2017 was a great year for UCC technology innovation and 2018 looks to be equally promising based on a recent conversation with two of Ingram Micro’s resident UCC experts, Curt Vurpillat, partner technical enablement, UCC, and Chad Simon, senior category strategy consultant, UCC. The duo recently shared their insights into what solution providers should be keeping an eye on in 2018 and beyond.
Question: Voice, video, chat. What's next in communication methods?
Vurpillat: We continue to read a lot about virtual reality and augmented reality as the communications interfaces of the future. At some point, they’ll become powerful tools for communications. However, a little less futuristic is speech recognition. Assistant devices such as Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple Alexa have been refined in the past year and now provide a lot of impressive functionality. For example, I received a call the other day from my 10-year-old daughter who doesn’t have a cell phone. When I asked her how she was calling me, she said she asked Alexa to “call Curt.” The communication happened despite my daughter’s lack of cell phone and knowledge level.
Simon: To add to this, this speech recognition and underlying AI engine, when brought into the communications space, could have a significant impact on how things are done. Imagine a field worker with their hands occupied being able to easily communicate with coworkers or to ask their mobile computing device to access a customer PDF (without even knowing where the PDFs are saved) and email it to them. That can have a real impact on productivity and efficiency. While voice interfaces exist today, they’re a little clunky at times. As speech recognition is refined in the consumer space, the enterprise will benefit.
Question: Chatbots have become popular. How do you see them improving in 2018?
Vurpillat: The average chat agent allows customer service reps to handle between 4 and 6 chats at the same time. AI is constantly improving, and I think we’ll see the need for human involvement in chats to diminish. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one person managing 20 chats at the same time with assistance from bots and, eventually, nearly all chats to be handled by bots.
Question: How have UCC solutions become more vertically focused?
Simon: Things are certainly trending this way. The real value of the technology comes when it makes an impact on your life. To date, UCC is stable, easy to implement and easy to use. While the impact has been considerable, going forward the best way to expand the impact is to verticalize by adding features specific to a market.
In the past, vertical capabilities were added to a communications system after the fact. We’re now beginning to see cloud platforms with already-included integrations for specific niche applications. Clinical communications (a niche expected to be a $7 billion industry in 2 years) is just one example. If solution providers specialize in a vertical, there’s a good chance that the market could benefit from a vertically focused communications platform.