West To Be Acquired By Private Investors
West Corp. (news - alert) has announced that it has entered a definitive agreement to be acquired by a group of private investors led by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Quadrangle Group. The deal is reported to be worth $4.1 billion. Under the agreement, the investors would pay $48.75 per share in cash to stockholders of West Corp. Founders Gary and Mary West are not included in this list of stockholders. The couple own approximately 56 percent of the company’s outstanding stock, 85 percent of which would be purchased at $42.83 per share in cash. The remaining shares are expected to be converted into stock of the new corporation upon completion of the merger.
West Corporation’s board of directors, on the recommendation of a special committee of independent directors, has approved the merger agreement and recommends that West’s stockholders adopt the agreement. Gary and Mary West have agreed under certain circumstances to vote their shares in favor of the transaction. Thomas B. Barker, CEO of West Corporation, has stated that in addition to providing West’s public stockholders a premium for their shares, the company believes the transaction is also in the best interest of the company’s employees and customers.
In other West news, West Interactive (news - alert) has introduced Insight Customer Intelligence, a network-based, real-time automated customer survey tool designed to measure the quality of customer interactions and improve customer retention. Using West’s interactive voice response (IVR) infrastructure, Insight gives customers the choice to participate in a brief survey immediately following their interaction with the customer service agent. With Insight, contact center management and operations can access customer feedback in near real-time through a Web-based portal that integrates the customer’s satisfaction rating, including spoken comments, with a 100 percent recording of the actual agent call. The survey is controlled by the caller and is anonymous to the agent. Based on the customer’s satisfaction score, Insight can also dynamically request if the customer would like a callback or be transferred for immediate assistance.
IEX Introduces Version 3.11 Of TotalView Workforce Management
IEX Corp. (news - alert) has announced the general availability of version 3.11 of its TotalView Workforce Management system. TotalView v3.11 introduces new features designed to meet global contact centers’ unique scheduling requirements and boost agent empowerment. Key feature in this release include: Team Scheduling, Seat Limit Scheduling, Holiday Fairness, Day of Week Fairness and Schedule Trading enhancements.
Team Scheduling offers contact centers the ability to schedule a team of agents to work at the same time, while having the flexibility to work different schedules as a group from week-to-week. This eliminates the need to use static work patterns for weeks or months at a time to keep supervisors and their teams working the same shift. Seat Limit Scheduling allows the center to set minimum and maximum seating parameters for a given site. This prevents the center from scheduling more agents than there are seats available, and allows the organization to establish a minimum staffing level for periods of low contact volume. Holiday Fairness allows the center to automatically assign holiday schedules on a rotation basis by taking into account holiday work history for each agent. The existing Day of Week Fairness process has been enhanced to consider day of week and weekend assignments simultaneously. This allows the organization to take into account work history that ensures days off and weekend assignments are distributed equitably. Schedule Trading is a WebStation enhancement that adds more flexibility into the agent schedule trade process with hands-off administration by providing both “closed” and “open” trading. Instead of posting an “open” trade request on the board and waiting to see if someone accepts, agents can now work out an agreement in advance and conduct a specific agent swap online.www.iex.com
Onyx Agrees To Be Acquired By M2M Holdings Inc.
Onyx Software Corporation (news - alert) has announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by privately held M2M Holdings Inc., the holding company that is jointly owned by Battery Ventures VI, L.P. and Thoma Cressey Equity Partners and whose primary asset is Made2Manage Systems Inc., an enterprise software and services company, in an all-cash transaction valued at $4.80 per share, or approximately $92 million. The parties anticipate closing the transaction in the third calendar quarter of 2006. The closing is subject to approval by holders of a majority of Onyx’s outstanding common stock and other customary regulatory and documentation closing conditions. Certain Onyx directors and officers, representing approximately 17.6 percent of Onyx’s outstanding shares, have entered into voting agreements in support of the acquisition.
