Over the past 10 years, cloud telephony has evolved from a revolutionary new concept to a widely accepted technology. We have seen it grow from a tentative idea to a must-have tool. Enterprises cannot meet customer expectations without tapping cloud telephony tools and integrations. It is the only means for businesses to continuously upgrade their customer interactions.

Contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) continues to be a growing market. According to Stratistics MRC, the global CCaaS market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25.9 per cent to reach $30.98 billion by 2023. While declining operational costs continue to be a key driver of this growth, rapid transformations in technology and user expectations will also drive multiple changes.

A new voice for customer interactions

The biggest changes in the communications sector are being driven by rapidly changing consumer needs. Till a few years back, voice interactions meant telephony and telephony meant conversations between people. All consumer interactions with machines were via typing. For instance, people typed out their Google searches, gave dual-tone multi-frequency inputs to their interactive voice response systems, or interacted with chatbots. This has changed now.

Advances in natural language processing have allowed machines to understand what people say. Last year, 58 per cent consumers used voice searches to find businesses. People now speak to Siri, Cortana and OK Google on their phones. They also speak to digital assistants like Google Home and Alexa in their homes and cars.

What does this mean for cloud telephony?

As customers get comfortable speaking to voicebots, they will expect them everywhere. It is easier and faster to speak than to type. Thus, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven voicebots need to be integrated with contact centres fast.

Scaling up voice interactions

A voice platform will enable businesses to scale up their voice interactions. Contact centres will be able to use AI-driven voice platforms to speak to multiple customers at the same time. Further, contact centres will be able to identify repetitive issues and assign them to intelligent voice platforms. AI-enabled voice platforms will be able to listen to agent conversations, give suggestions and increase the speed of resolutions. They will take over the jobs of fixing appointments, giving reminders and even qualifying sales prospects. As a result, call queues will dwindle, average handle times will shrink and customer centricity will become more cost-effective than ever before.

Multiple interfaces

The cloud contact centre has seen telephony move from actual phone devices to the agent’s computer screens, while consumers moved from landlines to mobile phones. The devices they use to talk to businesses are also the devices that they use to take photos, make video calls, browse the internet, chat, and shop. The smartphone gave customers multiple interfaces – voice, visual and touch. However, business telephony has not yet adapted to this multi-interface environment. They still need to adopt technologies that give their customers more options. For example, it does not need to be an either-or situation with chats and calls, and both interfaces should be able to coexist.

Unified customer journeys

The decline in operational expenses has been the biggest driver of cloud telephony. The second biggest driver is integrations. Seamless integration with customer relationship management systems and other databases has given businesses a unified view of their customers. This has improved the customer experience. Customers know they can seamlessly move from email to chat to calls and be recognised on each platform. They do not have to repeat their complaints/past interactions as they move between these channels. Having a unified customer view can also enable data sharing between previously siloed departments such as marketing, sales and support to create far more effective business processes.

New metrics, more data

Data is an increasingly valuable commodity. Being able to deliver value from data will be a critical driver for the growth of telephony. Tools such as speech analytics need to be integrated into contact centre solutions to enable contact centre managers to convert unstructured data comprising millions of call records into valuable insights. These insights can be used across the board by marketing and product development teams. It will allow them to measure new metrics such as customer sentiment. Real-time alerts based on predefined words or customer sentiment metrics will allow these teams to intervene in real time.

Contact centres are essentially poised to shift from single touchpoints to a customer communication ecosystem. For those in the customer communication space, embedding AI, enabling open application programme interfaces and utilising voice platforms will be essential to address the changing requirements.

By Chaitanya Chokkareddy, Chief Innovation Officer, Ozonetel