To kick off 2020, let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories developing in the Unified Communications sector. According to thought leaders and industry analysts, a number of trends are expected to gain traction in the coming year:
AI will make headway among communications providers
Chat and SMS will become a major force
5G is an emerging contender to shape the market
Distributed, room-to-room “as-a-service” offerings will emerge
Digital transformation will continue on a global scale, with the U.S. leading in “digital readiness”
Here’s what the pundits have been saying:
1) AI, IVR, and Automation
Cloud communications providers will be looking at Artificial Intelligence (AI), including virtual assistants, intelligent routing, and IVR automation, to shape their operations and make their businesses more efficient and productive, especially in lieu of supply chain management. The key to successful implementation will be for companies to use AI to augment existing systems and processes, as opposed to replacing them. In other words, AI will facilitate more common tasks, but escalation to more complex issue resolution will still require human intervention.
For example, automation will manage basic tasks while giving workers time to focus on the more sophisticated elements of their jobs. So IVR and automated tools can accommodate appointment scheduling, and businesses can schedule deliveries based on the analysis of SMS messages or social media notifications, according to media sources.
2) Specialized Services
A roster of new technology capabilities will arrive in 2020, including video-enabled devices in collaborative unified communications environments. International news site UC Today advocates that the addition of specialized services offerings in vertical markets will play a greater role in the sales process.
“Channel partners will begin to make their money through specialist services, rather than selling maintenance plans and call packages,” wrote editor Rob Scott. “However, there will always be complexity in the [communications] marketplace and vendors will need specialist support to bring their communication solutions to life. This new marketplace will steer partners and resellers to differentiate themselves as specialists in particular niches.”
3) Rooms as a Service
Some unified communications vendors are developing new “Rooms as a Service” collaboration solutions that allow businesses to instantly deploy video conferencing tools and meeting software in SMB meeting rooms, as the “XaaS” everything-as-a-service economy continues to evolve, and video becomes a more prominent component in a communications environment.
4) Chat and Bots Escalate in the Call Center
Industry experts predict an increasing interaction between “bots” and consumers in 2020. This is in addition to increased use of chat services, which are put into practice when a bot conversation requires escalation to accommodate a more complicated response than a bot script can address. As business customers seek to deliver superior engagement experiences, AI, automation, and chat services will coalesce to meet the evolving needs of the marketplace.
According to research from Salesforce, 53% of service organizations claimed they will implement chatbots within 18 months, representing 136% growth. And 40% of customers said they didn’t have a preference for either an automated response or a human responder as long as they get a satisfactory answer quickly.
5) Integrated Solution Suites
Throughout 2020, the market is predicted to favor integrated solutions and product suites, which can deliver a compelling value proposition by offering a range of services within a single ecosystem — all administered by one vendor, under one brand. Solutions may incorporate chat, SMS messaging, video conferencing, and VoIP services, in addition to business processes such as billing and invoicing. The “stickiness” of these bundled solutions make it easier for channel MSP partners to maintain long-term relationships, delivering extra value and serving as a coveted trusted IT advisor.
6) Gearing-up for 5G
In addition to exciting developments in AI, IVR, and IoT, new protocols such as 5G and WiFi 6 are gaining momentum and stand to be a catalyst for smart office and SMB environments. Being hailed as the “next generation of mobile connectivity,” the faster Internet speeds of a 5G environment could deliver a watershed of opportunities in the UC and collaboration space. For example, 5G will reduce latency, and allows end-users to leverage data-heavy 4K video conferencing or to rapidly upload large data files.
Market research firm IDC predicts that 5G prices are likely to rapidly decline, helping to speed adoption. By the time we reach 2025, 5G technology should be available to approximately 65 percent of the world’s population, accounting for nearly 45 percent of all global mobile data traffic.
“Technology has the potential to be the single greatest catalyst for economic and social progress,” said Tae Yoo, senior vice president of corporate affairs at Cisco. “In every corner of the world, digital technology is helping us become more connected to each other and the organizations upon which we rely. It opens markets, creates jobs, and better connects citizens and customers.”