The future of modern communication infrastructures is cloud-based. With the accessibility of the internet, a hosted phone system is simply a more cost-effective option for most businesses than maintaining in-house networks.
Source: GM Insights
You can see this in the increasing rate of adoption of UCaaS over the last decade. This transition to UCaaS is a trend that will continue. The UCaaS market is predicted to exceed $20 billion by 2022. Let’s briefly define UCaaS.
What is UCaaS?
There are two parts to the definition. First is Unified Communications, which relates to how you manage and monitor different modes of communications, including but not limited to phone calls, chat, email, video calls, video conferencing, and so much more. The as a Service part of the equation means there’s a monthly fee for accessing the service.
All these features of UCaaS make it the best candidate for a business phone system setup. Unified Communications promotes team collaboration and makes your business communications easier to manage. Additionally, with cloud systems, there is no infrastructure and associated upkeep costs. But, what else can we expect from this continuously improving platform?
Growing demand for AI
UCaaS emerged from the Contact Centers as a Service (CCaaS) model. It provided a promising solution for businesses of all sizes – the integration of essential means of communication and information exchange.
Developers are applying AI and machine learning to help manage and improve communications. AI supports IVR or Interactive Voice Response. IVR is used in both CCaaS and UCaaS for automated customer service to identify why a person is making a call and subsequently forwarding the request to the correct department.
AI is also commonly used in sentiment analysis, where the algorithm detects the emotions of the caller. Sentiment analysis is used to warn contact center operators if the caller is angry even before they interact. Sentiment analysis has wider business applications. For example, it is used for things like social media monitoring.
Here are some other ways AI is being used by UCaaS providers and future developments that are on the horizon:
- Sifting calls and emails in terms of urgency based on communication purpose indicators. AI can prioritize calls and emails based on a set of parameters provided by the client. For example, prioritizing an email from a high valued client over a regular refund request
- Document distribution as needed during meetings. During teleconferences, AI can prescribe documents to share with attendees.
- Calls and conferencing transcription. In addition to AI transcription, automatic minutes of the meeting creation, automatic to-do, list and task assignments based on personnel workloads, capability, and terms of service
- Automatic and intelligent active speaker tracking while effectively managing simultaneous speaking
The existing applications of AI in CCaaS provide a glimpse of future developments. You can expect to see AI utilized in UCaaS to assist users in problem-solving, data analytics, systems handling, and productivity.
Since UCaaS enables different modes of communication, massive data is derived from various channels (e.g. phone calls, instant messaging, email, document sharing, and video conferencing). The communication is managed through different devices (e.g. company PC, laptop, mobile device, etc.). Now that businesses have lots of information available to them, the next question is what to do with it.
With all of this information, every communication executed within the company and interaction with customers is recorded. The information acquired through Unified Communications can be used to map out relationships between stakeholders.
Internally, this information can help determine the level of collaboration between team members and detect communication barriers such as infrastructure or network problems. Businesses using VoIP technology, for example, can lower communication costs while simplifying business management. Data collection and mapping can help in devising quick and effective resolution to collaboration issues.
Externally, this type of mapping can help businesses understand which are the most important communication channels. This enables companies to develop strategies that are optimized to these channels, and allot resources accordingly.
Perhaps the most important trend in data analysis is strengthening businesses’ relationships with their customers by analyzing behavioural data. This information can help companies predict when a customer is likely to make a purchase. This is a huge business opportunity, as it enables companies to generate more revenue per customer through more effective cross-sells, upsells, and more.
Video as the main driver of UCaaS
Video is rapidly becoming the main means of communication for businesses. You can see this in the shift to remote work that has been forced upon us by this Covid-19 crisis. Companies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and other alternatives to Fuze such as 8×8, Vonage and Dialpad have recognized this trend and are investing heavily in video services.
Video calling is highly dependent on internet reliability. As internet connectivity is becoming widely used and reliability is increasing, quality has immensely improved. Video calling can take advantage of the upcoming release of 5G internet connectivity. A staggering 83% of large-scale enterprises use video conferencing programs.