“We believe that this transaction is the right decision for Onyx shareholders, customers, partners and employees,” said Janice P. Anderson, chairman and CEO of Onyx. “Upon closing, this acquisition will provide liquidity to shareholders and a premium to our recent trading prices. Battery Ventures and Thoma Cressey Equity Partners, Made2Manage Systems’ equity sponsors, each have a strong track record of supporting the growth of their portfolio companies and we believe will use their proven industry consolidation experience to help Onyx increase its share of the enterprise CRM market.”
Cisco Announces Two Acquisitions
Cisco Systems, Inc. (quote - news - alert) has announced a definitive agreement to acquire the privately-held companies Metreos Corp. of Austin, TX and Audium Corp. of New York, NY in two separate deals. With these acquisitions, Cisco will be able to further help enterprise customers turn their Internet protocol (IP) networks into true unified communications systems for handling all voice, video, data and mobility communications applications.
In March 2006, Cisco announced its Unified Communications system, which allows enterprise customers to integrate their communications systems with their IT infrastructure, creating a single enterprisewide communications platform. The Cisco Unified Communications system of voice, video and IP communications products and applications enables organizations of all sizes to communicate more effectively, streamline business processes, reach the right resource the first time and positively impact the top and bottom line.
Metreos and Audium provide network-based application development environments and run-time platforms for two different market segments, IP communications and IP contact center, respectively. Over time, the Metreos and Audium product portfolios will be integrated with each other to provide one unified common application development interface for all Cisco Unified Communications, enabling customers and partners to rapidly build customized communications applications that are fully integrated across the enterprise IT infrastructure, enterprise applications and enterprise contact centers
Aspect Software Offering
Unison Predictive Dialer 7.1
Aspect Software, Inc., (news - alert) has announced the general availability of Aspect Unison Predictive Dialer 7.1, a comprehensive outbound contact center solution. The latest version offers new features designed to improve flexibility and simplify system maintenance, as well as greatly expanded security capabilities to provide increased protection of customer information during call handling.
From the company’s Signature product line, Aspect Unison Predictive Dialer 7.1 incorporates significant security updates to accommodate emerging industry requirements. Examples of these include the Aspect Unison Security Portal, which provides the option for customers to have their agents and supervisors authenticate against Microsoft Active Directory or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) or to continue to use the internal Aspect Unison Predictive Dialer authentication process; full user account control, which enables administrators to access and manage all Unix, application and database user accounts, including password creation, resetting and formatting; and support for Citrix Presentation Server 4.0 for customers using Citrix for their networking and distributed application management. www.aspect.com
PossibleNOW Adds To Consulting And Audit Services
PossibleNOW (news - alert) a provider of Internet-based privacy preference management solutions and services, has announced the Do Not Call Safe Harbor Assessment, a new service of its Consulting & Audit Services Group. The Do Not Call Safe Harbor Assessment helps companies determine if they have achieved a do-not-call safe harbor position. PossibleNOW’s Consulting & Audit Services Group assists companies involved in consumer marketing to ensure they are in full compliance with state and federal do-not-call laws. The Do Not Call Safe Harbor Assessment service is particularly beneficial for smaller companies that may not need one of PossibleNOW’s more comprehensive compliance audits.
The Do Not Call (DNC) Safe Harbor Assessment identifies a company’s compliance risk and defines the immediate steps required to achieve a do-not-call safe harbor position. Operating within safe harbor parameters greatly reduces the likelihood that a company will have violations. If an error does result in a violation and the company is found to be within the DNC safe harbor requirements, the company is not liable for the violation. PossibleNOW’s compliance experts visit the client and investigate the company’s compliance processes as they relate to the requirements of achieving the do-not-call safe harbor. Upon completion of the assessment, the client receives a comprehensive report including a risk assessment, gap analysis and recommendations for compliance. PossibleNOW also includes a compliance data analysis of a current or historical calling campaign.
www.possiblenow.com and www.dncsolution.com
AnswerNet Acquires S&D, Plans To Boost Business
The AnswerNet Network, (news - alert) a contact center and telemessaging outsourcer, has acquired Philadelphia-based outsourcer S&D Marketing for an undisclosed sum. AnswerNet had held a 50 percent stake in S&D. The deal is expected to enhance AnswerNet’s telemarketing, customer service and direct response capabilities. It also fully integrates S&D’s operations with AnswerNet’s to provide a seamless suite of services. The S&D contact center, (now known as AnswerNet-Philadelphia) has 120 workstations, a predictive dialer and an IVR. It currently supports a range of applications, and is experienced at selling high-speed Internet, cable television and digital telephone services.
