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OneSPARKS Podcast Episode 6 - Transcript

How  Experience Communications as a Service can improve your Strategy  

Onesparks How Experience Communications as a Service can improve your Strategy  .mp3

Dave Harries [00:00:07]

Hello, and a very warm welcome to the OneSPARKS podcast. In today's show, we'll be discussing the Unified Communications and Contact Centre market and the benefits of implementing an XCaas strategy. In particular, we're going to look at experienced communications as a service (XCaaS) and how a centralised Unified Communications and Contact Centre strategy can lead to big improvements in customer experience. My name is Dave Harries, and with me to explain the ins and outs of the subjects at hand, I have two expert guests. Our first guest is Oli Caudwell, strategic acquisitions manager at Onecom. Oli has immense experience within the telecoms industry, assisting UK businesses with their operational efficiencies and improved customer experience through digital transformation. Oli supports Onecom’s customers to ensure they can collaborate and communicate seamlessly through Cloud, Unified Communications, Contact Centre, and connectivity. James Vernon is a Senior Enterprise Executive at 8X8. One of the largest providers of voice-over IP products and are leading the transformation in the UCaaS and CCaaS Cloud Communication industry. James has been working in the industry for nearly 25 years and is an experienced professional in Cloud Communication services. Thank you both for joining me on the podcast. Firstly, I'd be really interested to understand your opinions on how the Unified Communications market has evolved in recent years, and if you'd agree that it's influenced and perhaps even redefined business models worldwide. James, perhaps I could get you to address that one first.

James Vernon [00:01:44]

Yeah, absolutely. Good afternoon as well, Dave. Thanks for having me on. It's no secret, really, that the UCaaS and the CCaaS are Unified Communications, and also Contact center customer experience markets have evolved massively over recent years. I think it's not a secret that organisations throughout, you know, global organisations are looking at replacing their ageing, expensive, inflexible, on premise systems for more flexible, cost effective, futureproof, more solutions really delivered from the cloud, that' give them more, more scale and more capacity. And that's really where we kind of fit in 8x8 with our XCaaS platform, which XCaas stands for experience, communications, and service. That's our go-to-market solution.

Dave Harries [00:02:26]

Oli, what's your sort of view of it from the point of view at Onecom?

Oli Caudwell [00:02:29]

Yeah, so thanks, Dave. So, yeah, at Onecom, we've really seen a mass adoption of Unified Communications solutions over the last three to four years, and I think this has really been accelerated by the global pandemic over the last 18 months or so. We're finding more and more that Unified Communications is at the top of many UK enterprises' digital transformation agendas. What it's essentially allowing organisations to do is facilitating their employees to communicate and collaborate seamlessly on any device, from any location. And with employee experience at the forefront and hybrid working becoming the norm, organisations can no longer be restricted by on premise servers if they wish to attract the skilled workforce they require. So, I think Unified Communications and the collaboration it offers has been accelerated by this shift towards a hybrid remote workforce.

Dave Harries [00:03:22]

And it is true, isn't it, that you know, obviously communications has gone through a huge revolution in the last 10, 20 years when you and I started James, it was a very different picture. It's sort of I mean, I'm going to ask you about the future later. But do you think that sort of pace of change is going to keep going? I mean, are there new things coming down the line all the time, James?

James Vernon [00:03:44]

Yes, it's ridiculous. Go back, you know, 10, 15 years, you know, an organisation that implement the technology, they they'd run it for 10 years, they'd sweat that asset. And it pretty much did the same kind of providing the same features and functionality at the end of the contract as it did at the very start. And I think what's happened with the pace of change and customer demands and all of this is driven quite rightly by customer demands and customer expectations, that organisations, they need to be able to react a lot quicker than they have helped them previously. So, you know, and that's a lot quicker with respect to not just how they communicate with their customers and that their future customers, but also how they communicate internally within the back office. So, you know, one of the key strengths, of XCaaS, with 8x8 is that we offer UCaaS and CCaaS. So, in other words, the back office and the front office whole experience on one technical platform and that's got, you know, huge benefits all around.

