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Cisco Webex Contact Center Rollout Raises Stakes in CCaaS Market

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The new Cisco Webex Contact Center promises to raise the stakes in the competitive contact center as- a-service (CCaaS) market. Launched during last week’s WebexOne virtual conference, Cisco emphasized the AI and omnichannel capabilities of its revamped cloud based CCaaS.

Cisco has invested millions of dollars during the past 18 months and assigned hundreds of engineers to the new CCaaS offering. While Cisco has a premises-based contact center, it is voice-centric and not competitive with modern cloud CCaaS offerings. Cisco, which claims an installed base of 3 million contact center seats, was at risk of losing them. Rivals such as 8×8, Five9, Genesys, Nice, RingCentral, Talkdesk and Twilio are among those with cloud-based, omnichannel CCaaS offerings.

“Their goal is to keep all 3 million,” said Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics. “I think they still have a window to be successful.”

McGee-Smith, a columnist for Channel Partners’ sister website, NoJitter, analyzed the Cisco Webex Contact Center.

Despite its installed base, Cisco was losing customers to those with more modern offerings, added Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst at COMMfusion.

“Now, Cisco has a compelling offering that will help it not only maintain its customer base, but gain new customers,” Pleasant said. “Cisco is a very strong UCC player, but they fell behind when it came to a cloud contact center. Now with this new cloud-native, microservices-based CCaaS offering, Cisco is back in the game.”

New Cloud-Native Platform

Cisco decided to build from scratch a cloud-native call center with Kubernetes-managed microservices and extensible APIs.

Cisco's Omar Tawakol

Cisco’s Omar Tawakol

“We now ship to a public cloud with cloud scale, cloud telemetry and cloud speed,” Omar Tawakol, VP and GM of Cisco’s contract center business, said during a keynote session at WebexOne. “We’ve also completely reimagined the programmability and configurability of the platform itself with APIs and low-code UIs, so the business users can alter the way the platform works without any intervention from Cisco.”

We recently compiled a list of 20 top CCaaS providers offering products and services via channel partners.

Tawakol called out three key new characteristics of the new Cisco Webex Contact Center. First, it is no longer centered around voice. Second, it is omnichannel, meaning it supports web interaction, SMS and social messaging interfaces such as Facebook and WhatsApp. And third, it supports bots and virtual agents.

“It now takes the view of the end-to-end customer journey from your customer interactions before they reach the contact center to what you do after your problem solved,” Tawakol said.

In a blog Thursday, Tawakol noted that the Cisco Webex Contact Center is built with an API-first focus. That enables easier customization by those who aren’t programmers — and increased extensibility. It also is shipping with integrations for Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and Zendesk CRM solutions.

“These integrations reduce the need for agents to traverse multiple systems,” Tawakol said.

Google Providing AI, Natural Language Processing

Many of the advanced omnichannel features will come next year, when Cisco closes its acquisition of IMImobile, announced last week. Cisco also is among Google’s numerous contract center AI partners. Jonathan King, managing director for strategic technology partnerships at Google, discussed its partnership with Cisco during WebexOne.

“We’re looking at how the way customers interact with the businesses and experiences through using AI agents and engagements that can take on the manual, repetitive mundane tasks and thereby drive efficiency.” King said. “We’re freeing up agents and empowering them to engage when they need to, with customers who are looking for assistance.”

King said Google has worked closely with Cisco to use the natural language processing that supports Google’s consumer products such as its Google Assistants.

“We’re bringing that to the equation,” he said.

The result is it improves customer satisfaction, he added.

“They can move faster, get answers faster, get resolution,” said King. “And that improves the agent experience as well.”

McGee-Smith said Cisco was among the first wave of Google AI platform partners.

“And they were the proof point that they could do it on top of prem,” she said.

“Cisco is doing what several other vendors are doing. They’re taking a ‘best of breed’ approach to AI,” COMMfusion’s Pleasant added. “They’re working with Google Contact Center AI for capabilities where Google is strong, such as Agent Assist and Dialogflow, and also their own set of AI capabilities. Instead of duplicating efforts or reinventing the wheel, Cisco is leveraging Google where it makes sense, and using their own capabilities where appropriate.”


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