Low-code and no-code (LCNC) development platforms aren’t particularly new, but their usage has recently begun to increase, primarily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2020 Gartner report predicts that 65 percent of applications will be low-code by 2024, with 75 percent of large enterprises using at least four low-code tools to develop software. LCNC platforms are replacing traditional enterprise software across multiple industrial segments, including education and financial services. Contact centers can also use them in a variety of ways to improve productivity and customer service while reducing costs.
Overview of Low-Code and No-Code
The goal of LCNC platforms is to develop software with little to no code. If coding is required at all, it should be extremely simple. Leading low-code providers include the following:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Zoho Creator
The most popular no-code platforms include Appy Pie and Google AppSheet, which are used to develop mobile applications.
LCNC simplifies software development to the point that it’s no more difficult to use than standard office software such as Microsoft Excel or Power Apps, allowing them to be created by average business users. For example, they typically provide a visual development environment that includes dragging and dropping building blocks. This approach enables business users to create complete business applications without any prior coding knowledge.
Citizen developers can move LCNC projects forward without requiring an organization to invest time and money into hiring a team of professional developers. Citizen developers can also improve internal processes by using LCNC platforms. The transition to LCNC development allows organizations to accelerate their innovation and transformation into the digital world. Additional benefits of LCNC include increased responsiveness, fewer dependencies on technical skills and a reduction in the backlog of IT tasks.
Low-Code vs No-Code Development
Low-code and no-code systems offer the same fundamental benefits, but their names indicate the key difference between these two methods of application development. Low-code and no-code development provides the same general benefits, although there are distinct differences in their intended users and implementation.
Low-code systems still require some coding, but it’s much less than traditional software development requires. Professional programmers use low-code to develop applications quickly, allowing them to shift their focus from basic programming tasks to more complex work that provides greater value for their organization. Citizen developers with some programming knowledge also use low-code development to build simple applications or provide existing applications with greater functionality.
No-code development is specifically intended for non-technical users whose expertise is in business processes rather than programming. They understand the requirements of their organization, but have little experience with programming languages. These citizen developers can build applications with no-code tools quickly and easily, as well as testing and deploying those applications. The primary requirement for this type of development is that the tools must align with the functions and capabilities of the applications being developed.
There are also distinct differences in the implementation of low-code and no-code. For example, no-code is most often used to develop applications with simple functions for a specific purpose. Developers can also use low-code in this way, but it’s more common to use these tools for creating applications that are critical to an organization’s business processes like digital transformation initiatives and system integration.
The distinction between low-code and no-code becomes less clear when attempting to categorize these platforms. For example, many analysts classify no-code as a sub-segment of the low-code market since all platforms require some amount of coding to develop and deploy applications. Much of the distinction between these two types of development platforms is driven by the user group that a vendor is targeting for a particular platform.
As a result, analysts generally consider no-code platforms to be a specialized type of low-code platform in which its visual components provide functions specific to a particular industry, line of business (LOB) or branding. In comparison, low-code platforms are more likely to require professional developers to make minor changes in supporting code that will allow the new application to align with existing software.
LCNC platforms are part of a broader trend in contact centers to accelerate their digital transformation. The low-code no-code movement is huge, driven by many compelling benefits described below. Forrester expects the market for low-code development platforms to increase to $21.2 billion by 2022, up from $3.8 billion in 2017. The original purpose of LCNC technology was to simplify the development of mobile and web applications, which it has accomplished. However, the latest LCNC goes further with this by allowing overworked IT departments to offload some of their work onto citizen developers. This approach allows IT professionals to focus on developing complex applications that require hand coding.
Use Cases in the Contact Center
LCNC has many standard use cases in contact centers, including customer relationship management (CRM) and customer experience (CX). They can support sophisticated applications such as integrating with other systems through the use of advanced application programming interfaces (APIs). They can also generate CX on both mobile and web applications, perform data analytics and make rapid changes.
