Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of the digital contact center has grown more vital for organisations to managing the increasing expectations of customer experience and excellence. Microsoft have had many of the core building blocks of a contact center platform for while with products like Dynamics 365 Customer Service, which was very focused on the support agent and customer experience … but it didn’t provide the actual engagement channels – which required third party services.
Despite the increasing importance of contact centers however, Microsoft had truly developed or built their own “true contact center” capability despite their prime competition in the UC&C space (namely Zoom and Cisco) have had Contact Centre in their UC&C portfolio.
Until now that is…
At Microsoft Inspire (Microsoft’s annual global partner conference), Microsoft unveiled their new Digital Contact Centre Platform which combines Dynamics 365, Nuance, Teams, Power Platform, and Azure to form a new modern contact centre solution that aims to engage customers through a blend of voice, video, and other digital engagement channels and plays to their strength and breadth of their “platform strategy approach”.
“In today’s digital world, brand reputation is synonymous with customer experience, including the quality of customer care. Consumers expect effortless, consistent, and secure experiences across any point of contact they choose—in fact, their brand perception and customer loyalty depend on it. With the stakes this high, companies need a comprehensive yet flexible solution to modernise their customer care experience. We are thrilled to introduce the Microsoft Digital Contact Center Platform, an open, extensible, and collaborative contact centre solution designed to deliver seamless customer journeys.”
Charles Lamanna | CVP | Business Applications and Platform | Microsoft
Great….so what is it?
Despite Microsoft adding support for Teams voice channels into Dynamics 365 last year, it’s really their acquisition of AI-based communications giant Nuance in March which has allowed them to take the next step into developing their own fully fledged Digital Contact Centre solution not only adding the omni channel experience, but also providing support agents with everything from recommended responses to live sentiment analysis across all channels.
Microsoft describe their new Digital Contact Centre Platform, as an open, extensible, and collaborative contact centre solution designed to deliver seamless customer journeys. The platform brings together a comprehensive yet flexible solution for contact centres, delivering best-in-class AI that powers self-service experiences, live customer engagements, collaborative agent experiences, business process automation, advanced telephony, and fraud prevention capabilities.
Microsoft say that “the real USP in their offering is that by leveraging their core suites of platform, enables organisation to capture additional customer information that might otherwise fall through the cracks” | Pete Daderko | Director of Teams Product Marketing.
The viewpoint is that since Microsoft already over 250 million people using Teams as their primary work tool, then “It’s really only natural that organisations would want to take the productivity or collaboration platform that they’re already using and use it to better serve customers.”
With the combination of Teams telecommunications infrastructure, Dynamics 365 customer agent experience and Nuance AI, Microsoft believes it is uniquely placed to be able to address the three main pillars of a contact center – Infrastructure, agent experience and true conversational, contextual based AI.
This is an interesting one. Microsoft of course aren’t the only vendor to take this approach. After the failed FiveNine acquisition last year, Zoom later went on to Solvvy to bolster their own AI capabilities into their contact centre solution.
Still, Microsoft knows it won’t replace every customer’s contact center. Recognizing that very few customers will switch their entire tech stacks to Microsoft overnight, the company plans to play nice with others (for now).
Microsoft, despite the extent of their cloud platforms have always touting the open ecosystem approach to bolstering “gaps” or “specialist” areas in their portfolio – with contact centre being a big example. They have continually addressed the answer to the question of “when will Microsoft build its own native contact centre” around the extensive integrations with leading contact centre providers such as Genesys, Avaya, NICE inContact and others. As Microsoft move into the next stage of their own development, they say that “When we called it the digital contact center platform, we called it that very deliberately — the platform piece — because we think integrations and interoperability and being open is so key“.
“Nuance has a rich history and legacy of connecting to really any kind of CRM, or any contact center infrastructure or contact center as a service provider,” is a key part of that open platform strategy”Charles Lamanna | CVP | Business Apps and Platform | Microsoft
This is a big investment space and with cloud penetration still generally low across the legacy contact center industry, which still relies on a single mode / voice, on-premises infrastructure and limited connectivity to CRM and other LOB apps, there’s tremendous opportunity for Microsoft and their partners to help its customers move from on-premises to the cloud. It will just have to beat out the likes of Zoom, Salesforce, and others with a longer history in the market.
What do you think – please leave your answers in the comments.