Business Comms in 2023 - Back to the Future

Published on
03/01/2024 10:55 AM
unified communications 2023

It’s been a busy year for unified communications & collaboration (UCC) and contact center/CX vendors. Let’s take a look at some of the key themes and events that impacted the industry.

Of course, we have to talk about generative AI and large language models (LLMs). While ChatGPT burst on the scene in late 2022, vendors were busy adding generative AI capabilities to their portfolio offerings in 2023. 

Meeting transcription and summarisation have become standard features among leading meeting vendors, and will be table stakes in the coming year. On the contact center/CX front, numerous vendors unveiled generative AI-based solutions, particularly in post-interaction summarisation to streamline agent workflows. Additionally, the introduction of agent-assist capabilities, powered by generative AI, has become a widespread trend, providing agents with relevant information and suggestions for customer interactions. These developments in agent assist and post-interaction summarisation have become table stakes, with nearly all major vendors incorporating or announcing them in 2023.

The Rise of Copilots, Assistants, and Companions

It’s safe to call 2023 the "year of the copilots", as the industry witnessed a surge in copilot-like features. Whether calling their offerings copilots, companions, or assistants, various vendors jumped on the trend:

  • Microsoft led the charge with its Microsoft 365 Copilot, and further expanding Copilot capabilities to service, developers, and sales.
  • Cisco introduced the Webex AI Assistant across its portfolio, spanning the Webex Suite, contact center, Control Hub, and Cisco devices.
  • Zoom introduced its AI Companion, a digital assistant operating across the Zoom platform.
  • NICE unveiled three copilot-type offerings aimed at consumers, agents, and CX leaders, including Enlighten Actions, Enlighten Copilot, and Enlighten Autopilot.
  • Google introduced Duet AI for Google Workspace and Duet AI for Developers.
  • Salesforce introduced Einstein Copilot.
  • And the list goes on…

Contact Center and CX Take Center Stage

The year 2023 highlighted the increasing role of contact centres, CCaaS, and CX, drawing increased attention from unified communications and collaboration vendors. Both Cisco and Zoom emphasized contact center capabilities in their annual user conference keynotes, with Microsoft also spotlighting Copilot for Service at its Ignite conference. Companies that started out as UC vendors have shifted their focus to contact center and CCaaS capabilities, including 8x8, Dialpad, and Avaya. Avaya, for instance, identified its CCaaS platform as its "north star", while RingCentral introduced RingCX to enhance its CX portfolio.

Several factors contribute to the growing importance of contact center offerings. Businesses seek to differentiate themselves through superior customer service, recognizing CX as a key factor beyond pricing changes. On the vendor side, UCaaS and UC are increasingly perceived as commodities, prompting vendors to prioritize contact center offerings for greater differentiation and revenue opportunities.

The Power of the Platform

Platforms were a key theme in 2023, with many UC and contact center vendors emphasizing their platform offerings over individual products. Cisco, Microsoft, NICE, Zoom, and others positioned themselves as platform players, facilitating the integration of new capabilities and third-party application integration for a more comprehensive offering. The platform approach allows vendors to swiftly incorporate AI capabilities across their portfolios. For example, Cisco’s AI-based noise cancelling capabilities are used not just for Webex Meetings, but within Webex Contact Center as well. 

We also saw many vendors expanded their offerings. Zoom, for example, added email, calendar, scheduling, and Zoom Docs. RingCentral acquired Hoppin and introduced events capabilities, along with a new contact center offering. 

A Look at 2024 – and Beyond

As AI in general and generative AI in particular gain prominence, the focus in the coming year(s) will be on identifying and demonstrating business value, proving that AI improves and enhances worker productivity, while increasing revenues or decreasing costs for businesses. Expect to see vendors ironing out their pricing models, while determining what customers are willing to pay for the value they receive.

There will also be an increased focus on responsible AI, while finding ways to shield AI vendors from any associated liability. And of course, vendors will work diligently to improve the accuracy, quality, and reliability of their AI offerings. 

As the curtains close on another eventful year for the business communications industry, anticipation grows for what 2024 will bring, beyond the continued dominance of AI.

Join 34,209 IT professionals who already have a head start

Network with the biggest names in IT and gain instant access to all of our exclusive content for free.

Get Started Now