In addition to these advantages, LCNC provides all the benefits of any other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform. The latest LCNC tools also provide projects with greater velocity, often reducing development time to days rather than weeks or months. This capability allows developers to easily customize contact center applications to meet the evolving needs of customers, employees and the market itself.
Contact centers can facilitate the navigation of LCNC applications by implementing forms and workflows that are intuitive for both agents and supervisors. This design approach also helps developers automate tasks and generate reports that don’t require professional programmers, providing greater flexibility in meeting new customer service requirements. The specific use cases for LCNC in contact centers may be classified into process and task automation, and call routing.
Process and Task Automation
Many of the latest process automation platforms qualify as LCNC because they offer editors that allow end-users to develop specific workflows. For example, these platforms can create applications that use a call disposition to launch a customer workflow that includes CRM updates. It’s usually possible to route callers to the appropriate resource without asking any questions, making these applications highly useful in call centers. LCNC applications are also useful for handling language preferences and creating helpdesk tickets.
Contact center agents routinely ask customers for information such as a reference number, although they don’t always do anything with it. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) can identify callers from their phone numbers, which brings at least some call data into the routing system automatically. The routing system can then route the call based on this information, which could include their geographic location, preferred language, previous orders and complaints.
The drag-and-drop approach to developing software on LCNC platforms allows citizen developers to quickly build the actions and conditions that call-routing strategies require, including two selection and transfers. The overall goal of these strategies is to minimize the time needed to connect callers with the agents who are best able to help them, which should be a critical goal in any contact center. Recent research from Forrester shows that 70 percent of customers are very frustrated with hold times, with 75 percent favoring callbacks.
This approach uses an automatic call distributor (ACD) to route incoming calls to the call center. The voice menu provides callers with the options to stay on hold or hang out and receive a call when an agent is free. The key to success with a callback system is to clearly explain the process, which typically results in rapid adoption by callers. Agents can achieve a 25 percent increase in talk time with a callback system.
Additional Use Cases
Additional use cases LCNC applications include voice response menu trees. These applications include graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that allow users to create menu trees with prompts and responses, such as “Press or say ‘1’ for this; Press or say ‘2’ for that.” LCNC applications are also well-suited for developing mobile apps more quickly. Furthermore, they can rapidly create dialogs for chatbots, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA).
The benefits of LCNC include the following:
- Increased speed and agility
- Improved productivity
- Fewer errors
- Reduced cost
- Improved compliance
Increased Speed and Agility
LCNC uses visual editors and pre-assembled blocks of code to dramatically reduce development time. This capability is particularly useful in today’s environment, which requires rapid responses to changes in business requirements.
LOBs often need to develop their own applications without direct assistance from IT staff. This capability of LCNC increases productivity and allows applications to meet business needs more quickly. Professional developers are then free to work on strategic applications that can’t be developed with LCNC.
LCNC platforms automatically validate your application, eliminating errors and reducing QA overhead.
LCNC reduces an organization’s reliance on professional software developers, who typically command high rates.
Some contact centers find that the use of LCNC reduces the frequency of shadow IT by empowering each LOB to create its own programs. Shadow IT is particularly undesirable in highly regulated industries due to the risk of noncompliance.
Realizing the full benefits of LCNC often requires developers to overcome some challenges, including complexity of supporting tools and obtaining the necessary data.
LCNC simplifies the coding process, but these platforms can also introduce additional complexity. For example, some LCNC platforms require users to navigate complex spreadsheets and websites, which can cause them to struggle in creating the code. Furthermore, LCNC tools aren’t always as user-friendly as they could be and may require advanced technical knowledge in some areas. In these cases, end-users may need to ask for support from IT.
Software can only be as useful as the data they receive, which can be a particular challenge with LCNC applications. The data that a contact center uses may be classified into structured and unstructured types. Structured data includes metrics, such as abandoned calls, number of calls, and transactions and wait times, while unstructured data includes customer feedback and other types of free-form speech that requires analytics to be truly useful. Enterprises also require customer data such as account balances, interaction history and orders.