Dave Harries [00:04:39]

And I want to ask you both actually about the relevance of this in boardrooms because, you know, Experience Communications is a service which is more than ever relevant at that level of those boardroom discussions. So, could you tell me a bit more about why more organisations should be taking notice of XCaaS?

James Vernon [00:04:57]

Yeah, these conversations are going on in all boardrooms, you know, of the whole of the UK. All over the globe, for all the right reasons and C-suite leaders, you know, they're all now re-evaluating how they communicate internally and externally. I think Oli is quite right. I think COVID only accelerated that. And what we saw through COVID is a lot of organisations kind of rushing around if you like to keep the lights on whilst all of their staff working remotely. And now thankfully and hopefully we're coming out of that kind of COVID world. You know, they're looking at, you know, a little bit more strategically about how they can put things in place for the very long term. And as I mentioned, what they've seen and what they tell us at 8x8 is that where they see the big disconnect is between their employees and their customers. And the wider that disconnect is, you know, the lesser of a seamless experience that they can offer to their customers. And obviously, if the customers don't receive the love and attention that they require very, very quickly, you know, they're going to go elsewhere.

Dave Harries [00:05:57]

And Oli, presumably this, you know, if the guys at the top kind of realise the benefits of this stuff, you know, that's got to be a good thing. Eventually, it's going to it's going to trickle down. Or maybe very soon it will trickle down to the lower reaches as well. So, tell me about your view of Experience Communications as a service for boardrooms.

Oli Caudwell [00:06:13]

I mean, building on what James is just said that I mean, Experience Communications is the service is really built on the foundations of excellent customer experience and excellent employee experience, which in the past have been disconnected to a degree. Onecom is an organisation or a trusted managed service provider to many of the UK's leading brands, and a common theme in the conversations we're having with those at board level within these organisations is that efficiency gains are required in a rapidly changing customer and employee landscape. So, the reason why XCaaS should really be at the forefront of all boardroom discussions is it bridges that gap between your front office agent and your back-office subject matter experts, through a single integrated Cloud Contact Centre with voice, team chat, and meeting functionality as well. So, what it's ultimately allowing us to do is improve customer experience through that improved first contact resolution, but also improve the employee experience, leading to a happier workforce as well.

James Vernon [00:07:19]

The thing I'd like to add on that, Dave, is that, you know, we did a lot of research at 8x8 to make sure that we're, you know, in touch with, you know, market conditions and demands of the new customer, if you like of today. And what we found from the research, and this is incredible, we found that 49% of workers say that they are likely to leave their current employer and job if they are unhappy or frustrated where they work with their workplace technology. So that's 49% of employees potentially at risk if the boardroom doesn't get it right with their strategy if they don't get it right with their back-office employees and their front-of-house customers. So, this is huge. And again, the cost of getting that wrong is also huge. So, we talk about strategy, we talk about the long term. Not all organisations are ready for the Big Bang, they're not all ready to rip everything out and replace everything immediately. But what they need and what XCaaS delivers is that kind of steppingstone if you like, into that new world so they can confront, you know, they can transition at a pace that is both right for them, right for their employees, and right for the customers.

Dave Harries [00:08:20]

Yeah, that's really interesting that you say that James, because I was thinking as you were talking and as Oli was talking about how companies often invest a huge amount in the, you know, in getting the products right. You know, if you like in the machinery of the production or whatever the service is, or the product is. But communications is obviously a vital function, you know, and we always talk about the, you know, how important internal comms is and all that sort of thing for a happy workforce and an engaged workforce. So, I guess, you know, getting this communication stuff right is really important, isn't it Oli?

