It goes without saying that 2021 was a wild ride in unified communications. We saw numerous mergers unfold as the market consolidated and focused on inclusive, all-in-one customer experience platforms that also helped their teams collaborate. Fueled by a second consecutive year of the pandemic, business leaders shifted their strategies past “the new normal” and began searching for competitive advantages from AI, workforce optimization, and other customer-centric technologies. The UC market took notice and innovations advanced at a flurrying pace, particularly within the contact center.
Entering 2022, those same objectives are driving the UC industry to consolidate and specialize their technologies by industry even further, often blurring lines between UCaaS, CCaaS, and XCaaS. Here are some of the trends we’re expecting for unified communications throughout 2022:
More Adaptive UC Platforms to Meet a Larger Variety of Needs
While premise-based PBX platforms aren’t as popular for enterprises these days, vendors are realizing that some enterprises have resisted the move to cloud due to the specific functionalities they have within their legacy on-premise environments. The pressure is enormous to choose the right long-term provider with an instant upgrade in functionality today while also leaving room for future growth, without having to worry about compatibility.
Open APIs have somewhat addressed that challenge for leading Gartner Magic Quadrant UCaaS providers, and they continue to add more out-of-the-box integrations every month. But the fourth quarter of 2021 started a new trend—buying rival technologies and making them native within your tech stack offering. The cloud contact center, AI, workforce management, and advanced analytics are becoming common compliments to UCaaS offerings from providers such as RingCentral, 8x8, and TalkDesk, while many new competitors also enter the UC arena.
This acquisition trend will continue in 2022 and beyond, which is a good thing for the marketplace since it drives innovation and improves customer experiences.
A Move Towards Specific UC Solutions Within Specific Verticals
In the near future, unified communications will abandon the “one size fits all” approach with specific solutions within industry verticals and companies of various sizes. For example, the needs of a small family medical practice vary greatly from a regional healthcare system. Vendors are realizing the importance of focusing on specific challenges within each vertical and embracing potential customers where they’re currently at within their cloud journey.
This trend is leading to a reimagining of how providers will structure their solutions and price points to make them more competitive in various growing segments. Expect to see more native functionality added for specific roles and situations across a wide variety of industries, along with enriched security layers to combat the recent uptick in cyber threats. This will lead to extensive, new capabilities that are not currently available in “out of the box” deployments.
Creating More Engaging Meetings & Webinars
All indications are that the hybrid workforce is here to stay in 2022, which is why vendors are continuing to focus on heightening engagement levels within their video platforms. Whether it’s a quick brainstorming session between co-workers or a large webinar event, new elements are being added to make video meetings more fun, engaging, and productive for everyone involved. From task management to simplified note-taking, new functionalities continue being released as integrated apps or core features via updates.
Additionally, video is among the fastest growing segment both in UCaSS and CCaaS since it adds a level of personalization to interactions. Some retailers are even adding video to their customer service and helpdesk offerings so they can troubleshoot with customers in real-time.
A Renewed Focus on the Overall Customer Experience
While UCaaS providers continue to invest heavily in artificial intelligence, the focus is shifting from building pure AI experiences to using the technology to augment customer service representatives. The goal is to provide quick, easy self-service options for what AI does well, and advanced routing capabilities for when human intervention is necessary. But before that caller is passed along to an agent, AI will complete several repetitive tasks such as verifying the caller’s identity, help narrow the scope of their call, and fill in other areas of a common service ticket.
This process is known as intelligence augmented (IA), a term that will become much more prevalent in 2022 across the omnichannel. Organizations using this technology today might shave minutes off the average customer interaction, which can save hundreds or even thousands of combined hours daily from a large service center. The result is higher levels of service and a much more favorable customer experience.
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