An interview with Vonage on the future of work

Two people video conferencing with others on a screen.
(Image credit: Shutterstock / metamorworks)

As we come to the end of another year, we’ve seen that changes we’ve made to the way we work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic have largely stuck in the minds of both employees and their employers, as has an overriding sense that work should be more accessible and collaborative, rather than something employees grin and bear.

At TechRadar Pro, we’re always looking out for new perspectives on innovations around the future of work. So in December 2022, we caught up with Savinay Berry, EVP of Product and Engineering at Vonage to discuss the future of hybrid working and artificial intelligence, the possibilities of the corporate metaverse and more.

COVID has changed our working patterns in profound ways. What do you think is coming next when it comes to hybrid working?

Yes, working patterns have changed and remain relevant today. The demand for hybrid and flexible working arrangements is only expected to grow. 

According to a survey by Telstra, approximately 85% of Asia Pacific (APAC) organizations are promoting hybrid work arrangements, and seven in 10 organizations are now recruiting talent from all locations and allowing hybrid work arrangements. 

APAC businesses are expecting virtual work to increase by 83% in the next six to 12 months, despite offices reopening too. In addition, 74% of employees in APAC believe that they and their teams are more productive with flexible work arrangements.

This means that businesses will have to equip themselves with the appropriate technologies and applications to support hybrid working. 

For example, customer support teams will need technology that supports the work-from-anywhere arrangement and provides the same secure functionality regardless of location. So businesses will need to offer more flexibility and enable hybrid work models to retain their customer support agents. 

There's a lot of talk about the Metaverse and how it could revolutionize the way we work and communicate? What are your thoughts about this?

I believe that the Metaverse has the potential to take hybrid working to the next level. 

Metaverse brings together emerging technologies like Virtual/ Augmented/ Mixed/ Extended Reality to create an omniverse, a venue of simulation and collaboration, integrating digital and physical reality to varying degrees. The Metaverse can help make communications be more immersive during remote working. 

Virtual meeting sessions can become tedious and monotonous but the Metaverse can enhance this experience with the use of life-like avatars. This can make online collaboration more fun and effective. The pressure on employee appearances will also reduce and the emphasis will return to actual work. 

For businesses with a distributed workforce, the remote working environment needs to get more inclusive. Metaverse solutions will allow everyone to feel like they are in the same room, irrespective of their physical location. Tools that enable a sense of a more unified workplace will enhance both inclusion and collaboration, minimizing the very palpable “presenteeism bias” that one hears of today.

CPaaS are rapidly becoming the norm with the likes of Microsoft and Zoom building the equivalent of communication moats. How has Vonage embraced that paradigm shift?

To support the requirements for seamless communications during remote work, we have focused on enhancing our video and engagement solutions. 

This year we launched new video capabilities for the Vonage Communications Platform (VCP) to speed innovation on our Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) applications for an integrated communications experience and improved productivity.

This new capability elevates collaboration with colleagues, customers and prospects, enabling them to communicate visually for better communications, connections and engagement. 

Vonage Communications Platform users can now escalate to calls and meetings directly from any web-based application, such as a spreadsheet or project plan, through an embedded, customisable dialer interface. With Vonage’s embedded Video API, the caller can then easily initiate a video and invite other colleagues to join if needed. 

AI and Machine Learning are changing the way we interact remotely and the implications (e.g. Deepfakes) can have big impacts on business. How do you see this evolving?

Thanks to fast internet access and cloud communications technology like APIs, the cloud and AI, remote work and the ability to connect with anyone across their channel of choice have become table stakes. 

Cloud-based and AI-enabled communications, especially video communications, have helped to overcome the challenges of remote work, particularly when it is seamlessly embedded via APIs right into the applications and workflow of businesses. 

This is also introducing new possibilities for how we collaborate, meaning that remote work, supported by video collaboration, is firmly a part of the future of work.

What's your take on the future of contact centers and CCaaS in general?

More businesses will leverage communications technologies enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI) to help customer support teams do more with less. 

According to Frost & Sullivan, APAC’s contact center applications market will reach US$966 million by 2026 and will be driven by increased migration from on-premises solutions to cloud-based services to provide outstanding customer experience (CX). 

Contact centers with enhanced AI capabilities will feature voice assistants and chatbots with natural language processing capabilities that get better over time. See ChatGPT as an example of that.

These automated features will be able to provide customers with the required information or route them to human agents when necessary. The use of sophisticated AI will also help to detect frustration by analyzing customer behavior, transferring unhappy customers to human agents before the CX suffers.

What are the biggest stumbling blocks/blockers Vonage has identified as businesses find their feet in the world of hybrid working?

The major challenges of adapting to hybrid work include implementing the right tools and application to ensure your employees are effective at work, overcoming the feeling of being less connected to the organization's culture, disjointed team collaboration and relationships, and disrupted work processes.

While the pandemic presented numerous, unpredictable challenges for global teams and businesses, there were equally as many opportunities, innovations and chances to approach problems with a brand new, fresh lens. 

Challenges truly evolved into opportunities, especially in communications technology. Our customers have embraced these opportunities, integrating integral communications capabilities, to continue making an impact in the marketplace and with their employees. 

Our customers are relying on the flexibility of cloud communications now more than ever before. With this flexibility, businesses have the tools to create better connections with customers and employees to create once-unimaginable efficiencies within their organizations. 

Because of the challenges presented, the world is going through one of the most incredible digital transformations filled with innovative and revolutionary technology that will forever change how we, as a world, stay connected.

Where did the predictions from 10, 20 years ago get it right/wrong? What do you see in the future of comms-as-a-service?

Multiple predictions from 10-20 years ago turned out to be accurate. Some of these include businesses moving from on-premises to cloud applications, and AI supplementing contact center agents and transforming how customer care teams communicate and function.

[Also,] that social media platforms [would] continue to grow in prominence and play a key role in revolutionizing customer services. Today, we see how conversational commerce can significantly enhance customer experience and create viable opportunities for growth.

Contact centers [have] transition[ed] from cost centers to profit centers as more businesses recognise the opportunity to change the way they use telephones. 

Cloud-based communications enabled business processes (CEBP) will improve business economics in much the same way that Salesforce revolutionized customer relationship management.

[Another prediction was] the use of technology and AI to shop, make payments, take transport and have video consultations with doctors. Today, we see how video consultations have become mainstream. 

The growth of chatbots and virtual voice assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, offering a personalized and instant way gain information just by asking for it out loud, [also proved correct].

As digitisation continues to accelerate post COVID-19, businesses should prioritise investing in cloud-enabled communication solutions. 

Businesses should aim to integrate these solutions throughout the customer journey, improve customer service and increase revenue for their organization by addressing pain points in customer experience and meeting changing consumer expectations. 

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.