Customer engagement is undergoing its biggest transformation in decades. Consumers now use a significantly greater number and variety of channels to engage with organizations – everything from phone, email and the corporate website to social media, text messaging, chat, mobile apps and video. This is forcing organizations to change in order not to miss out on business opportunities.
We have therefore seen an evolution from the call center (centralized management of telephone calls), to the contact center (centralized management of multiple channels of engagement) to a customer engagement hub, or as it is sometimes called a customer engagement platform, which brings together all the systems organizations need to provide omnichannel customer engagement – centralized administration and management of telephone and digital channels of engagement, workforce optimization, analytics, unified communications and integration with key business applications such as CRM. The hub must not only support key capabilities but must also closely integrate the systems so they can support processes that in the past have been disconnected, such as linking customer feedback with agent performance.
Our benchmark research into the contact center in the cloud shows organizations are gradually overcoming concerns about the cloud and organizations of all sizes are more willing to adopt cloud-based services. This is changing the vendor landscape because in a cloud environment vendors can more easily partner with other providers and offer a broader spectrum of services.
One such vendor is RingCentral. The company was founded in 1999 as a provider of on-premises business phone systems. In 2003 it joined the trend into the cloud and introduced RingCentral Office, a cloud-based business phone system that essentially is a software-based PBX in the cloud. The company has been continually enhancing this product and is now offering RingCentral Professional, which supports through a smartphone app for iPhone and Android devices capabilities such as a universal telephone number, voicemail, dial-by-name directory and call forwarding. The company also now provides RingCentral Fax, which enables organizations to send and receive faxes over the internet.
In 2015 the company took its first step into the contact center market through a partnership with inContact, offering RingCentral Contact Center, which integrates RingCentral Office and inContact contact center products to provide enterprise-wide telephony management and multichannel contact center capabilities. As a fully integrated assemblage of systems, it allows administrators to set up multi-channel, skills-based routing and advanced IVR capabilities using a single visual call flow editor. It also offers real-time reporting capabilities that help administrators monitor key metrics and improve call center efficiencies or identify areas for business performance improvement.
Later in 2015 the company acquired Glip. Its products support Facebook-style messaging and collaboration between employees, using both laptops and mobile devices. These have now been integrated with RingCentral Office, allowing employees across the organization to share information and collaborate on the resolution of customer interactions. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement found collaboration to be the technology organizations believe could have the biggest impact on customer engagement. This is for two reasons. First, customers have come to expect that their interactions will be resolved at the first point of contact so if, for instance, a contact center agent cannot resolve an issue, it is important that the agent be able to find an employee that can help him or her do so. Second, employees increasingly handle interactions while away from their desktop so it is important they are able to collaborate with others while they are on the move.
Through its own developments as well as partnerships and acquisitions RingCentral has built a comprehensive customer engagement hub that offers integrated multichannel customer engagement, unified communications, collaboration and analytics, all managed and administered through a common set of tools. However, as I have written several times recently, I don’t believe that is the end of the story. Our benchmark research over the last few years makes it clear that customer engagement is an enterprise-wide, multichannel issue that not only requires technology changes but also requires organizations to make cultural, people, process and information changes to become more customer-centric. Most will need help to bring about this degree of change, make the best use of current technology and keep up with ever-changing technologies such as digitization, artificial intelligence, machine learning and “bots.” So organizations need to work with experienced vendors that provide professional service in addition to great software. Given its history and approach, RingCentral has both so I recommend organizations looking to improve customer engagement assess how it can help them achieve these objectives.
VP & Research Director, Customer Engagement