Oli Caudwell [00:08:56]

Yeah, absolutely. And I think what we're seeing more and more of is, well, now is building on what Jimmy said that we've got a new situation whereby obviously we all know we've moved towards this hybrid workforce, so that geographic restriction of workforce within, you know, within a certain area is completely removed. So, your workforce is a lot more mobile, and you've got to work a lot harder as an organisation to put the right technologies in place to attract that worker because it's now feasible that, you know, a worker in Glasgow who can work for an organisation in London. So, it's open the net lot, you know, a lot wider. So, it's really important to have this technology in place to attract that skilled workforce you require in the first place, but also retain that workforce.

Dave Harries [00:09:47]

Yeah, and that's a really profound point, I think, Oli yeah. And I wonder if we could talk about some of the tangible benefits now, guys, that an organisation will see from implementing an XCaaS strategy. And what are, in other words, what are the most compelling reasons for businesses to review their strategy?

James Vernon [00:10:05]

There's lots of, there's many reasons, Dave. I mean, you know, again, it's no. It's no secret that senior leadership teams in all environments are, you know, when we ask them the question, they are very frustrated with the amount of technologies and the amount of vendors that they need to bring on board, just to deliver the most basic of requirements, just to deliver a basic service. It's clunky, it's expensive, it's just time-consuming all round, and they don't want to give a standard service to their customers. Quite rightly, they want to give a superior service. So, the benefits of moving to an XCaaS strategy, there are many. I guess, you know, we'd start off with just simply the hard savings, so the cost savings that just by implementing XCaaS from 8x8, we retire so many legacy technologies, so many complex solutions and so many cost sensors, really, by removing things like ISDN lines and those costs, SIP channels those costs. Call charges disappear because we include those without bundled packages. Maintenance fees for UCaaS and CCaaS separately disappear because we combine all of that within a 24/7 support model with our XCaaS and the list goes on. So straight away, it's very easy to get people's attention just from hard savings to move into this kind of dialogue. However, you know, as we've touched on, you know, the real savings are how we can improve the customer experience. So, organisations are constantly looking at ways that they can improve how they operate to retain you know the customers that they've already got and also attract new business. Because again, if they don't attract the new business, their competitors will. So, everything that we talk around with within our XCaaS solution is how can we improve that customer experience and as touched on the way that we do that often is the case by improving both the employee experience. And Oli touched on it, the world has changed when we think of an organisation typically still think of lots of people in a building. And but that's no longer the case. The vast majority of our customers, certainly in the last two years during COVID, their workforces are 80% remote, and this could be global as well. So, customers don't really care where their contact point sits, whether it be which country, what device they're using, whether they're working from a coffee shop or an office. They just expect the same high-level quality of response irrespective of where they are, and XCaaS delivers that inherently.

Dave Harries [00:12:29]

And Oli, that's a really good point James just made, you know, the customer doesn't care where you are that all they care about is the service and the product. And so, when you're talking to your customers and your prospects, how do you talk about the benefits of XCaaS?

Oli Caudwell [00:12:44]

Yeah. So, I mean, James is covered, you know, some really valid points there. I think when we're talking with our customers, the real, tangible benefit to the XCaaS strategy more than ever resulting from remote and hybrid working becoming the new norm. So, when we're discussing new ways of working with our customers, a key theme that comes up again and again is delivering that seamless customer experience with a remote workforce. As I mentioned a moment ago as well, another key theme is those geographic restrictions being broken down and having the right tools, being crucial to attracting those skilled employees. With XCaaS, we're really able to bridge the gap of what were previously disparate services and customer-facing communications and back-office communications, to deliver excellent customer and employee experiences, regardless of the location and the device that they're using. So, I think in terms of looking at what those benefits are specifically, obviously James discussed at length around a few of those, but it's again moving on. It's that improved first contact resolution through a connected front and back office and XCaaS is also eliminating the need to spend on multiple different technologies, multiple different services, driving cost savings for the organisation as well.

