutes they had resolved her issue. But they already spent
three hours on the phone trying to push her off through yet another channel because it
was a totally different group, a totally different
By leveraging technologies where you can pivot
from one channel to another, everyone will get
answers quicker. I can be chatting with you, Dana,
and realize that we need to escalate to a voice
conversation, for example, and I as the agent; I
can then turn that conversation into a voice call.
You don't have to re-explain yourself and you are
like, “Wow, that's cool! Now I’m on the phone with
a facility,” and we are able to handle our business.
As agent, I can also pivot simultaneously to an
email channel to send you something as simple as
a user guide or a series of knowledge-based articles that I may have at my fingertips as
an agent. But you and I are still on the phone call. Even better yet, after-the-fact, as a
business, I have all the analytics and the business intelligence to say that I had one
interaction with Dana that started out as a web chat, pivoted to a phone call, and I
simultaneously then sent a knowledge-based article of “X” around this issue and I can
report on it all at once. Not three separate interactions, not three separate events -- and I
have made you a happy customer.
Gardner: We are clearly talking about enabling the agent to be a super-agent, and they
can, of course, be anywhere. I think this is really important now because the function of
an agent -- we are already seeing the beginnings of this -- but it's going to certainly
include and increase having more artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning and
associated data analytics benefits. The agent then might be a combination of human and
AI functions and services.
you can pivot from one
channel to another,
everyone will get
So we need to be able to integrate at a core communications basis. Without going too
far down this futuristic route, isn't it important for that agent to be an assimilation of more
assets and more services over time?
Artificial Intelligence plus human support
Triant: I‘m glad you brought up AI and these other technologies. The reality is that
we've been through a number of cycles around what this technology is going to do and
how it is going to interact with an agent. In my view, and I have been in this world for a
while, the agent is the most important piece of customer service and brand engagement.
But you have to be able to bring information to them, and you have to be able to give
information to your customers so that if there is something simple, get it to them as quick
as possible -- but also bring all the relevant information to the agent.
AI has had multiple forms; it has existed for a long time. Sometimes people get confused
because of marketing schemes and sales tactics [and view AI] as a way for cost
avoidance, to reduce agents and eliminate staff by implementing these technologies.
Really the focus is how to create a better customer experience, how to create a better
We have had AI in our product for last three years, and we are re-releasing some
components that will bring business intelligence to the forefront around the end of the
year. What it essentially does is alIow you to see what you're doing as a user out on the
Internet and within these technologies. I can see that you have been looking for
knowledge-based articles around, for example, “why my refrigerator keeps freezing up
and how can I defrost it.” You can see such things on Twitter and you can see these
things on Facebook. The amount of information that exists out there is phenomenal and
in real-time. I can now gather that information … and I can proactively, as a business,
make decisions about what I want to do with you as a potential consumer.
I can even identify you as a consumer within my business, know how many products you
have acquired from me, and whether you're a “platinum” customer or even a basic
customer, and then make a decision.
For example, I have TVs, refrigerators, washer-dryers and other appliances all from the
same manufacturer. So I am a large consumer to that one manufacturer because all of
my components are there. But I may be searching a knowledge-based article on why the
refrigerator continues to freeze up.
Now I may call in about just the refrigerator, but
wouldn't it be great for that agent to know that I
own 22 other products from that same company?
I'm not just calling about the refrigerator; I am
technically calling about the entire brand. My
experience around the refrigerator freaking out
may change my entire brand decision going
forward. That information may prompt me to
decide that I want to route that customer to a
different pool of agents, based on what their total
lifetime value is as a brand-level consumer.