With AnswerNet-Philadelphia a part of the network, clients now have the option of having their large-scale outbound telemarketing and inbound CRM applications supplied at a single contact center. They can tap additional sites for overflow or disaster backup. www.answernet.com
Aperio CI Releases FlashTrac
Aperio CI , (news - alert) a provider of customer acquisition and retention solutions for consumer-facing enterprises, has released FlashTrac, a near real-time software solution designed to convert historical usage data into business intelligence quickly and efficiently. Through FlashTrac, service providers can identify, evaluate and respond to aggregate customer behavioral patterns within hours of a specified event. A fully reliable, secure and scalable software application, FlashTrac can be integrated with various enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) applications. It is currently available as a hosted solution.
The FlashTrac platform consists of five integrated modules: Data Collection and Conversion, which collects data from client systems, performs confirmation and authentication, and converts data into Aperio’s format for analysis; Report Management, a self-administrative module that allows users to add/change/delete phone numbers to be tracked and organize them into groups; Business Rules Management, which allows for customization and parameter control to manage and customize analysis; Data Event Processing, Aperio CI’s proprietary analysis engine that structures and applies business logic; and Report Processing, which creates both standard daily, weekly and monthly reports overnight, and immediate ad hoc reports. www.aperioci.com
HigherGround And SER Announce Partnership
HigherGround, Inc., (ATSI) (news - alert) a software developer of call recording, data collection and business intelligence tools, and SER Solutions, Inc. (news - alert) a provider of enterprise contact center management and speech analytics solutions, recently announced a strategic partnership. HigherGround has integrated SER’s speech analytics solution, SERTAINTY, with its Fusion Series 7 product suite of call recording and reporting solutions. HigherGround will represent SER’s SERTAINTY, a speech analytics solution that captures customer conversations and transforms them into rich metadata allowing identification, discovery, assessment and management of the dialog. Information hidden in customer conversations is extracted to better understand customer needs and market trends. SERTAINTY also analyzes and scores recorded calls for script adherence, achievement of KPIs and fraud detection. With SERTAINTY’s ability to automatically mine and pinpoint exact phrases from within audio files, companies can reduce their costs by eliminating tedious and error-prone manual monitoring activities. www.ser.com and www.highergroundinc.com
Tangoe Opens European Headquarters
Tangoe, Inc., (news - alert) a provider of enterprise telecommunications expense management (TEM) software and services, has announced the opening of its first European office, located in Manchester, England. Tangoe established the office in support of its expanding partner and client activities in the region. More specifically, the new office will provide a base of operations for sales, service and support activities, allowing the company to respond more effectively to the increasing number of customers and partners throughout Europe.
“We began our European business development opportunities in the fourth quarter of 2005 and have already engaged in a number of active TEM projects in the UK, BeNeLux and Germany,” said Al Subbloie, Tangoe CEO and president. “As a result, opening our first European location quickly became a key requirement to supporting our growing base of customers and partners.”
Neocase Launches New Collaborative Customer
Operations Software Suite
Neocase Software, (news - alert) a collaborative customer operations specialists, has announced the availability of the newest version of its CRM offerings, Neocase 10, for the U.S. mid-market.
An established European provider of CRM, Neocase delivers applications designed to take customer service to a new level by transforming a company and its external partners into a customer service team. Neocase provides all relevant business units with direct, customized access for solving each customer issue. Through its collaborative approach, Neocase streamlines business processes and enables customer service agents to solve problems quickly, ultimately improving overall customer service quality and customer satisfaction.
Neocase 10 helps maximize productivity and quality of customer service through collaboration, knowledge management and more efficient workflow management. It provides a collaborative customer service platform comprised of seven modules that function synergistically for efficient case resolution.
