UC EXPO 2017: Under the Bonnet of Contextual Comms with IPCortex
Contextual communication and hosted platforms
After being lucky enough to attend UC EXPO 2017 in London this year, I had the pleasure, and honour of speaking to Rob Pickering, the Chief Executive of IPCortex, about the new developments in his company, and the upcoming changes for the brand.
What’s Hot: The Hosted Platform
As we spoke in the packed conference hall, I was keen to learn more about where IPCortex was going in this exclusive UC Today interview, as the business has seen significant growth over the recent years. The first thing I asked Rob, was what he considered to be “hot” in the IPCortex portfolio right now.
Pickering was keen to talk about two significant developments for IPCortex, starting with the launch of their brand-new hosted platform. He commented that IPCortex had entered the communication industry around fourteen years ago with CPE, and since that time, the brand has evolved to deliver an ever-more immersive high-function open web-based platform. Back in 2012, they added WebRTC to the mix to allow phone-calls in web-browsers and other high-functionality solutions.
Though Pickering noted that IPCortex does have some hosting partners who are hosting the platform as a service and doing quite well, he also commented that they were having problems acquiring new partners due to a hole in the spectrum: “If a mid-sized company came to us, wanting to use our system, they’d need to develop a VM platform and data centre before we could even get started. That’s why we’ve introduced this new hosted platform, allowing us to bring in companies of all shapes and sizes as resellers.”
With the hosted platform, IPCortex can give smaller businesses a chance to start using the platform to grow, meaning that the portfolio is becoming increasingly inter-connected. It can be used all the way from platform, to infrastructure. The product is an entirely-reseller solution, designed to support anything from 5-10 users at a minimum, to a sweet spot of 150 seats. Pickering commented: “The biggest customer we have right now uses the platform to support around 1400 seats, so it can span the entire range.”
A British-Born Platform, and Something More
One thing that particularly appealed to me about the IPCortex growth is the fact that the platform is completely British-made. I asked Pickering about his decision to maintain the system in the UK, and whether the development was something done in-house.
His response was that he, himself is an engineer, who created his product based on the code that he and his very first technology employee wrote together way back in 2005. That’s allowed him to maintain complete control over the product as it evolved, while using opensource solutions extensively to scale the solution.
Pickering also noted that the development of IPCortex isn’t just about UK development based on professional software expertise. He commented that his company is also trying to contribute something more powerful to the UK, and other areas of the world, by supporting the development and education of new experts. “One of the initiatives we’re working on right now is with Founders and Coders in East London. They’re providing a free java script course for people from non-traditional backgrounds, so that they can get into the industry. We train these people, then take them on as freelancers, expanding the ecosystem.”
Pickering noted: “We like to think of ourselves not just as a British success story because that’s where the product comes from, but also in the way that we’re using our tech to give something back. Yes, our product is bullet-proof, and 100% UK supported, and that’s why it’s getting bigger in the UK, but we’re trying to develop the tech environment in the UK too.”
In his excitement to talk about the latest developments for IPCortex, Rob took the interview into an area I was keen to learn more about – the disruptive technology that the brand has been involved with. He commented that IPCortex have developed an API that does everything for collaboration and communication. Anyone can take it and write a communication app. In simple terms, if you wanted to build something into your website where customers could start an instant video conversation with you, you could do that with the IPCortex CPaaS platform.
According to Pickering, the biggest development for the company right now, is in “Contextual Communication”. In other words, giving customers the communication strategies that they need, based on their unique circumstances.
He said: “One of our current customers runs support services for vulnerable adults. They used our system to create analogue handsets for people in their system that includes a button that the customer presses each day. If they don’t press the button, the call centre knows that they need to reach out and check the person is okay.”
“Since the amount of calls they need to make peaks at around 6pm, the company have begun reaching out to people on a day-by-day basis, acquiring freelance agents for when they need them, rather than hiring multiple agents at minimum wage.”
IPCortex believe that contextual communication is the new thing, and it’s easy to see why. CPaaS and contextual solutions are on the leading edge of technology right now. Pickering noted: “We’re still learning about what it takes to build a truly effective vertical application, but our approach is to look at the solutions that really work for our customers. We’re currently developing one piece of technology for certain customers that takes basic transcript recordings from call centres, and uses machine learning to transcribe and make that data available for search.”
The new technology would allow people in a call centre to search through gathered information and find conversations where customers were confused, frustrated, or angry. They could then learn from those conversations and make adaptations to agent behaviour. Rather than rolling the solution out for the entire market, IPCortex are developing it in conjunction with specific customers. However, now that the hosted platform is in place, it means that anyone can simply slide solutions like that into their product.
What’s Next for IPCortex?
Right now, IPCortex are developing a completely comprehensive service for their customers. They have on-premise, private, public, and UCaaS solutions all wrapped into a single platform. For them, the next step is a greater focus on AI and contextual communication.
As Pickering noted in our conversation, it’s hard to ignore the fact that AI will be playing a bigger part in customer service and communication. One big thing now is the development of the chatbot. That technology seems like it’s close, but it’s actually in need of a lot of development.
In response to the chatbot issue, Pickering said: “It’s going to start with human assistance. For instance, my car can follow lines on a motorway and stop me from drifting when I press a button, but I still need to be there to drive.”
Chatbots and AIs can now assist agents in a call centre, listening to conversations and helping them to perform better. However, we’re not going to have robot-centred communications over night.
Instead, IPCortex are focusing on delivering solutions with AI and contextual communication that help to build better relationships between customers and end-users, by educating and informing the people at the front line of contact.