AI Is Making UCC and the Contact Center into an Increasingly Powerful Combo
It’s a great time to be in the contact center space, and along with it connected work—the area of IT dedicated to workplace communication and collaboration. While it seems much media attention has focused on the infusion of artificial intelligence into the contact center landscape, particularly with intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs), agent assist apps, real-time transcription, and ChatGPT, AI is being judiciously sprinkled across the unified communication and collaboration (UCC) category as well.
The timing is superb, as increasingly businesses are adopting UCC and contact center solutions together, often in unified suites. Viewing these solutions together, AI can take the form of shared services, such as advanced noise suppression used in teleconferencing that can also be used to assist agents in the contact center, or transcription or translation features used similarly in both.
Dual Adoption Is on the Rise
Adoption of the duo has been on the rise for some time. Suppliers and customers alike have been integrating UCC and contact center solutions for years, as such integrations bring benefits such as a single bill and presence visibility across platforms. Well-entrenched UCC capabilities, such as video and group chat, have also grown in use within the contact center, particularly with the pandemic-led usage surge driven by work-from-home models.
Recently, solution providers have developed platforms and platform strategies that enable providers to deliver a variety of natively integrated services, including UCC and the contact center but also video and group chat, application programming interfaces (APIs), and communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) capabilities. Multiple services natively supported on the same platform provide additional benefits: analytics and AI running across all services; all services being managed through a single administrative portal; and automatic interoperability regardless of the technology road maps across the different services (i.e., new features on the UCC side automatically integrating with the contact center features and/or are available to both enterprise and contact center users, etc.).
However, each enterprise is on its own journey and consumes these services differently. Some have more complex UCC or contact center needs, different purchasing decision makers, or different life cycles for each. Some enterprises have no need for a formal contact center, so coordinated upgrades of the private branch exchange and contact center remain rare unless a big leap to a cloud provider is in play.
The Promise Is There
Still, the promise is there, driven in part by innovation from new or maturing technologies from the speech technology and AI landscape. This has certainly played out in several recent Frost & Sullivan customer research surveys and forecasts. For instance, process automation is gaining traction across UCC and contact centers. In a 2023 UCC survey of 1,252 IT decision makers, 76 percent of respondents said that automating workflows was either “important” or “crucial” for their businesses. Similarly, according to a 2023 survey specifically targeted at contact center stakeholders, 80 percent said that process automation was the top AI technology to be deployed or intended to be deployed over the next two years.
As more AI technologies mature, their use cases grow, particularly for specific vertical markets. For instance, Frost & Sullivan forecasts that the use of conversational AI, which bridges the UCC and contact center worlds, will increase 17.2 percent between 2021 and 2027, growing from $902 million in 2021 to $2.3 billion in 2027. In healthcare, for example, AI is being used to positively impact the patient experience from pre-care to post-care in all areas. This includes contact center scheduling, insurance eligibility and copays, telehealth (treatment, diagnostics, and digital therapeutics), clinical progress notes, lab management, patient discharge, condition management and education, follow-up, ongoing patient communications, and remote patient management, to name a few.
This is just the beginning. The Internet of Things, biometric authentication, wearables, virtual and augmented reality solutions, and real-time transcription and translation are just a few additional AI-based technologies bridging UCC and the contact center. Innovative solution providers and enterprises will increasingly use these technologies in tandem to improve the customer and employee experience and optimize business outcomes. x
Nancy Jamison is a Senior Industry Director in Information and Communications Technologies at Frost & Sullivan. She can be reached at Nancy.Jamison@frost.com, or follow her on Twitter @NancyJami.