How API business models are changing business communications

By Danny Bradbury, on

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The private branch exchange (PBX) is dying out in favor of modern, cloud-driven business communications. Companies migrating to communications-as-a-service (CaaS) arrangements are applying API business models to everything from phone to text communications. As they do so, it’s changing the way they communicate with other businesses and with their customers.

Moving to communications services that use API business models enables companies to integrate those services with their own applications, creating business communication opportunities that simply don’t exist in traditional PBX-driven environments. One of the most common ways to integrate communications into business applications is through web conferencing. Collaboration systems use cloud communication APIs with single-click web conferencing capabilities that enable people to talk to each other through voice and video conferencing.

This trend is known as unified communications and collaboration (UC&C), and it’s growing. In 2015, research and publishing group IDG surveyed 653 IT leaders and found that one-third of them planned to increase UC&C spending in the next year by an average of nine percent. Seven out of 10 of them said the availability of such services in the cloud (accessible through APIs) was fueling their decision.

More communication channels

Using APIs to communicate with cloud-based unified communication services enables companies to move beyond voice and video into other channels, such as text chat. IT teams can integrate these with websites or mobile applications to create new experiences for customers and internal staff alike.

When communicating with customers, they can send them straight to text or video chat depending on the nature of the query. They can also use API business models to integrate their customer relationship management systems with their cloud communications services, giving them useful information about the customers making requests through mobile apps.

Similarly, employees can fold voice and video directly into enterprise applications. A collaborative platform could give workers reviewing a document the chance to break into a voice or video call from directly within the document and drill down on key concepts. Whiteboard-style screen-sharing could also help them articulate their ideas.

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Advanced capabilities

That’s all very well, but what communication gains from API business models in terms of instant accessibility, it risks losing in terms of privacy and work-life balance. Just because a piece of software can use cloud-based communications to find and contact someone at any time doesn’t mean it should. This is where presence becomes an important cloud-based communications tool, especially among mobile users.

Presence information lets others know what a person is doing and whether he or she is accessible. Someone in the middle of an intense writing session may not want to break her concentration, whereas someone walking to his next meeting may have time for a quick call or video session.

Modern unified communications apps can let users set their presence information, putting them in control of whether they wish to talk. This presence information can be tightly tied to mobile devices, enabling users to determine their status no matter where they are.

API business models can take us far beyond these capabilities. Speech analytics enables applications to determine what is being said and how during customer calls, enabling call center staff to search for keywords and phrases and even to conduct sentiment analysis. While still relatively immature, these systems promise businesses the chance to evaluate conversations en masse, producing new insights into how successful the calls have been over time, and identify any issues that consistently appear in customer service interactions.

Business communication is changing for the better as API business models let companies fold multiple communication channels directly into their applications. Eventually, the communication part will become so seamless and ubiquitous that it will practically be invisible. Then, you’ll know you’ve finally succeeded at binding your communications and business processes together.