E-Handbook: UCaaS providers and market are headed in new directions Article 2 of 3

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UCaaS market for next-generation features APIs, AI, more

The market for unified communications as a service is getting crowded. To stand out, vendors must now offer next-gen features, such as AI and contact center integration.

The rapid development, and often the consolidation, of the UCaaS market has seen vendors of unified communications-as-a-service products coalesce around a similar set of features. As the UCaaS market matures, service providers are seeking out ways to differentiate their offerings to gain a competitive advantage, essentially creating the next generation of UCaaS platforms.

The key technologies that are part of this UCaaS evolution include open APIs and communications platform as a service (CPaaS), AI, team collaboration apps and customer-engagement capabilities. Enterprise buyers must take an active role in not only staying abreast of emerging next-generation UCaaS features, but in understanding their own provider's roadmaps and delivery capabilities.

Open APIs let customers and channel partners integrate UCaaS features, such as calling, with business applications. For example, adding click-to-call from within a customer relationship management (CRM) application or developing custom reporting. CPaaS provides additional communication capabilities, such as text messaging, that organizations can use to improve customer engagement or to develop new services. An organization could use CPaaS, for example, to integrate messaging with CRM applications to text appointment reminders and other notifications to customers.

Sales and marketing teams could also use CPaaS to obtain virtual phone numbers for marketing campaigns or to establish local access in remote markets. UCaaS providers that offer CPaaS, either natively or through partners such Flowroute, Vonage Nexmo and Twilio, deliver a broader capability for communications beyond simple calling, video conferencing and meetings.

UCaaS market offerings boosted by AI and contact center integrations

Enterprise buyers must take an active role in not only staying abreast of emerging next-generation UCaaS features, but in understanding their own provider's roadmaps.

AI and machine learning capabilities can be integrated across the entire UCaaS feature set, providing new functionality such as intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants, as well as predictive intelligence to suggest documents or pull up engagement history for a call. AI can also enable advanced call routing to improve customer service or sales opportunities. Most vendors in the UCaaS market are either developing their own AI capabilities or working with a variety of partners to integrate third-party AI into their UCaaS offerings.

UCaaS providers are adding support for new collaboration apps, such as team collaboration. RingCentral, for example, supports team collaboration with its Glip platform and 8x8 has integrated team collaboration capabilities into its X Series platform. These features allow UCaaS providers to match capabilities offered by vendors like Slack, as well as Cisco and Microsoft with their respective Webex Teams and Teams apps.

Next-generation UCaaS providers are also adding customer engagement capabilities to their platforms, including contact center functionality, CRM and customer polling. Delivering an integrated platform lets organizations maintain call information across all functions and can allow for more sophisticated reporting. Organizations can extend an integrated platform to use contact center call routing functionality for incoming sales calls.

It's clear from looking at each of these areas that the UCaaS market is in rapid transformation. Pay close attention to the roadmaps of your current provider or providers you are evaluating. Select one that not only provides what you need today, but also offers an evolution path to deliver additional features and functionality that will bring business value in the future.

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