Inter-Tel Releases Inter-Tel Audio And Web Conferencing Version 2.0
Inter-Tel Incorporated., (news - alert) has announced the release of Inter-Tel Audio and Web Conferencing Version 2.0, an IP-based collaboration solution that combines voice and video capabilities developed to facilitate cost-effective, interactive online conferences. The new collaboration tool was designed to provide quality voice communications by tightly integrating with Inter-Tel’s Axxess and Inter-Tel 5000 series communications platforms. Complementing the rollout of this latest addition to Inter-Tel’s suite of products is the availability of Inter-Tel Web Conferencing and Remote Support 4.5, an updated version of its premise-based customer support and collaboration solution. These business applications are designed to address the dynamic communications and workflow demands of businesses, allowing them to increase productivity and improve efficiency.
Inter-Tel Audio and Web Conferencing v.2.0 delivers a one-two combination developed to enable anyone with a computer, Internet connection and Web browser to conduct or join a meeting from virtually anywhere. Through the Inter-Tel Audio Conferencing portion of the application, users can create and manage audio conferences, meetings and training sessions. www.inter-tel.com
Unica Introduces Affinium NetInsight
Unica Corporation, (news - alert) a provider of enterprise marketing management (EMM) solutions, recently announced the introduction of Affinium NetInsight for enterprises seeking to optimize Web sites, Internet marketing and the cross-channel experience for their customers and prospects. With Affinium NetInsight, Web analytics can be integrated with other customer data across the enterprise to create a comprehensive view of customers and their preferences. The open architecture facilitates easy integration of the Web analytics data warehouse with legacy business intelligence solutions. Externally-stored customer and product data are integrated into reports generated by Affinium NetInsight, helping improve report usability and value. Additionally, when marketers use Affinium NetInsight in conjunction with other modules in Unica’s Affinium Suite, they can automate precision marketing based on their Web and cross-channel knowledge and close the loop across customer touch points, delivering speed to market and improved results.
InQuira Announces Version 7.3
InQuira Inc., (news - alert) a provider of integrated software applications for intelligent search, knowledge management, analytics and user experience, recently announced the general availability of InQuira 7.3. The release includes additions to InQuira’s knowledge management product, InQuira Information Manager 7.3. It features enhancements for multi-language content and localization; content integration via Web services APIs; workflow process improvements; content usage analytics, embedded InQuira Intelligent Search; and user reputation models. According to the company, global support organizations will appreciate the new multi-language and localization features in InQuira 7.3. The new release enables companies to share content across regions, to allow localized control and publishing workflows and to more effectively manage translation workflows.
A new Web services API facilitates content migration from external knowledge sources and between content channels within Information Manager. New content can even be dynamically transferred to Information Manager as it is created in other systems. InQuira’s Intelligent Search is now embedded within the Information Manager console for locating duplicate content and assessing the relevance of existing or new content in the search results for end users, including content that is stored external to Information Manager. InQuira 7.3 also introduces several new reporting features, including new capabilities to survey users, and usage reports that filter content usage by access type (e.g., searching, newsletters, product home pages).
StarTek Unveils StarTek Intelligent Enterprise
BPO provider StarTek, Inc., (news - alert) BPO provider StarTek, Inc. has unveiled StarTek Intelligent Enterprise, the company’s suite of complex process management services for the financial and healthcare industries. The financial and healthcare industries will have access to StarTek’s custom business services program to gain visibility and control for compliance, improve customer service and achieve greater agility in their increasingly competitive industries. These services are positioned to help transform the pace and process of business process outsourcing.
“Many financial services and healthcare organizations are currently in a position where they are reexamining their businesses and evaluating their processes with the focus on reengineering them,” said Steve Butler, CEO of StarTek. “Traditional business process definition and technology purchases can be characterized in a manner that often results in sub-optimization, which can lead to situations where multiple processes and technologies are used to perform similar functions. Increased compliance imperatives add to this scenario, which can create the perfect storm. The market is ready for StarTek to offer StarTek Intelligent Enterprise, a total solution for compliance and business process management.”
