By Alissa Irei
TechTarget has named the 8×8 X Series its latest Network Innovation Award winner. A cloud-based unified communications as a service, or UCaaS, platform that combines unified communications and contact center technologies, the X Series gives service agents built-in access to valuable organizational knowledge and resources — including enterprise employees with subject matter expertise — allowing them to practice better, more efficient customer care.
The platform facilitates enterprise-wide collaboration, for example, federating messaging among more than 20 third-party applications — allowing a Microsoft Teams user to seamlessly chat with a Slack or Cisco Webex Teams user from any device. It also supports persistent, topic-specific collaboration “rooms” that retain chat history as an ongoing, searchable resource.
8×8 Inc., based in San Jose, Calif., rolled out the multi-tiered subscription service in July 2018. Meghan Keough, vice president of product marketing, recently discussed the new platform. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What’s the high-level aim of the 8×8 X Series?
Meghan Keough: The goal is to provide organizations with one system of engagement — for everything from voice, to video conferencing, to chat, to contact center — and one system of intelligence that pulls together all of that communications data.
Having interactions — whether they’re between internal employees, between employees and customers, or between employees and suppliers — in one place enables visibility across the organization. And that drives insights that lead to better business practices.
The X Series also brings the video and messaging capabilities we’ve all become accustomed to in our personal lives — my five-year-old daughter is very accustomed to FaceTiming with her grandparents, for example — to the business world. It enables a new speed of business.
On a related note, what problem does it solve?
Keough: When on-premises unified communications functionality is replicated in the cloud through multiple point solutions, the challenge is there’s inefficiency from an end-user perspective. Now, you’re administering multiple applications in the cloud to do the same functions that you used to do through a single application in your on-premise world, and you have data insight inefficiencies because you have information stored in all these different applications.
That makes it difficult to understand an end-to-end customer journey — for example, when a customer calls into your contact center and then is routed to a company subject matter expert to address their problem, or perhaps is transferred to a retail store location to complete a point-of-sale purchase. Those types of insights that span multiple touch-points aren’t going to be available if you have multiple cloud services.
And so, X Series really represents what we’re referring to as the ‘third wave of cloud communication,’ which is about bringing together voice, messaging and video capabilities onto a single platform to allow an end user to have just one application — whether that’s on their desktop, their laptop or their mobile device.
One of our customers, Regus, has the largest UCaaS deployment in the world, with over 50,000 users distributed globally. From an IT perspective, rolling out multiple point solutions at that scale becomes incredibly complex. But with X Series, you have just one application to administer globally for all of these different capabilities to support both the employee and customer experience.
Is the typical 8×8 X Series customer a large enterprise like Regus?
Keough: Our customers come in all different shapes and sizes — the X Series is simple enough for the smallest organization and robust and global enough for the largest. We have tremendous depth in the retail space, certainly, and also count a number of manufacturers, high-tech organizations and financial services companies as customers.
What’s an example of a specific real-world use case?
Keough: Another of our customers, [the dinnerware company] Lenox, replaced nine disparate on-premise applications with the X Series. During the holiday shopping season, when call volumes increase, support agents can now see the average wait-time on big screens in the contact center. If they see callers waiting too long, they can adjust the interactive voice response settings to offer a callback option and a customer loyalty discount. So, within less than 30 minutes, they’re able to see a potential issue arising and make immediate changes to drive the type of customer experience that they want to deliver.
How do you see the role of artificial intelligence in the 8×8 X Series?
Keough: AI is obviously first about having access to the right data, which is a major driver of the X Series: getting all of this real-time interaction data in one place to inform how agents engage with customers and support first-call resolution. So, as a support agent is on the phone with a customer, we see the platform making recommendations in real-time — looking through persistent team messaging rooms to find the most relevant and recent recommendations for answering a given question. An agent can access the collective organizational wisdom by finding the room where that topic is being discussed. Another machine learning use case is trend analysis, where the platform identifies a possible problem and alerts the team accordingly.