October 26, 2023
2024 will bring more artificial intelligence (AI) into the contact center portfolio of popular contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS) provider Webex by Cisco. It announced it would add various AI-fueled tools to its Webex Contact Center offering that assist contact center agents and customers at its annual Webex One event, being held this week.
There, it said it would launch an AI-powered agent burnout detection tool so businesses can "proactively address agent well-being by enabling automated breaks to the Webex Contact Center."
Via a revamped alliance with Thrive Global, which builds a behavioral change platform, the collaboration giant will launch a tool that extends real-time coaching after challenging customer interactions in the form of a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) slated for beta release in February.
Suggested responses are another way Cisco is sprinkling AI into its contact center offering, leveraging generative AI this time to give agents suggested replies, a tool it says will be in beta by year's end.
The firm additionally stated it would add conversation summaries and a feature called "coaching highlights" to the Webex Contact Center, which it says "generates a dashboard for supervisors showing the highest and lowest customer-rated interactions, then provides supervisors with coaching tips."
The Webex AI Codec will extend fresh generative AI functionalities to deliver clearer audio regardless of the network connection. And Cisco also unveiled the new Webex AI assistant that can do things like suggest changes to message tones.
Cisco said the next phase of an ongoing partnership with Nvidia will result in a tool that enables AI-powered meetings for hybrid workers, setting the tone for its 2024 product road map, which appears to consist primarily of AI.
Webex Contact Center: Not Everything Is Unique
"We are seeing an increasing shift in reimagining customer experience (CX) and doing so, recognizes it is inseparable from employee experience (EX)," David Smith, founder and principal of InFlow Analysis, told Channel Futures. This is most important in the contact center space, where you have to focus on CX and EX from the customer-facing agent perspective."
InFlow Analysis' David Smith
And that is what this feature set seems to be about. But what Cisco is doing is not exactly novel. Most CCaaS players on the market already extend most, if not all, of the above features.
"These are AI capabilities/features being delivered from multiple companies and by themselves aren't highly differentiated," industry analyst Diane Myers, principal analyst at Metrigy, shared.
The noteworthy distinction between what Cisco is doing versus what its challengers are doing is that, according to Myers, "Cisco's enhancements span the full Webex platform, and therein lies the difference, as most of the leading CCaaS providers don't have their own integrated UC platform (although some do) — so the ability to leverage key AI capabilities and insights across collaboration and CX is valuable."
Channel Partners Will Have to Help 'Wade Through the Noise'
Metrigy's Diane Myers
For channel partners, Myers shared, since AI is ubiquitous, understanding how capabilities like agent burnout and automated sentiment scoring can impact a client's CX operations will be crucial.
"Helping customers wade through all the noise around AI will be important,” Myers said. “Additionally, what is extra, and what gets bundled? Right now, the cost of these enhanced capabilities is all over the map, and we expect that what may be "free" today won't be long-term."
Myers believes that channel partners ought to educate CX tool buyers on the value of AI in general as well as specific capabilities like those outlined in Cisco's announcement regarding Webex Contact Center — a sentiment we have heard echoed time and time again as AI penetrates well into the portfolios of more unified communications and collaboration providers.
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