With release 1702 of SAP Hybris Cloud for Service, it is now possible to properly handle incoming phone calls in the new Responsive UI.  Call center integration in Responsive UI brings some key advantages compared to similar features available in HTML5, and a few limitations that will be removed over time.  In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the new capabilities, highlighting such advantages and limitations.

 

Live Activity Center

In HTML5, call center integration is exposed to the end user via the “Live Activity” side pane.

The side pane updates automatically whenever there is an incoming phone call, and the agent can keep it open while browsing other screens.  However, it also provides very limited real estate for a proper caller identification flow, or for any other integration scenario.

In the new Responsive UI, the side pane has been replaced by a new workcenter view, labeled “Live Activity Center” and available under Service.  By leveraging the whole screen, the Live Activity Center allows for a much improved user experience and for more flexible integration options, as we shall see later in the post.

The Live Activity Center has been designed around the needs of an agent handling a call, and can be broadly divided into three parts:  the global search, the call information, and the follow up actions.

  • The global search, on the left side of the screen, allows the agent to identify the caller using any available piece of information:  customer attributes, ticket attributes, and soon other common identifiers such as serial numbers or order IDs.  The search returns a mix of objects, but any of the results can be used to confirm the caller, using the Confirm icon available on each item.
  • The call information area is similar to what was provided in the Live Activity side pane, but provides much more room for notes, extension fields, and additional components.  A phone activity is created automatically every time a call is received, and this area allows the editing of its attributes.
  • The follow up actions replace the three buttons available within the Live Activity side pane, in a more flexible way that will make it easy, over time, to extend the list of available options.  In release 1702, the actions allow the agent to create a new Individual Customer (in case the caller does not already exist in the system) or a new follow up ticket.

Whenever there is an incoming phone call, the agent is alerted through a screen pop, which is shown regardless of the screen currently displayed.  A click on the screen pop brings the agent right into the Live Activity Center, where a search is automatically triggered based on the caller’s phone number.

 

Integration via Local Adapter

Connecting a telephony provider to SAP Hybris Cloud for Service can now be achieved in two ways:  with the usual approach based on the local CTI adapter;  or by embedding remote widgets.  Let’s review the usual approach, which works equally well in HTML5 and RUI, before introducing the new option.

There are two prerequisites to achieving telephony integration via CTI adapter:

  • There must be a telephony client running on the agent’s machine
  • It must be possible to make a simple enhancement to such client, in order to make a parametrised HTTP call to localhost whenever the agent receives a phone call

The enhancement required is very simple and usually taken care by a system integrator with experience on the specific telephony infrastructure.  All details can be found in the SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer Administrator Guide, available on the SAP Help Portal, under Integration -> Integration with External Systems -> Computer Telephony Integration (here is a link to the current version of that section).

In practice, whenever the agent receives a phone call the telephony client will pass all call attributes (caller’s number, called number, other information collected via IVR) to the local adapter via an HTTP call to localhost.  The adapter, which is constantly listening on a specific localhost port, will take the information and push it to the browser window/tab in which C4C is running.

In HTML5 this event triggers a refresh of the Live Activity side pane and an automatic caller search.  In RUI the same event triggers the screen pop, and a click on the screen pop opens a new instance of the Live Activity Center, where a caller search is automatically initiated.

From the agent’s perspective, the screen pop appears exactly when the softphone starts ringing.  All call controls (hold, forward, hang up, etc.) are still in the telephony client, but the agent can immediately start taking notes in C4C while handling the call.

This integration is available out of the box with the latest versions of SAP Contact Center, and can easily be achieved with all the other most common telephony providers available in the market.  There isn’t a precise list of supported providers:  as long as the two prerequisites mentioned above are fulfilled, the integration should be achievable.  From our interactions with customers, we are aware of projects in which C4C has been connected to Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, and several other providers.  By the way: if you have been involved in such a project please leave us a note in the comments or shoot us an email, we’d love to heard from you.

In summary, these are the main advantages of the integration via CTI Adapter:

  • It’s easily achievable with any provider, no matter if market leader or niche player, as long as the prerequisites are fulfilled.
  • It’s extremely scalable:  the integration is local to the agent’s machine, so the connection between the telephony client and C4C is instantaneous regardless of whether the call center handles 10 or 10,000 calls per hour.

