In July 2022, Microsoft sent shockwaves across the CX space by launching the Microsoft Digital Contact Center Platform.
While it had already entered the CCaaS space with its Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service solution, this launch was much bigger.
Why? Primarily because the Microsoft Digital Contact Center Platform promised a solution that would combine the capabilities of its Dynamics solution with Teams, Azure, Nuance, and Power.
At the time, Charles Lamanna, Corporate VP of Business Applications and Platforms at Microsoft, described it as: “An open, extensible, and collaborative contact center solution designed to deliver seamless customer journeys.”
Yet, the word “solution” seems somewhat misleading. Indeed, scratch beneath the surface, and it’s far from a cohesive solution that combines the power of the Microsoft ecosystem.
Instead, it seems more of a reference architecture for how contact centers can leverage Microsoft services to augment their existing contact center environment.
Clever wordplay to drum up interest, perhaps. Nevertheless, it created confusion from the outset.
Confusion From the Get-Go
“It’s not clear what it really is,” said Dave Michels, Lead Analyst at TalkingPointz.com, as Microsoft announced its Digital Contact Center Platform.
Sometimes, we use the term “digital contact center” to describe everything but voice and telephony. But, then, they already had an entry-level contact center for Dynamics. So maybe it’s with voice and telephony as a complete solution?
“They had their partnership with the likes of Genesys and NICE in the press release. So, maybe it’s supposed to work with those more?”
With little news from Microsoft regarding its Digital Contact Center Platform since, it seems more of the latter. A playbook to leverage elements of Nuance, Azure, and Power in the contact center.
Yet, can Microsoft add value to what the best CCaaS providers already offer? Take NICE, for example. It works with Amelia on conversational AI, which often ranks above Nuance in some analyst reports. The vendor also has market-leading robotic process automation capabilities – according to the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant.
Maybe there are CPaaS elements within Azure that users may wish to harness within their service environment, but the value proposition beyond that seems low.
Of course, not every CCaaS provider has the depth of NICE, and the idea of linking the contact center to the broader Microsoft ecosystem is likely appealing to many.
Nevertheless, by teaming up with the best in the CCaaS business, Microsoft may have limited its potential to add value to enterprise contact centers.
Yet, some may argue that Microsoft chose to align itself to the crème-de-la-crème of CCaaS as part of a longer-term strategy.
After all, these vendors often work with some of the world’s biggest brands. If Microsoft can establish a small presence within its CX portfolio, it could expand this once Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service evolves into a more complete offering.
Dynamics Remains the Heartbeat of Mircosoft’s CCaaS Strategy
While many had expected Microsoft to develop a native Teams Contact Center, Dynamics remains Microsoft’s core contact center focus. Indeed, the vendor is continuously upgrading the solution behind the scenes.
Its latest release wave included a Teams integration – alongside the addition of many more fundamental technologies that mid-market contact centers often deploy. These include unified routing, knowledge management tools, and SLA tracking.
With more of these fundamentals in place, Microsoft has launched a free trial, with no credit card information required or software to install.
In a blog, it promises the following benefits:
- A tenant with preloaded sample data that you can modify, plus the ability to create new data
- The ability to visualize the power of out-of-box analytics based on the sample data
- A voice and chat channel experience for both the customer and the agent that simulates real contact center processes with no configuration.
Such a move may entice SMBs, which have few specialist requirements. Yet, the offering still significantly lags those put forward by market stalwarts – according to Zeus Kerravala, Founder & Principal Analyst at ZK Research.
“If you look at Microsoft’s strategy overall, it tends to build apps that are good enough in nature, and then they do a license bundle,” he said in conversation with UC Today. “This is why companies choose a partner for critical applications such as RingCentral or 8×8 for Teams calling versus the native calling features.
Early feedback [on Microsoft’s contact center] is the same. It’s a good enough product, but I don’t believe the strategy will fly in the contact center, as it’s the lifeblood of most organizations.
For this reason, Kerravala has predicted Microsoft’s CCaaS venture will flop in 2023.
Now, at any moment, the tech pioneer could buy a NICE, Genesys, or Talkdesk and acquire its way to the top. It certainly has the resources.
Perhaps it may instead leverage its new partnership with Cisco to leverage elements of the Webex Contact Center within the Dynamics solution.
Yet, these moves are unlikely. Instead, expect Microsoft to refine its CCaaS proposition. If the vendor does not, it will likely need more than a free trial to win significant business within the space.