Through AI, by leveraging all this information, I
Through AI, by
leveraging all this
information, I can be a
better steward to my
customer and to the
can be a better steward to my customer and to the agent, because I will tell you, an
agent, because I will tell you, an agent will act differently if they understand the
importance of that customer or to know that I, Vasili, have spent the last two hours
searching online for information, which I posted on Facebook and I posted on Twitter. At
that point, the level of my frustration already has reached a certain height on a scale. As
an agent, if you knew that, you might treat me differently because you already know that
I am frustrated. The agent may be able to realize that you have been looking for some
information on this, realize you have been on Facebook and Twitter. They can then say:
“I am really sorry, I'm not able to get you answers. Let me see how I can help you, it
seems that you are looking online about how to keep the refrigerator from freezing up.”
If I start the conversation that way, I've now diffused a lot of the frustration of the
customer. The agent has already started that interaction better. Bringing that information
to that person, that’s powerful, that’s business intelligence -- and that’s creating action
from all that information.
Keep your cool
Gardner: It’s fascinating that that level of sentiment analysis brings together the best of
what AI and machine learning can do, which is to analyze all of these threads of data
and information and determine a temperature, if you will, of a person's mood and pass
that on to a human agent who can then have the emotional capacity to be ready to help
that person get to a lower temperature, be more able to help them overall.
It’s becoming clear to me, Vasili, that this contact center function and CCaaS
architectural benefits are far more strategic to an organization than we may have
thought, that it is about more than just customer service. This really is the best interface
between a company -- and all the resources and assets it has across customer service,
marketing, and sales interactions. Do you agree that this has become far more strategic
because of these new capabilities?
Triant: Absolutely, and as brands begin to realize
the power of what the technology can do for their
overall business, it will continue to evolve, and gain
pace around global adoption.
We have only scratched the surface on adoption of
these cloud technologies within organizations. A
majority of brands out there look at these
interactions as a cost of doing business. They still
seek to reduce that cost versus the lifetime value of
both the consumer, as well as the agent
experience. This will shift, it is shifting, and there
are companies that are thriving by recognizing that
entire equation and how to leverage the
Technology is nothing without action and result.
There have been some really cool things that have
existed for a while, but they don’t ever produce any result that’s meaningful to the
customer so they never get adopted and deployed and ultimately reach some type of a
mass proliferation of results.
As brands begin to
realize the power of
what the technology
can do for their overall
business, it will
continue to evolve and
gain pace around
Gardner: You mentioned cost. Let’s dig into that. For organizations that are attracted to
the capabilities and the strategic implications of CCaaS, how do we evaluate it in terms
of cost? The old CapEx approach often had a high upfront cost, and then high operating
costs, if you have an inefficient call center. Other costs involve losing your customers,
losing brand affinity, losing your perception in the market. So when you talk to a prospect
or customer, how do you help them tease out the understanding of a pay-as-you-go
service as highly efficient? Does the highly empowered agent approach save money, or
even make money, and CCaaS becomes not a cost center but a revenue generator?
Triant: Interesting point, Dana. When I started at Serenova about five years ago,
customers all the time would say, “What’s the cost of owning the technology?” And, “Oh,
my, on-premises stuff has already depreciated and I already own it, so it’s cheaper for
me to keep it.” That was the conversation pretty much every day. Beginning in 2013, it
rapidly started shifting. This shift was mainly driven by the fact that organizations started
realizing that consumers want to engage on different channels, and the on-premises
guys couldn’t keep up with this demand.
The cost of ownership no longer matters. What matters is that the on-premises guys just
literally could not deliver the functionality. And so, whether that's Cisco, Avaya, or
Shoretel, they quickly started falling away in consideration for technology companies that
were looking to deploy applications for their business to meet these needs.
The cost of ownership quickly disappeared as the main discussion point. Instead it came
around to, “What is the solution that you're going to deliver?” Customers that are looking
for contact center technologies are beginning to take a cloud-first approach. And once
they see the power of CCaaS through demonstration and through some trials of what an
agent can do – and it’s all browser-based, there is no client install, there is no equipment
on-premises - then it takes on a life of its own. It’s about, “What is the experience going
to be? Are these channels all integrated? Can I get it all from one manufacturer?”