Stratasoft And Call Compliance Partner
Call center solutions provider Stratasoft, Inc., (news - alert) recently announced that its StrataDial.VC2 predictive dialer technology has been integrated with Call Compliance, Inc.’s (news - alert) TeleBlock system. Stratasoft’s StrataDial.VC2 virtual call center software includes a predictive dialing engine built on a robust and mature pacing algorithm that guarantees accurate call progress detection and ensures rapid screen pops and fast voice connects to call center agents. Combining this technology with the TeleBlock system ensures that telemarketers can maximize productivity without having to fear do-not-call and related fines. TeleBlock integrates with Stratasoft’s system by enabling instant DNC lookups, from one centralized database, as calls are made by the dialer. All numbers dialed using Stratasoft predictive dialers can now be screened against all appropriate DNC databases including cell phones; if a call is placed to a number appearing on a DNC list, the call is instantly blocked.
www.stratasoft.com and www.callcompliance.com
Poll Finds Americans Twice As Frustrated With Bad English Than Bad Tech Support
A new international contact center survey has revealed that Americans balk more at customer service agents with hard-to-understand accents than those who don’t understand the problem they are calling about. Conducted for NetReflector, (news - alert) a provider of enterprise feedback solutions, the research explored customer experiences in nine countries around the world. When asked what frustrates them most about contact centers, U.S. respondents say bad accents (29 percent) are their top complaint, followed by rude or condescending agents (18 percent), being made to wait too long on the line (17 percent) or having to listen to an agent “upgrade” their services (15 percent).
Consumers in non-English-speaking markets rate other issues as more problematic. For example, for French and German consumers, waiting on the phone is the primary problem, while the leading frustration for Chinese and Russian respondents is that contact center personnel are condescending or rude. According to NetReflector, the findings substantiate a growing trend among companies to find alternatives to counter Americans’ increasingly hostile attitudes towards overseas contact center agents, including online chat, e-mail and improved automated voice systems that can resolve problems more quickly. Other companies are bringing front-line customer service operations back home, but leaving their back-office processing overseas. Others are investing heavily in “foreign accent reduction therapy.”
Symon Releases Symon Enterprise Server 9.0
Symon Communications, Inc., (news - alert) a provider of real-time operational performance, productivity and communication applications, has announced the release of Symon Enterprise Server (SES) 9.0 software. SES is a software application that instantly communicates and effectively distributes data and content for viewing on flat panel displays, televisions, wallboards and the desktop.
SES 9.0 allows digital signage users to tailor message content for specific audiences and events in retail and employee communication. Content is instantly viewed on flat panel displays and televisions, providing employees with corporate news, streaming video, LiveTV and crisis communication. Supply chain, contact centers and the enterprise can combine real-time data with content into custom layouts for dynamic views of information and statistics, helping enhance performance and productivity.
New features in Symon Design Studio include professional 3D cinematic transitions for all types of content and real-time data events that can change screen layouts and content. Innovative scheduling, drag-and-drop capability for routine tasks, permissions-based security, content posting anywhere to a site, and enhanced play list and message reporting are now available. SES 9.0 users benefit from the addition of Web services for greater interoperability, delivering sophisticated added-value services. The product also supports Symon’s newest generation of digital network appliances designed with efficient and professional broadcast technological advancement and refinement.
01 Communique Releases On Demand Remote Support Tool
01 Communique Laboratory Inc., (news - alert) a remote access solutions provider, has announced the launch of I’m OnCall, a secure Web-based remote support solution, enabling help desk personnel to more quickly and efficiently support their customers anywhere in the world, through on-demand PC remote control. Upon a support person receiving the customer’s permission, I’m OnCall auto-configures a temporary connection between the technician’s and the customer’s PC, allowing the support person to take full control of the PC. I’m OnCall provides resellers, software and hardware vendors, internal help desks and support organizations with an integral tool for delivering improved customer support and services through reduced call times and cost-effective problem resolution.
