Enterprise Connect (EC) 2022 just took place from March 21-24, 2022.
This year’s expo was fantastic with a wonderfully decorated floor plan, an absolutely stacked speaker panel, and cutting-edge technologies abound. There was great energy in the air as attendees returned from a nearly three-year hiatus.
While there was a lot going on — between the huge turnout, industry-leading panel speakers, delightful booth stunts, and corporate swag — several trends and takeaways stood out among the rest.
What is Enterprise Connect?
Enterprise Connect (EC) is a business show that brings together corporate IT decision-makers with industry vendors, UC analysts, and telecom consultants. People attend Enterprise Connect to learn about new technologies and discuss issues related to business communications.
For over 30 years, EC has been the leading conference and expo for enterprise communications and collaboration in North America. It takes place at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando.
For those unfamiliar with the event, everyone “who’s who” in the North American business communications space usually attends.
4 Major Themes from EC 2022
After a few years of virtual events, EC finally returned to an in-person conference in 2022. And as you might expect, some communications technologies improved exponentially since the last in-person event.
These were the four major themes at Enterprise Connect 22:
Contact Center AI
Contact centers everywhere are looking to scale down their workforce by automating certain repetitive processes.
Automation isn’t only happening in the contact center space, though. If you go into pretty much any supermarket, grocery store, fast food joint, etc., you’ll see many instances of jobs becoming automated.
At Enterprise Connect, AI communications vendors got to showcase their latest robots, voice avatars, and messaging bots.
Some of the voice robots at the show were able to interpret speech and respond intelligently in a humanlike voice. Others were able to parse SMS strings and translate inbound text messages into coffee orders.
That being said, humans aren’t being totally replaced in businesses and contact centers just yet.
Soft skills will always be needed. A human element is still necessary in the case of escalations and for handling more complicated requests.
But, simple and repetitive over-the-phone processes benefit from becoming more automated, and in many cases, they already have.
Because I work closely with our customer-facing teams here, conversation analytics was the most interesting trend for me at Enterprise Connect 22.
I often overhear inside sales and support calls and listen to call recordings through our internal systems. But rather than relying on these small sample sizes of overheard phone calls, conversation intelligence enables business people to tap into larger amounts of data to understand phone conversations and video meetings at scale.
Imagine sifting through keywords to understand what prospective customers are calling about, instead of sitting on a chaotic sales floor. The training opportunities for sales leaders are immense, while marketers and business analysts gain more access to big data.
For example, you can cherry-pick certain keywords that you’re promoting from a marketing standpoint, actually see how often those keywords were discussed along with their sentiment, and then replay specific parts of those conversations.
Or, as a sales leader, you can see how often sellers veer away from their talk tracks. Or, for customer support and product development, you can see what’s working and what needs to be improved.
Conversation analytics lets you listen to specific conversations from anywhere in the world, and not just from inside a contact center — which is especially important as teams are becoming more distributed globally.
This EC 22 trend is actually already available in a lot of messaging and email apps. It’s a newer technology in the voice communications space.
For one, voice analytics and intelligence require accurate transcriptions. Vendors in this space might compete on how many different languages and dialects their NLP can interpret.
Second, it helps to have an intuitive interface to search through conversations and access specific parts of a recording, along with an easy-to-use dashboard for displaying relevant information.
Omnichannel and embedded communications were a major theme at Enterprise Connect 2022.
New technologies enable contact center operators to escalate phone calls into video meetings. This is less of a priority for brands dealing in emerging markets, which have lower smartphone penetration and slower mobile speeds.
Still, consumers want to interact with brands through their preferred channels. For some, this means SMS and messaging. Others still prefer phone conversations in this day and age.
Businesses and contact center professionals want to interact with customers across multiple channels on a single platform. This means support agents should be able to read and reply to messages, make and receive calls, and much more through a unified contact center solution. In the past, people needed to use different technologies for each.
Vendors will either provide prebuilt solutions with all of these functions or allow businesses to access different channels through APIs.
Omnichannel isn’t an entirely new trend, but has accelerated significantly in recent years and was very present at Enterprise Connect this year.
Modern buyers want their new software to seamlessly integrate with the other tools in their tech stack. It’s no longer the case where service providers can just offer up an API for buyers to build out their own integrations.