Dave Harries [00:14:08]

And James, you mentioned earlier when I asked you about what the technology coming down the line and all that sort of thing and I'm thinking about, you know, today's hybrid, agile working world, you know, what are the things that drive I mean, does that drive continuous improvement and why?

James Vernon [00:14:24]

Absolutely. I think organisation of today, you know, today they fully recognise that if they don't, you know, it's the cost of doing nothing or the cost of doing something wrong that if they don't drive the continuous improvement, first of all, their competitors will, right? And customer experience, it is everything these days. I heard a term the other day that information is the new gold, and I don't disagree with it. I think understanding your customer, understanding what they want, how they want information to be delivered, what type of experience that they want, what channels they want to contact you on. So, whether that be, you know, the traditional telephone that me and you Dave will remember back in the day. But you know, everything now is, you know, whether that be email, whether that be web chat, whether that be video. You know, all of these different channels are available for different types of customers, and they expect the same experience and the same response times, and the same quality, irrespective of how they use those channels and when they use the channels. So, driving that continuous improvement, always thinking about your customer, and thinking about what they want and asking them what they want. I think relevancy is everything.

Dave Harries [00:15:27]

Yeah, and it's interesting this issue of continuous improvement because obviously there's a I suppose there's always a danger with new technology that you kind of run before you can walk. And we've all had the experience of, I don't know, being on a Skype call or a Zoom call, you know, and somebody drops out and you know, and that might be nothing to do with software might be a broadband connection or whatever. But clearly there are some of these systems sometimes are vulnerable, and you know, that can be frustrating. So, I wonder Oli, you know, what's your view of that in terms of driving this continuous improvement and making these systems more and more reliable?

Oli Caudwell [00:15:57]

First and foremost, I mean, one of the key reasons that it's important to drive those continuous improvements, in my opinion, is the way that customers are interacting with businesses today is constantly evolving. Over the past few years, we've seen significant growth in the digitisation of a customer journey and how they interact through chat, through social media, through phone. You know; however, it is, it's not simply a case of phoning up a business anymore. So, arming your workforce with the tools to serve those multiple interaction types when working remotely is really key to maintain a competitive advantage and why it's so relevant to drive those continuous improvements. I think, in terms of the reliability piece, and this is where, you know, Onecom are really strong is it is a managed service provider. When we are speaking with customers, it’s not just looking at the technology and how that will ultimately drive their desired business outcomes. It's looking at the infrastructure that's underpinning that, ensuring that we've got reliable connectivity in place, ensuring that we're prioritising voice traffic and what have you, because as you say Dave, you know, the technologies are all fantastic but when we're working on home broadband, or what have you. We've all been in a situation where a call drops out, so we're really having those in-depth conversations with how we can arm our customers with a robust network to leverage all the benefits of these technologies as well.

James Vernon [00:17:24]

A really good point Ollie. I think that high availability, you know, having an always on service now is more important than ever. And again, it's just an expectation from customers. But I think again, if you look at the industry that it doesn't mean that that's always the case. There are a lot of, you know, you know, we live in a competitive world and one of the things that we spend a lot of time talking around because, you know, we've got a 22-year investment into our product with 8x8, we offer five nines across the whole stacks. In other words, that's, you know, five nines high availability across both UCaaS and CCaaS. You know, we're the only organisation that will offer that. That's very, you know, it's unique to 8x8. And the reason why we're winning, you know, winning at scale is because customers and organisations trust us to bring more and more of those technologies onto our single platform. So, it's an absolutely critical topic, one that shouldn't be overlooked.

Dave Harries [00:18:18]

This has been a very interesting discussion and I keep alluding to the future and what's coming down the line. So, let's actually now before we finish this conversation. Gaze into our crystal balls if we can. And perhaps I could get you to talk about where you see, you know, things going in the next 18 months. Obviously, we've had these huge changes over the last 18 months with COVID forcing us all into hybrid working and that sort of thing. So, what're the next 18 months look like? How do you see communication technology developing? James, perhaps you could address that one first.

