The Pulse

The official blog of Sentinel Technologies

Contact Center Modernization

Wed June 08, 2022

by Adam Bertram, Sentinel National Director of Enterprise Architecture and Innovation

Webex Contact Center is Cisco’s Contact Center as a Service platform that provides not only traditional channels such as voice, chat, and email, but also a suite of digital channels that allows your customers to connect with your organization using their preferred communication method. The Contact Center, also known as the Customer Experience Center, has evolved into one of the most important interaction points an organization has with its customers, partners, and internal users. This creates new opportunities for organizations to improve customer satisfaction by leveraging technologies that Webex Contact Center can bring to the table such as machine learning and AI, self-service bots and integrations, and contextual interaction history.

Many organizations still use premises-based contact center solutions, but may be considering migration to a cloud contact center as a way to modernize their customers’ experiences. This piece will explore the benefits a cloud contact center can bring to your organization, along with what to consider when making the transition.

There are typically three primary motivating factors that cause organizations to consider moving to a cloud-based contact center.

First and foremost among them is that their current premises-based contact center solution has reached end of support and/or end of life, is up for a maintenance contract renewal, or is in desperate need of an update/upgrade. Sometimes an organization will fall behind and miss/skip multiple updates, making it increasingly difficult to get back to the most recent version. The question becomes whether it’s worth the time and expense to continue investing in frequent maintenance and updates from a third-party provider to keep an outdated/no longer supported premise system running, or if it would be better and easier to eliminate those responsibilities by moving into the cloud.

The second factor frequently cited as a reason to invest in a cloud-based contact center comes from a shift in operational focus. It’s basically the desire to get out of running a phone system and contact center system in order to focus more on improving the customer experience. Physical contact centers are often the lifelines of organizations, but require physical servers, voice gateways, virtual machines, PSTN circuits, third-party applications, wallboard apps, and the many other components that all must be regularly maintained. Shifting to an operational, as-a-service cloud contact center model puts significantly less strain on your resources and team, so they can redirect their focus to business goals and initiatives rather than simply keeping the lights on.

It's also worth mentioning one thing that also comes with moving to a cloud contact center is a change in the cost model from a capital expenditure (CapEx) on an annual basis to a monthly operational expenditure (OpEx). Some industries that get funding on an annual basis may not be able to use an OpEx cost model. A big driver with OpEx is the flexibility to expand and grow without needing to worry about all of those physical components that come with an on-premises system. There’s nothing worse than needing to account for 20% or 30% growth on a premises-based system and then having a trickle-down effect where you then worry if things such as the voice gateway and server sizes are big enough to accommodate the expansion.

The third and final factor motivating organizations to switch to a cloud contact center is its finite feature set. Premises-based contact centers tend to be really focused around the voice channel. A lot of the feature set and capabilities are built around voice interaction and not so much the digital interactions. Many Sentinel customers use Cisco Contact Center Express for their premises system, which does have the ability to add chat and email inside of the foundational product. If you want to expand beyond that though you’d probably have to add some third-party products, which again creates challenges with sizing all of the different components within the environment to account for that. Cisco and others that have cloud-based contact center platforms are limiting new investments in premises-based solutions. Most are still maintaining and supporting them in a keep-it-going type of mode for now, but all the new features and capabilities are being deployed to cloud contact center platforms.

Your customers, members, or patients – whatever a contact is to your organization – they’re demanding a better experience. They want you to engage with them using their preferred channels and not necessarily the ones you offer. Oftentimes it’s not voice. Very few people these days enjoy engaging or waiting on the phone to talk to somebody unless they absolutely have to. They’d rather reach out through chat or even SMS if it’s available.

On the other side of the coin, the finite feature set offered by a cloud-based contact center also creates a better agent and supervisor experience for internal employees. If agents are productive and have an easy-to-use contact center platform, that will factor into their interactions with customers, members, or patients. By considering both the internal and external experiences when modernizing your contact center, it can create a better overall sense of satisfaction for all users.

A cloud contact center offers a number of remarkable benefits.

Flexibility. It goes without saying, cloud contact center was born native in the cloud, making it easy to support agents no matter where they are provided there’s an internet connection and a web browser. You can’t get much simpler than that. You could even support them on a mobile device if you needed to in a pinch. That flexibility just hasn’t been there for premises-based solutions.

At the start of the pandemic, a lot of organizations with premises-based contact centers really struggled to adapt as their agents went remote, whereas those with cloud contact centers were either already allowing agents to work remotely or made the adjustment pretty easily. A lot of the premises-based contact centers require complex VPN setups for those agents to work from home, so flexibility in a cloud contact center certainly makes things very compelling. You can support that remote and hybrid work straight out of the box, you can do it securely, and don’t need to work with other cumbersome technologies such as VPN that not only add costs but also complexity to the end agents’ stations. You can also grow and expand a cloud contact center platform without any concerns about the platform itself. It’s built to be evergreen, it’s built to be elastic, and from that standpoint you don’t have to worry about other infrastructure components that may prevent you from doing that today.

A digital-first approach. Cisco has been investing heavily in going beyond the standard voice, chat, and email channels and adding in features such as virtual agents and self-service interactions via an IVR, bot, or SMS. These technologies are getting sophisticated to the point where sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether you’re interfacing with a real human agent or if it’s actually machine learning/AI. The more those get fine tuned into your organization and the questions your customers are commonly asking, the better that experience can be, which translates to offloading a lot of that burden from your expensive agents in live interaction.

