Will Zoom's new launch redefine the contact centre solution market?by
After its false start last year when its acquisition of Five9 collapsed, Zoom has announced it is to enter the contact centre solution space with its own omnichannel product. Will it be a gamechanger for the contact centre industry?
Zoom has entered the customer service sphere with the announcement of a new omnichannel contact centre solution that it claims will "redefine" the technology field.
Zoom Contact Center will combine contact centre functionality with Zoom’s existing communications solutions, to provide customer service workflow support via video and sound, with plans for SMS and webchat support set to follow shortly.
The all-in-one unified communications platform can be integrated into existing websites and applications, such as Zoom Meetings, Zoom Phone, and/or Zoom Chat, as well as operating as a stand alone customer experience system.
Why contact centres?
Zoom has been seeking to move into the contact centre space for some time via an acquisition/partnership, but it looked as if it was back to the drawing board after the proposed $14.7B acquisition of Five9 fell through in October of last year.
At the time, Zoom’s vision appeared to be to combine their extensive video tools with Five9's contact centre software and customer base to create a more sophisticated, seamless customer engagement platform.
Reactions to the proposed acquisition were mixed. Gartner analyst, Drew Kraus, was particularly sceptical, claiming that companies who pursue these sorts of projects usually “end up abandoning them in the first year” and that “the actual value of a customer service agent and customer to be able to see each other's faces ends up not being that significant".
However, neither the acquisition rejection, nor the scepticism of analysts such as Kraus seem to have weakened Zoom’s resolve, with the communications giant managing to build and launch their own offering less than five months after the Five9 deal fell through.
Thomas Wieberneit, co-founder and princial of aheadCRM, is unsurprised by Zoom's persistence.
"The markets for Unified Comms as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) are converging, which makes a lot of sense. Why would companies not try to consolidate their p2p and their contact centres into one consistent solution? There is lots of value in there, especially since the good ol' landline gets totally out of fashion and that it is important to gain a complete picture of interactions with consumers/customers/partners/accounts, etc.
"Zoom had recognised this and wanted to act on this realisation. The deal with Five9 mainly collapsed as Zoom did an all shares offer, which the Five9 owners recognised as extremely risky for themselves. The risk matured, as one can easily read from Zoom's valuation since then. Company prices are very high at the moment, so no, it is not surprising that they are pursuing this on their own, especially as they already have a good deal of the technology in house and it is fairly easy to initially partner in the needed parts."
Martin Hill-Wilson, founder of Brainfood Consulting, adds: "Culturally, Zoom prefers to build its own rather than acquire even though they intended to use Five9 to augment their video platform as part of a CCaaS solution. Dipping post-pandemic revenues coupled with strong competition from Microsoft Teams demands they diversify. CCaaS is hot so would help boost their growth narrative. This is a Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) play, in which UCaaS aand CPaaS purchasing decisions are increasingly converging."
How exactly will Zoom Contact Center improve the customer service experience?
In the official release statement on its blog, Zoom outlined several areas in which they believes its new omnichannel platform will improve organisations’ customer experience.
The integration factor
Zoom believes that providing an integrated communications platform and contact centre solution will help remove barriers that cause teams to work in silos, and by doing so will increase employee collaboration and productivity.
Moreover, the integration of the platform will help lessen the burden for IT departments, as they will all be able to access the same Zoom application.
Visual engagement elevates CX
Zoom highlights the growing importance and expectation for customer service providers to offer video services, arguing that video allows for more supportive and empathetic conversations, which in turn elevates customer experience.
They also reference a study of 1,846 global organisations, which revealed that 65% of them “will be using visual engagement applications to communicate with customers by the end of 2022.”
There is no doubt that remote/hybrid working is here to stay, and with this new way of working, brings with it new challenges for organisations. Zoom describes their new platform as being remote-friendly, due to the fact that it is cloud-based, which allows teams to easily communicate with customers and access customer data, regardless of where they physically work.
Whilst on the surface this may appear to be an issue that most organisations will have already solved after almost two years of the pandemic, this may not necessarily be the case.
Writing at the outset of the pandemic, Cath Everett warned of the dangers of long-term remote working for British companies – claiming that “a third of UK organisations do not have the necessary technology infrastructure in place to support mass remote working on a long-term basis”.
Zoom believes that its new contact centre platform will remove the remote working issues surrounding infrastructure, cost, and time, with chief product officer, Oded Gal, stating that it “was carefully designed to meet the needs of the modern agent and end customer, both of which expect a personalised, digital, and effective contact centre experience.”
Will Zoom redefine the contact centre industry?
While Zoom's announcement pledged that its new product would be "category-redefining", the jury is out on just how much impact it will have on the contact centre space.
Martin Hill-Wilson believes that Zoom is coming from a position of strength because it is "able to offer a single desktop client capable of contact centre, general telephony, audio and video meetings, and messaging/chat."
But James Dodkins, customer experience evangelist of Pegasystems, is sceptical that it will be a game-changer.
“Since the pandemic made it almost a household name, Zoom has been used in an ad hoc fashion in customer service. This news shows a stronger statement of intent for Zoom to break through into the contact centre. Ironically, it’s maybe also a sign of weakness as workers return to the office and the WFH video comms market cools and resets closer to normality. Zoom needs to capitalise on that pandemic success fast and find some new niches. Indeed, Zoom in the contact centre does have rather too much of a 2020 than a 2022 vibe."
He continues: "If you’re going to use video in customer service quality and familiarity are key; and I guess Zoom is a brand that ticks those boxes. But, while it has scale, the success of this move hinges on how well Zoom integrates into the systems that make for successful conversations whether on video, online or over the phone.”
Meanwhile, Megan Neale, COO and co-founder of Limitless, suggests that if Zoom's solution may take some time to be competitive with some of the more established players.
“It’s is a big signal that customer experience and contact centre technology is a high growth area where big tech brands are willing to invest to build their own capability as well as acquire. Whilst Zoom contact centre is packed with features on launch, it is likely to need time to get to the level of Genesys or Amazon Connect, depending on the market segment they want to attract.”
However, with the incumbent players undoubtedly monitoring this announcement closely, Thomas Weiberneit believes that Zoom's presence could have a knock-on effect in the industry that really would redefine the sector.
"Contact centres are moving into the cloud. There are a few notable contenders which now will feel additional pressure. Zoom has a lot of customers who they can address with cross-selling offers. The most likely consequence is market consolidation. It will be interesting to look at what some of the bigger ones are doing, especially Amazon, but also Five9 and NICE. Genesys is already repositioning itself."
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