James Vernon [00:18:47]

In two words, at pace. Everything is going to be happening at pace. Customers want answers faster and delivered in a way that's more appropriate to their personal choice and needs than ever before. What we're seeing 8x8 throughout our organisation and throughout our global customers is the drive for more automation. In other words, making it very, very easy for your customers and your own employees to be able to obtain the information, you know, as quickly as possible. And so, we continuously investing across the stack of UCaaS and CCaaS within 8x8. We're continuously investing in self-service. So, whether that be digital self-service or voice self-service, things like AI, again is always at the forefront. So, more and more customers now are asking us about how you know, what is our artificial intelligence roadmap and how that's continuously developed. So, all of those things, I think combined means it's going to be, you know, it's a really exciting future. I think what we shouldn't forget, though, is that what customers also want is simplicity. So, they want that bag of tricks, they want all of these different things are quite rightly, but they need them to be simple and they didn't need them to be consistent. And I think the difference between, you know, maybe 8x8 and our XCaaS platform compared to some of our competitors is that we're very, very good at by 8X8. We've done this consistently. We've got evidence of this, of bringing all of those future technologies and keeping up to date with the modern world. But at the same time, making sure the user experience is straightforward and simple as possible.

Dave Harries [00:20:18]

Yeah, that's a great point, Oli. It's all very well having the most sophisticated fantastic communication platform. But if, if the user’s kind of don't intuitively understand it, that's clearly going to cause an issue. So, Oli where do you see things going in the next few years?

Oli Caudwell [00:20:34]

Yes, so agree with everything James has said there. I think he's covered off the key themes really well. I think definitely one of the key themes that I see that James mentioned is around the artificial intelligence and automation piece within a contact centre environment. Based on the conversations we're having with our customers on the day-to-day basis. It's a recurring theme of how can we ultimately free up our human agents to deal with complex tasks and improve that first contact resolution? And that ultimately improved customer experience. And the way that we're going to achieve that is through the development of artificial intelligence and automation within those interactions. So, I think that's something we'll see developing at pace over the coming years. I think another key theme for me is we now know we've got this remote, this hybrid workforce and you know, it's here to stay. One thing that we're constantly having conversations around is we need visibility over this workforce when they're not in the office. So, I think the development of analytics and visibility of your users, you know, it's there today, it's very sophisticated. But I think that will be a key development over the coming year to maintain the efficiency with that hybrid workforce and visibility of your workforce productivity.

James Vernon [00:21:59]

One thing I'd like to add to that as well again, you know, talking about the differentiation of XCaas within the marketplace is that by we're unique in this, in the fact that we own our entire stack. So, what that means is we own our roadmap, we own our own future, if you like. We're not reliant on other organisations and partnerships that can sometimes be successful and sometimes end in divorce, and you can see that in the news today. So, we are able to react really quickly across a Unified Comms and contact centre platform because we own it all. And we don't rely on anybody else other than to say something that's really important to our customers when they come to us to say that they'd like us to develop a piece of technology. We can't always do it, but a lot of the time it goes onto the road map, it gets developed, it gets delivered on those, you know, features and functionality are then available for other organisations to benefit from.

Dave Harries [00:22:48]

Well, thank you both very much for this extremely stimulating conversation. You're obviously both working in a really exciting area of development and communications, so I look forward to seeing what comes next. You've been listening to the OneSPARKS podcast brought to you by one. I'm Dave Harries and I've been talking to Oli Caudwell, Strategic Acquisitions manager at Onecom and James Vernon, Senior Enterprise executive at 8x8. I hope you've enjoyed their expert insight into a centralised UC and Contact Centre strategy and the XCaaS service. Please see our show notes for a link to our website at www.onecom.co.uk/podcast, where you can find out about everything mentioned in today's episode. If you've enjoyed the podcast, then please subscribe and share with your friends and colleagues. In the meantime, stay safe and thanks for listening.