Following that, organizations focus on other intricacies around - Can it scale? Can it be
redundant? Is it global? But those become architectural concerns for the brands
themselves. There is a chunk of the industry that is not looking at these technologies,
and they are stuck in brand euphoria or have to stay with on-premises infrastructure, or
with a certain vendor because of their name or that they are going to get there someday.
As we have seen, Avaya has declared bankruptcy. Avaya does not have cloud
technologies despite their marketing message. So the customers that are in those
technologies now realize they have to find a path to
keep up with the basic customer service at a global
scale. Unfortunately, those customers have to find a
path forward and they don’t have one right now.
It's less about cost of ownership and it’s more about
the high cost of not doing anything. If I don't do
anything, what’s going to be the cost? That cost
ultimately becomes - I’m not going to be able to have
engagement with my customers because the
consumers are changing.
It’s less about cost of
ownership and it’s
more about the high
cost of not doing
Gardner: What about this idea of considering your contact center function not just as a
cost center, but also as a business development function? Am I being too optimistic?
It seems to me that as AI and the best of what human interactions can do combine
across multichannels, that this becomes no longer just a cost center for support, a
check-off box, but a strategic must-do for any business.
Multi-channel customer interaction
Triant: When an organization reaches the pinnacle of happiness within what these
technologies can do, they will realize that no longer do you need to have delineation
between a marketing department that answers social media posts, an inside sales
department that is only taking calls for upgrades and renewals, and a customer service
department that’s dealing with complaints or inbound questions. They will see that you
can leverage all the applications across a pool of agents with different skills.
I may have a higher skill around social media than over voice, or I may have a higher
skill level around a sales activity, or renewal activity, over customer service problems. I
should be able to do any interaction. And potentially one day it'll just be customer
interaction department and the channels are just a medium of inbound and outbound
choice for a brand.
But you can now take information from whatever you see the customer doing. Each of
their actions have a leading indicator, everything has a predictive action prior to the
inbound touch, everything does. Now that a brand can see that, it will be able to have
“consumer interaction departments,” and it will be properly routed to the right person
based on that information. You’ll be able to bring information to that agent that will allow
them to answer the customer’s questions.
Gardner: I can see how that agent’s job would be very satisfying and fulfilling when you
are that important, when you have that sort of a key role in your organization that
empowers people. That’s good news for people that are trying to find those skills and fill
Vasili, we only have a few minutes left, but I’d love to hear about a couple of examples.
It’s one thing to tell, it’s another thing to show. Do we have some examples of
organizations that have embraced this concept of a strategic contact center, taken
advantage of those multi-channels, added perhaps some intelligence and improved the
status and capability of the agents -- all to some business benefit? Walk us through a
couple of actual use cases where this has all come together.
Cloud communication culture shift
Triant: No one has reached that level of euphoria per se, but there are definitely
companies that are moving in that direction.
It is a culture change, so it takes time. I know as well as anybody what it takes to shift a
culture, and it doesn't happen overnight. As an example, there is a ride-hailing company
that engages in a different way with their consumer, and their consumer might be
different than what you think from the way I am describing it. They use voice systems
and SMS and often want to pivot between the two. Our technology actually allows the
agent to make that decision even if they aren’t even physically in the same country. They
are dynamically spread across multiple countries to
answer any question they may need to answer
based on time and day.
But they can pivot from what’s predominantly an
SMS inbound and outbound communication into a
voice interaction, and then they can also follow up
with an e-mail, and that’s already happened. Now, it
initially started with some SMS inbound and
outbound, then they added voice – an interesting
move as most people think adding voice is what
people are getting away from. What everyone has
begun to realize is that live communication ultimately
is what everybody looks for in the end to solve the
more complex problems.
That's one example. Another company that provides
the latest technology in food order and delivery
initially started with voice-only to order and deliver food. Now they've added SMS
confirmations automatically, and e-mail as well for confirmation or for more information
from the inbound voice call. And now, once they are an existing customer, they can even
start an order from an SMS, and pivot back to a voice call for confirmation -- all within
one interaction. They are literally one of the fastest growing alternative food delivery
companies, growing at a global scale.