At the same time, the approach carries a few constraints:

  • There must be a local telephony client, thereby making it quite tough to integrate to pure cloud providers, which include many of the most recent players.
  • It must be possible to install the CTI adapter on all workstations, which means:  limitations on the supported operating systems (e.g. the adapter only runs on Windows);  need to update the common desktop image, which could be a nuisance for the IT department;  and in general a local footprint, which may bother some cloud “purists”.

The new approach introduced with release 1702 addresses exactly these constraints.

 

Integration via Embedded Widget

With release 1702, it is now possible to connect SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer with a remote telephony widget.  This integration approach is based on loading an external front-ent component provided by a third party (e.g. the telephony provider, or a system integrator), and it is only available when using the new Responsive UI.

The remote widget can be loaded as hidden, or displayed within the screen pop.  When loaded as hidden, the widget removes the need for the CTI adapter, and provides a user experience very similar to the usual integration:  the call is controlled via the telephony client, which is still external to C4C but does not need to be running locally anymore.

When displayed within the screen pop, the widget removes the need for the CTI adapter and allows the agent to control the call directly from within C4C, acting as an embedded softphone and therefore also removing the need for the external telephony client.

This approach is strategic for C4C, and will be enhanced with each future release.  For example, the administrator will soon be able to add a mashup to the Live Activity Center, right above the Call Information section, and use it to embed a full telephony console, providing the agent with all the controls which cannot fit within the screen pop.

Here is an example of what can already be achieved, using a widget provided by SAP Contact Center:

Technically, the widget is rendered within an iframe inside the screen pop.  The administrator can configure the URL of the remote widget from the Live Activity Configuration screen available under Administrator -> Service and Social -> Communication Channels.

In order to embed a remote widget, select “External Provider”, choose an ID, and input the URL where the widget resides.  The checkbox “Display Provider Control” defines whether the widget should be rendered within the screen pop, or just loaded as hidden.  To switch back to integrating via the CTI adapter, select “SAP CTI Adapter” and “http://localhost:36729/CTIMain.htm”.

Since the widget is rendered within an iframe, it can communicate with C4C via a javascript call of type window.parent.postMessage().  The supported parameters are the same available when using the local adapter, documented in the Administrator Guide.  Here is an example:

 

 

RUI vs. HTML5

Compared to the similar capabilities available in HTML5, call center integration in RUI brings therefore some clear advantages but also, as of release 1702, a few limitations.

The main advantages of RUI compared to HTML5 are:

  • Screen pop to alert the agent of an incoming call
  • Full screen caller identification flow, including global search across objects
  • Ability to embed remote softphone widgets, removing the need for the local CTI adapter

This list will expand with each future release, for example with the ability to create new Accounts from a phone call, or the ability to serve agents not just phone calls but also tickets coming from other channels (both highly demanded features which will not be added to HTML5).

The major limitations of RUI compared to HTML5, as of release 1702, are:

  • No way to connect a phone call to an existing ticket
  • No support for outbound calls
  • No ability to create a Contact from a phone call

This list will get shorter with each future release, as RUI reaches and surpasses the capabilities and user experience provided by HTML5.

 

Conclusion

The new call center integration capabilities in RUI are a key enhancement delivered with release 1702. Since this is the first release in which the feature is productively available, it still carries several limitations which need to be evaluated within each customer’s scenario.

Administrators should consider pros and cons of switching from HTML5, and gauge whether the advantages justify switching immediately, or whether the required compromises make it safer to wait for one or two additional releases. In any case, we recommend road testing the feature, and look forward to receiving your feedback.

All the best,
Gab

 

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5 Comments

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  1. Praveen Bandaru

    Hi Gab,

    Thank you for the nice blog on LiveActivity Center.

    How can we extend this screen? I am trying to add few fields to the customer pane. I tried with the component LiveActivity/LiveActivityInteraction_OWL.OWL.uicomponent, it doesn’t have the option to add extension fields.

    Thanks,

    Praveen

    (0) 
  2. Gabriele Bodda Post author

    Hi Praveen,

    Extensibility of the Live Activity Center is planned to be supported with release 1705.  From RUI, it will be possible to open the floorplan in HTML5 and adapt it as usual.

    Kind regards,
    Gab

    (0) 

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