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February 14, 2013

'Hybrid' Versus 'Pure Web' Contact Centers - A WebRTC-Driven Decision?

From 2002-2007, a major discussion in the PBX and VoIP world was whether a company should evolve their existing TDM PBX to a VoIP "hybrid," or rip and replace with a "pure" VoIP platform. This discussion had major impact on users, business processes, investment and politics in many enterprises.  

In the end, the decision built some careers, ruined others, and drove the adoption of VoIP and the market share of the respective vendors.

WebRTC is causing the same dilemma in the contact center. 

Today's contact centers are generally built to operate out of the telephony world and use factors such as DID, regions, IVR, etc. to manage and integrate customers into the knowledge centers in an enterprise. However, with 70-80 percent of contact center interactions preceded by a visit to the company website, the opportunity to change the model is near. 

WebRTC enables a direct transition from the website to interactions with individuals, without the context loss process of going through the PSTN. With WebRTC, it’s easy to use every webpage as an on-ramp to the customer service and interaction arm of an enterprise, with the added value of details about how that contact came to need that interaction. 

This detailed information can be used in two ways: to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the human interaction component by assuring it is optimized through the data gathered during the visit, and form based entries before the actual interaction. Or, to show detailed information about which parts of the website are generating the most need for human interaction, and how it can be used to further optimize the Web experience, enhancing customer satisfaction and reducing transaction costs.

The challenge is how to do this. Should the existing contact center, with all of its telephony heritage, capabilities and complexity, be augmented for this new emerging role, creating the "hybrid" contact center," or is it better to start afresh with a "Pure Web" interaction center that does not optimize for telephony, but uses the website, its functions and map as the guidepost for skills interaction and user management?

Both approaches have potential advantages and pitfalls. Evolving the existing platform ties the future to the past. Remember the Cisco analogy of a hybrid VoIP system being a Ferrari with a horse attached to the back bumper? On the other hand, the "Pure Web" Interaction center runs the risk of reducing effectiveness for that set of customers that do not use the Web. 

Depending on the viewpoint, these are either low value non-technical, non-spending customers or high-value individuals who cannot be troubled with doing things online.

Obviously, this new battle of the hybrid and pure options promises to be just as complex and acrimonious as the hybrid/pure VoIP/PBX battles were last decade. Regardless of the ultimate outcomes, each individual involved in the contact center and website space needs to be aware of WebRTC and how it will change their customer – companies, offers and ultimately customer interaction.

Edited by Braden Becker
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