They are deploying agents globally across one technology. They would not be able to do
this with legacy technologies because of the expense. When you get into these kinds of
high-volume, low-margin businesses, cost matters. When you can have an OpEx model
that will scale, you are adding better customer service to the applications, and you are
able to allow them to build a profitable model because you are not burning them with
high CapEx processes.
Gardner: Before we sign off, you had mentioned your pipeline about your products and
services, such as engaging more with AI capabilities toward the end of the year. Could
give us a level-set on your roadmap? Where are your products and services now?
Where do you go next?
A customer journey begins with insight
Triant: We have been building cloud technologies for 16 years in the contact center
space. We released our latest CCaaS platform in March 2016 called CxEngage. We
then had a major upgrade to the platform in March of this year, where we take that agent
experience to the next level. It’s really our leapfrog in the agent interface and making it
easier, bringing in more information to them.
Where we are going next is around the customer journey -- predictive interactions. Some
people call it AI, but I will call it “customer journey mapping with predictive action
insights.” That’s going to be a big cornerstone in our product, including business
What everyone has
begun to realize is
ultimately is what
for in the end to
solve the more
analytics. It’s focused around looking at a combination of speech, data and text -- all
simultaneously creating predictive actions. This is another core area we are going in an
and continue to expand the reach of our platform from a global scale.
At this point, we are a global company. We have the only global cloud platform built on a
single software stack with one data pipeline. We now have more users on a pure cloud
platform than any of our competitors globally. I know that’s a big statement, but when
you look at a pure cloud infrastructure, you're talking in a whole different realm of what
services you are able to offer to customers. Our ability to provide a broad reach including
to Europe, South Africa, Australia, India, and Singapore -- and still deliver good cloud
quality at a reasonable cost and redundant fashion – we are second to none in that
Gardner: I’m afraid we will have to leave it there. We have been listening to a sponsored
BriefingsDirect discussion on how CCaas capabilities are becoming more powerful as a
result of cloud computing, multimode communications channels, and the ability to
provide optimized and contextual user experiences.
And we’ve learned how new levels of insight and intelligence are now making CCaaS
approaches able to meet the highest user experience requirements of today and
tomorrow. So please join me now in thanking our guest, Vasili Triant, CEO of Serenova
in Austin, Texas.
Triant: Thank you very much, Dana. I appreciate you having me today.
Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and
moderator for this ongoing series of BriefingsDirect discussions. A big thank you to our
sponsor, Serenova, as well as to you, our audience. Do come back next time and thanks
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Download the
transcript. Sponsor: Serenova.
Transcript of a discussion on how contact center-as-a-service capabilities are becoming
more powerful to provide optimized and contextual user experiences for agents and
customers. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2017. All rights reserved.
You may also be interested in:
• SAP Ariba and MercadoLibre to Consumerize Business Commerce in
• Making Procurement Awesome—Latest Trends in How Business Networks
are Fueling Innovation and Transformation
• Experts define new ways to manage supply chain risk in a digital economy
• How SAP Ariba became a first-mover as Blockchain comes to B2B
• How AI, IoT and Blockchain will shake up procurement and supply chains
• Why effective IoT adoption is a team sport
• Diversity Spend: When Doing Good Leads to Doing Well
• Seven secrets to highly effective procurement: How business networks
fuel innovation and transformation
• Meet George Jetson – your new AI-empowered chief procurement officer
• SAP Ariba's chief strategy officer on the digitization of business and future
• Business in the Cloud: How Efficient Networks Help the Smallest
Companies Do Brisk Business with the Largest
• A Hit with Consumers, Digital Payments Now Catching On Across the
Business World Too
• How new technology trends disrupt the very nature of business
• Winning the B2B Commerce Game: What Sales Organizations Should Do