All of this data would be neatly organized and always synchronized with multiple sources in an ideal world. This situation would ensure that information is always available to contact center agents, allowing them to respond efficiently to customer needs and even anticipate. LCNC platforms usually require substantial refinement to achieve the desired level of efficiency and speed that modern contact centers require.
Contact center IT technology has been quite similar to that of other parts of the enterprise until quite recently. Organizations only had a few major vendors from which to choose software for their contact center, resulting in high license fees. Furthermore, this software was often inflexible, requiring specialized engineers to customize.
Developing functionality for this infrastructure was a major undertaking, often requiring months or even years of development. In addition, close collaboration was also required between the LOB and IT team to ensure the new features worked correctly. These limitations made contact center technology ready for digital transformation, which typically involves migrating operations to the cloud.
The most common approach to deploying Contact Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS) is to use the traditional SaaS model. CCaaS routinely includes intuitive point-and-click interfaces for administrators, allowing them to quickly build a cloud-based contact center. The use of LCNC for this purpose allows the IT department to offload the majority of a CCaaS to citizen developers.
Another drawback of a typical CCaaS is that it’s a general-purpose platform with limited capability for customization. Contact centers using CCaaS may therefore be slow to adopt advanced technologies like the use of AI to perform natural language processing. LCNC provides standard CCaaS solutions with greater agility in adding these new technologies.
LCNC Contact Center Solutions
The use of the visual builders to develop software is already familiar to professional architects and engineers in the contact center. They have used them to develop the menu trees in IVR systems for many years. Visual builders provide an alternative to markup languages that makes it easier for administrators to visualize and document IVR paths. They also facilitate changes to menus and help prevent that-end paths.
Visual builders also have other uses in the contact center besides IVR, so it should come as no surprise that their adoption is becoming more widespread. Most contact centers now use omnichannel messaging that benefits from the visual builders that are an essential component of LCNC tools. The ability of citizen developers such as LOB personnel and supervisors to manage this type of infrastructure without IT assistance is a cost-saving measure that contact centers can’t afford to do without.
Communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) providers offer the same services as a physical contact center, including chat, IVR, queuing and routing. They also allow developers to build a complete CX that’s customized for their organization’s business processes. Many CCaaS providers use major CPaaS platforms to help them develop features quickly and deploy them for clients throughout the world. CPaaS platforms also provide additional benefits for CCaaS such as AI-driven features and carrier-class scalability.
However, CPaaS also requires skilled developers to build and test applications. This restriction increases the time and cost needed to provide a contact center with new functionality, which are two of the primary benefits organizations are seeking to achieve by using cloud services. LCNC addresses this by adding a layer of abstraction to CPaaS, allowing providers to offer LCNC’s ease-of-use with the advanced features of CCaaS.
CPaaS providers that offer an LCNC abstraction layer provide their clients with the flexibility of customizing call flows and integrating them across multiple business processes. A web development environment or scripting language allows contact centers to trigger actions based on call events, which they can then integrate into external systems. These systems commonly include customer databases and natural language processing applications. Some CPaaS providers also allow clients to access code snippets that give them a head start in performing these integrations.
The ability of an LCNC solution to provide citizen developers with the autonomy needed to independently design and develop contact center applications means that it only needs to use IT staff for complex integration. The combination of a CPaaS with an LCNC front-end provides a highly flexible approach to software development that still retains the cost benefits and agility of a CCaaS.
LCNC allows contact centers to innovate rapidly, increase their business agility and adopt evolving technologies driven by rising customer expectations. Contact centers and other CX-focused organizations will shortly begin adopting LCNC platforms on a large scale to remain competitive. LCNC is thus poised to become the next phase in the ongoing CX revolution.
Aceyus’ platform is an LCNC solution for supporting an omni-channel call center. Contact us today to schedule a demo of how an LCNC approach to application development can increase your team’s productivity. You can also contact one of our team members to get a free consultation on your solution options.