It’s next to impossible in most cases to have true omnichannel agents where they’re handling voice calls but also responding to chats, emails, and social media. Self-service is important to help improve operational efficiencies. This means going beyond the bots to add something like SMS as a channel, which is a common one many organizations are ignoring today. They’ve done maybe a little bit of web chat, but SMS is a next generation channel a lot of customers are demanding.

Then there’s social media and being able to capture your social footprint. It enables you to see real-time feedback and bring negative comments into the contact center so they can be responded to in a timely fashion. It’s less about adding every channel under the sun and more about your overall interaction footprint for customers to engage with you. Do you have a way to address some of these other ancillary channels that go beyond voice? All it takes is one rant or tweet to go viral, so being able to have the company officially respond to that and then engage separately in a more customer-centric space can make an incredible difference.

Visual Flow Designer. When it comes to editing and improving moves, adds, and changes to your workflows, a lot of times those are scripts using thick proprietary editors that are very much tuned to an engineer. One thing Cisco has spent a lot of time developing with Webex Contact Center is the visual flow designer. It’s very much a “drag and drop,” meant to be a “low code, no code” type of interface so you can lower the barrier for customers to make their own changes That’s really the end goal: to try and make that interface intuitive, easy to use, and less intimidating to a non-technical business user such as a supervisor that needs to handle some minor moves, adds, and changes.

If you have complex workflows and a lot of things going on then you’re probably not going to have your contact center manager go in and make changes, but for regular adjustments like tweaking a threshold or variables or something that alters the way calls are routed, you can get that non-technical person into that interface without needing to involve a technical resource to make those moves, adds, and changes.

Reporting and Analytics. You can’t have a contact center without reporting. One key component of many cloud contact centers is that they include both a reporting and analytics engine. A lot of legacy, premises-based solutions focus primarily on the reporting of metrics. What’s my service level, what’s my abandoned calls, how many calls are in queue, what’s my talk time and my ready time – those sorts of things. These are somewhat static metrics and can be very one-dimensional in nature. By being able to cross-analyze all the ways customers are interacting with your contact center and comparing that to agent activity, you can start to measure that data against different business metrics. Basically you can provide some analysis on your static reporting and tie it to things that are more meaningful to the business as you make decisions.

The metrics will say if you’re meeting your service level agreement (SLA) or not, but what needs to happen if you’re not meeting those numbers? Maybe if you have deeper insights into where you’re failing by breaking down that SLA into certain components or areas where an agent may be struggling, then you can tactically work on improving interactions. Or maybe there’s an issue with chat where a bot is giving a wrong result or creating frustrations that escalate to a live agent. Those are definitely areas where analytics can provide actual insight.

Cisco has done wonders for cloud contact centers with their new analyzer tool. If you’re currently using an on-premise version of Cisco Contact Center Express (UCCX), they also include UCCX reports in the analyzer to help aid in the transition from the old standard reporting to understanding the terminology and some newer metrics available in Webex Contact Center.

Experience Management. Cisco recently made an acquisition of CloudCherry, which was widely known in the IT industry as an analytics company. They have survey capabilities in the platform tied to Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) to measure different areas of the contact center and provide insights. For most organizations, especially ones with a premises-based contact center, the measurement of customer experience tends to be a blind spot.

Webex Experience Management, as CloudCherry is now known as inside of the Webex portfolio, enables organizations to start measuring and analyzing the customer journey through various surveying options. You can standardize to different industry metrics such as NPS and generate data that is contextual and actionable. Contact center agents can not only access a customer’s interaction history and what channels they used each time, but because of surveys following those interactions there’s also NPS data, satisfaction data, and sentiment data available which may factor into their approach. If a customer has had a very unpleasant experience, the agent may talk to them differently or offer a special discount or something. Organizations don’t often realize how much that data and analytics can affect the overall agent experience and how they interact with each customer.

Integrations. Webex Contact Center was born in the cloud and is very much a modernized, web-based framework that the platform is built upon, so it goes without saying there is a fair amount of integration capability with the platform. Cisco uses the connectors model for integrating with popular line of business applications such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and ServiceNow. They also have system connector options. Any line of business application today, whether it be a Salesforce or maybe an electronic medical records (EMR) system if you’re in the healthcare space, includes a rest-based API. It’s a way for users to interface with these systems through a standard base technology. Custom connectors within Webex Contact Center enable organizations to interface with just about any platform. As a Cisco partner, Sentinel can not only provide service expertise, but also help customers interface Webex Contact Center with other line of business applications that don’t have an out-of-the-box connector already built.



Webex Contact Center offers a lot of different benefits and features for organizations ready to shift those operations into the cloud. If your organization is interested in transitioning to a cloud contact center, Sentinel offers a no-cost Contact Center Modernization Workshop. Over the course of 90-120 minutes our team takes a close look at several contact center areas where there are opportunities for your organization to make changes and improvements to the experience. After the workshop we provide a report with key next step recommendations to start the transition. If you are interested in learning more about Webex Contact Center or any of the topics explored in this piece, please reach out to a Sentinel representative or contact us. We are happy to talk about your current contact center and where the pain points are so you can start finding ways to make improvements.