It’s been a communications trend for a while, but voice and messaging integrations continue to prove valuable.
Some tools like Ferdi allow you to combine your favorite messaging apps into one place. Others let you use their service natively within another application, like CRM dialers. Finally, wholesale telco vendors at EC were promoting their API capabilities, for example, for access to their virtual inventories.
Businesses now expect turnkey integrations across their most frequently used applications.
5 Other Takeaways from Enterprise Connect 2022
While the four themes above were the most important at Enterprise Connect this year, I left the show with several other key takeaways. Some are recurring themes, while others have sprouted up in recent years.
This one builds on top of AI automation, interoperability, multichannel, and conversation intelligence.
First off, we have a long way to go before AI replaces salespeople. Robots might take the places of humans for basic functions, but talented salespeople are irreplaceable. Human salespeople are here to stay.
If you’re still blasting out robocalls with a recording, just stop. You’re going to annoy potential customers, and as a result of STIR/SHAKEN, you probably won’t even be able to properly deliver calls soon.
So, these sales tools are centered less around sales replacement and more around sales enablement.
Power dialers, auto-dialers, click-to-call, and sales integrations have been around forever. But, analytics for coaching was a big trend at Enterprise Connect.
Especially with in-person sales teams becoming more distributed, it’s more important than ever for sales leaders to have the right tools to understand what their reps are saying.
Enterprise Connect had plenty of panels on this topic. I’m not going to speculate on which technologies will emerge and how this will look in the long run, but it’s sure to include some combination of augmented and virtual reality.
However, based on my conversations, it’s clear that talent retention will be much harder — if not impossible — for companies that are not flexible about work from home and asynchronous work. In addition, the most talented minds prefer to work based on output rather than time spent.
And since most businesses have been working remotely the last few years, remote work was a big theme at Enterprise Connect this year.
And following this wave of companies working remotely are better monitoring tools for remote employees — especially in customer-facing roles that rely on a high level of activity and availability.
Another big takeaway from Enterprise Connect 2022 was the number of call tracking tools and innovation within workforce efficiency management software.
Customer acquisition costs across all industries are going through the roof. Businesses are looking to diversify the channels through which they acquire customers. Trade show expenditures surely decreased throughout the pandemic, while the costs to acquire customers through digital channels skyrocketed.
With the return of in-person events, it was interesting to see the budgets that various brands were allocating to their booths.
— Tom Brannen (@tbrannen) March 23, 2022
There were some really spectacular designs and giveaways. And at the same time, the designs for other booths looked straight out of the early 2000s.
There also didn’t seem to be much correlation between booth sizes, profitability, and network strength. Some legacy operators turning huge profits had more modest booths while other less highly-regarded providers had massive, costly displays.
Enterprise Connect Mainly Targets North America
Attendees of this event were mainly English speakers, which makes sense as the conference was hosted in Orlando, Florida. On top of that, the United States telecom market is highly developed and has fewer restrictions compared to other international markets.
And you know what they say: money talks. Most huge corporate budgets are concentrated in the USA and other English-speaking countries like the UK, Canada, and Australia. That’s why there were some exhibitors from Ireland and the United Kingdom. But there weren’t many from emerging economies.
This got me thinking: what are the biggest enterprise communications and collaboration conferences in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America?
GITEX was more diverse, hosting attendees throughout EMEA, but it was less focused on communications than technology in general.
So many markets exist besides the English-speaking countries. And due to the nature of cloud services, vendors can provide services from anywhere. There is also potential for business expansion in more diverse conferences.
Call Quality Monitoring
There are so many fly-by-night companies in this space. We’ve been around since 1996, but the newer companies popping up seem to use unreliable, low-cost routes to save costs on their end.
In order to scale your customer base and support model, the voice quality of your global calls must be crystal clear.
Luckily, there were some vendors at Enterprise Connect like Spearline who help companies with proactive number testing and quality assurance.
Final Thoughts on EC 2022
Overall, Enterprise Connect 2022 was exceptionally well put together. It would have been nice to stay longer and attend more keynote sessions, but the conversations I had with partners, friends, and analysts were invaluable.
Special shoutout to Ryan Daily and the No Jitter team for putting this together. They gathered a really impressive group of analysts and industry leaders and presented the telecom industry with new insights and goals.
I look forward to watching these Enterprise Connect trends continue to grow in the near future.