Remote communication through video calling has answered so many limitations that voice calls presented. These include:
- Stakeholders can consider non-verbal cues. Users have the ability to recognize emotions, hand-gestures and body language
- Users can show visual aids. With this, information gets delivered in a shorter span of time than having to share documents through email to be looked into at a different time
- Video conferencing increases productivity by reducing points of miscommunication
- You can instantly transfer a call across different devices from your desktop, to a laptop or your mobile phone
Because of this, video conferencing is becoming a central part of the way we collaborate and communicate. You can expect this trend to continue and UCaaS providers to invest accordingly in new features for video conferencing.
Hybrid is the near future
Looking at the trends, it’s clear the future of UCaaS is the cloud. It’s not that simple for many organizations to shift their entire UCC environment to the cloud. Factors like the investment in current infrastructure, compatibility with existing systems and hardware, as well as the cost of implementation, user adoption, and security concerns, hinder full migration for many businesses.
Thus, many organizations will find themselves operating hybrid UC environments. While technology is moving at such a pace that businesses are pressed to keep up, on-premises components have a reputation for being more secure.
Hybrid environments can be viewed as having the “best of both worlds.” It certainly provides your organization a competitive advantage over an on-premises solution in the near term.
Longer term transition to the Cloud
As business structures become more dynamic, transitioning to the use of cloud computing is almost inevitable for most businesses. The more communication channels we use, the more information needs to be managed and monitored.
Using the cloud for UCaaS eliminates the businesses’ task of maintaining infrastructure. This includes setting up, ensuring security, monitoring, and pushing updates. All these functions are done by the provider. This paves way to focusing more on the effective implementation of UC.
Furthermore, cloud-based platforms are easily accessible whenever and wherever there is an internet connection. This makes UCaaS highly portable, which means employees can access their email, hold virtual meetings, or share documents even if they are working out of the office. Because of this, it is not very hard to maintain productivity among employees.
Scalability is another advantage of adopting the cloud for UCaaS. In-premise servers present limited infrastructure, making scalability difficult to manage. But with cloud computing, cloud providers are able to manage in case there are spikes in data traffic. The large-scale and long-term adoption of cloud-computing for UCaaS increases its stability.
Increasing App Integrations
Enterprises were surveyed back in 2018 regarding UCaaS usage. According to the study, stakeholders wanted to see UCaaS integrated with more business programs and applications.
The primary reason for this was a perception that more integrations would increase productivity. For example, time could be saved manually inputting customer contact information from CRM to UCaaS platform. Call logs can be automatically saved and cases noted adding value to customer service.
The integration of UCaaS with other business applications brings a lot of undeniable benefits to enterprises. This will not only benefit internal efficiencies but can improve how businesses can form relationships with their customers.
CPaaS, workflows, and APIs
Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) provides businesses with a complete framework for building their real-time communications and workflows. It provides a single-window environment for employees as opposed to having separate apps and tools for different functions like video conferencing, calling, and messaging.
Through APIs, CPaaS embeds the communication features a business needs into their existing business tools. It enables the integration of instant messaging, video calling, or appointment reminders on the business website, leading to a massive improvement in customer and employee user experience.
With the cloud becoming increasingly popular as a way to access modern technology and digital transformation, UCaaS’s growth will undoubtedly continue to skyrocket. All these developments point to exciting times ahead in the UC space, but it also means that IT teams need to be up to the task so companies can elevate what it means to provide good customer service and workforce management.
True success in the UC field will depend on reliability, agility, and insight, as the way we connect and collaborate evolves. Organizations that equip their staff with the tools and skills to navigate the complexity of the UC landscape and deliver services that work will succeed in 2020 and beyond.
The future of UCaaS promises more solutions for enterprises to thrive. Developments such as the integration of UCaaS with AI, cloud computing, data management, and other applications point to a rosy future that removes the problem of lack of communication and working in silos. As UCaaS continues to progress, it’s safe to say that we can expect many other useful services in the coming years.