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In recent years, there’s been a fundamental shift in consumer preference.

As shown in numerous surveys and reports, today’s consumers would typically rather deal with a company that has a decent product and provides strong, personalized customer service, than a company that has a great product and less-than-stellar customer service.

COVID, particularly, has highlighted gaps in customer service, and companies and brands have had to quickly adapt to ever-changing landscapes – in whatever channel or format that their customers prefer.

This has led to the massive growth and interest in contact-center-as-a-Service (CCaaS) and smart contact centers.

“Customer service is becoming the tip of the spear,” said Vasili Triant, COO of UJET., a CCaaS provider that has partnered with Google Cloud to power its contact center platform and services.

According to Market Research Future, the cloud-based contact center market will reach $45.5 billion by 2030, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 25%. And the CCaaS market, which was valued at $2.23 billion in 2020, will grow at a CAGR of nearly 18% by 2030.

Companies including ChaseData, Alvaria, Avaya, Genesys, Aircall, RingCentral and Five9 are all vying for a piece of that expanding pie. Cisco offers its Webex Contact Center, while Amazon Connect is used by Intuit, the United Kingdom grocery chain Morrisons, and Rhode Island’s Department of Labor and Training. Google recently unveiled its Contact Center AI (CCAI) suite and is now using UJET to help power it.

Microsoft, for its part, unveiled its new CCaaS tool, Dynamics 365 Customer Service, in November 2021. The data-driven, AI-powered tool leverages Microsoft Azure and is embedded with Microsoft Teams. Power Virtual Agents are employed in interactive voice response and as chatbots for SMS, live chat and social messaging channels, and the platform features AI-based routing, real-time transcription, live sentiment analysis, recommendations and transcript translation.

With traditional contact centers, “ensuring a continuous, personalized experience across all channels is difficult to achieve,” Jeff Comstock, vice president for Dynamics 365 Customer Service, said in a press release. “Multiple tools and disconnected data silos prevent agents from having a complete view of the customer journey.”

A clear message from Google Cloud

In the case of Google Cloud, new UJET capabilities enable customers to consolidate their tech stack with a tool managed, delivered and supported by Google Cloud and running on its platform, Triant explained.

The out-of-box platform integrates with customer relationship management (CRM) tools and leverages AI, cloud scalability and multi-experience capabilities. It is embedded with mobile/web software developer kits (SDKs) that are iOS and Android compatible, as well as automated scheduling, schedule adherence monitoring and employee scheduling management via Workforce Optimization integration. Visual Interactive Voice Response (IVR) provides customers with self-service via web or mobile interfaces.

Google Cloud touts the capability of the platform to manage multiple channels without having to pivot across voice, SMS and chat, and the capability of predicting customer needs and routing calls appropriately via AI based on historical CRM data and real-time interactions. Agents are provided views of customers in single workspaces featuring real-time AI intelligence, agent call controls and transcription.

The UJET SDK capabilities include channel blending, photo and video sharing, and biometric authentication. Triant explained that those tools can “grab” geolocation data and other identifiers to authenticate customers. Tickets are brought to agents to help them understand who the customer is and where they’ve already been, and auto-disposition tickets are created and distributed when interactions are complete.

The platform brings together support, sales, and marketing data with a goal to provide an experience that is more engaging, personalized and flexible, according to Yariv Adan, director of product management for Cloud Conversational AI at Google Cloud. The goal is to eliminate “pain points” caused by data fragmentation and “rigid” customer experience flows.

“Customer expectations are increasing at a level that is outpacing antiquated contact center infrastructure solutions,” Adan said. “The value of leveraging AI to improve customer experience and scale the interactions of a contact center is very clear at this point.”

An evolutionary call

The ultimate goal for any business should be not just to determine customer needs and solve customer problems, but to better engage customers, Triant said. “Because it’s not if you have problems, it’s when you have problems,” he said.

With consumer demand for self-service and digital engagement continuing to rise, organizations that invest in consolidated infrastructure across AI and customer experiences will only benefit, he noted.

Incorporating AI into customer interactions and unifying sales, marketing and customer service data allows for more personalized and consistent customer experiences, whether that be through virtual agent, human agent or a combination of both.

Google Cloud CCaaS customers have seen cost savings, reduced call volumes and increased agent efficiency, according to Adan. For example, Marks & Spencer reduced in-store call volume by 50%, and The Home Depot improved call containment by 185%.

“This has allowed them to focus on delivering the best possible experiences for their customers,” Adan said. In turn, “we continue to stay focused on enabling our customers to deliver compelling experiences to their customers in a new post-pandemic world.”

Triant also emphasized the evolving landscape. The contact center has typically been “a lot of third-party components funneled together,” he said. But that is increasingly shifting to more integrated, streamlined solutions.

The UJET-Google Cloud partnership “shows the intention from large brands wanting to provide more all-in-solutions compared to toolkits,” he said. “That is where the industry is going.”

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