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8x8 X Series combines UC and contact center

The cloud delivery model has made it easier to combine unified communications and contact center technologies into a single platform, as evidenced by the release of the 8x8 X Series this week.

Unified-communications-as-a-service vendor 8x8 pushed further into the cloud contact center market this week with the release of X Series, an offering that combines voice, video, collaboration and contact center functions in a single platform.

Combining UC and contact center makes it easier for agents to get in touch with the right people when handling customer queries, said Meghan Keough, vice president of product marketing at 8x8, based in San Jose, Calif. For example, a company could set up shared rooms within a team collaboration app where agents and knowledge workers can chat or video conference.

The 8x8 X Series will also help companies better track customer contacts, because the same back-end infrastructure will handle calls to a local retail store and the customer service line at headquarters, Keough said. 

8x8 highlighted the platform's ability to federate chats between leading team collaboration apps, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams, allowing users of those cloud services to communicate with each other from their respective interfaces.

Technology acquired in 8x8's 2017 acquisition of Sameroom is powering that federation and is available as a stand-alone product. The vendor also released its collaboration platform, 8x8 Team Messaging, in beta this week, with features such as persistent chat rooms, presence and file sharing.

The vendor is offering several subscription tiers for the 8x8 X Series. The more expensive plans include calling capabilities in 47 countries, as well as AI features, such as speech analytics.

Cloud fuels convergence of UC, contact center in 8x8 X Series

UC and contact center technologies used to live in "parallel universes," said Jon Arnold, principal analyst of Toronto-based research and analysis firm J Arnold & Associates. But the cloud delivery model has made it easier to combine the platforms, which lets customers use the same over-the-top service for geographically separate office locations.

Many UCaaS vendors have added contact centers to their cloud platforms in recent years. While some, including 8x8, developed or acquired contact center suites, others -- such as RingCentral and Fuze -- partner with contact-center-as-a-service specialists, like Five9 and Nice InContact.

Legacy vendors are also taking steps to enhance their cloud contact center offerings. Cisco is planning to use the CC-One cloud platform it recently acquired from BroadSoft to target the midmarket, for example. Avaya, meanwhile, bought contact-center-as-a-service provider Spoken Communications earlier this year to fill a gap in its portfolio.

For many businesses, a cloud subscription to the 8x8 X Series will be cheaper than purchasing UC and contact center platforms separately, analysts said. Also, 8x8's multi-tiered pricing model should appeal to organizations that are looking to transition to the cloud gradually.

8x8 is not the only vendor capable of offering integrated UC and contact center services, Arnold said. But the vendor has done a good job of marketing and packaging its products to make it easy for buyers and channel partners, he said.

"It's all part of one large integrated family of services, and you can cherry-pick along the way what level is best for you," Arnold said of the 8x8 X Series. "So, it kind of simplifies the roadmap [to the cloud] for companies."

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