I’m OnCall is a complete remote support platform comprised of two modules: the current On Demand module, delivering the ability to automatically connect to a customer’s PC across the Internet within seconds of the customer’s call; and a Remote Administration module, providing the flexibility to more easily connect to customers’ PCs around the world that have preinstalled software on them. I’m OnCall’s Remote Admin network console will allow technicians to provide planned or unplanned support to customers with pre-specified service agreements. This module will be incorporated into a future release of I’m OnCall. www.01com.com
Retired Home Depot Executive Named “Direct Marketer Of The Year”
University of Akron alumnus John Costello, retired executive VP of merchandising and marketing for Home Depot, (news - alert)has received the university’s first Direct Marketer of The Year Award. The award is sponsored by UA’s Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing. Presenting it were Gary Taylor, CEO of InfoCision Management Corp., and Dr. Dale Lewison, Taylor Institute interim director, at Interaction 2006 — Great Lakes Direct Marketing Days. “John has lived and worked at the point where direct response and the Internet meet traditional retail marketing,” Lewison said.
Interaction 2006 was a marketing conference sponsored by the Taylor Institute, the first undergraduate institution of its kind in the country. A part of UA’s College of Business Administration, it was funded with a $1.5 million gift from Taylor.
Costello, a resident of Atlanta, is a 1968 graduate of the University of Akron and a member of its Foundation Board of Directors and the College of Business Administration Advancement Council. He received the university’s Dr. Frank L. Simonetti Distinguished Business Alumni Award in 1997 and an Alumni Honor Award in 2000. In 1997, he established The John and Lia Costello, Jr. Endowed Scholarship for Excellence in Business. Costello joined Home Depot in 2002. He was largely responsible for the slogan, “You can do it. We can help.”
In 1996, Costello was named one of the 50 most influential people in marketing by Advertising Age and is an inductee to the Retail Marketing Hall of Fame.
Empirix Offers OneSight For Call Recording Quality
Empirix Inc. (news - alert) recently launched what it calls the first quality assurance solution for contact center call recording systems. OneSight for Call Recorder Assurance proactively identifies failed or degraded call recording, logging and call archival while providing measurements for recorded call quality. Contact centers, particularly in the financial services market, can now enforce regulatory compliance, more efficiently resolve disputes, improve risk management and validate quality monitoring by ensuring call recording environments are functional. Empirix’s OneSight solutions drive real calls into contact centers, and then measure the health and performance of both applications and infrastructure. OneSight allows organizations to correlate the end-to-end caller experience with the health of each application and component and critical links among other telephony and data infrastructure. This integrated management solution enables customers to quickly identify and isolate probable causes of common technology issues, including IVR slowdowns or outages, misrouted or dropped calls, slow screen pops, poor sound quality and failed call recording. OneSight also features a module that can correlate real-time call behavior with voice self-service performance to help contact centers measure and reduce the impact of technology issues on agents’ key performance indicators (KPIs).
Inova Solutions Announces
Inova Performance Optimization Suite 5.2
Inova Solutions, Inc., (news - alert) a provider of real-time visual communication solutions, has announced the availability of Inova Performance Optimization Suite 5.2. The latest release includes new features.
Inova Performance Tracker, Inova’s Web-based real-time dashboard product, now provides quick-start wizards for customers with Aspect or Avaya systems. The wizards map standard data fields into pre-defined templates for quick deployment of digital dashboards. The wizards support roll-up views of group level performance at up to five locations, with drill-down to skill level for Avaya users and agent level for Aspect users. All data are presented in real-time, with an option for intra-day updates spanning up to 24 hours.
Inova’s XML support is further extended to accept as an input any standard RSS feed. Customers using Inova’s advanced messaging and alerting features can now include weather, news or any other relevant content captured directly from an RSS feed. Soon to follow will be the ability to publish data from Inova software to an RSS feed, enabling customers to deliver regular updates on operations and performance through any standard RSS reader.
Tim Ramos Joins Before The Call
As President And CEO
Before the Call, (news - alert) a provider of on-demand sales intelligence solutions, announced that Tim Ramos has been hired as president and CEO, and will join the board. Ramos will be responsible for the overall direction and operations of the company.
Ramos is known for founding Ramos & Associates, an IT services firm that was named the Bay Area’s fastest-growing privately held company by the San Francisco Business Times in 1996 after achieving a 1,218 percent rate of growth over three years. It was acquired by Cambridge Technology Partners that same year. After the acquisition, Ramos became senior VP of worldwide enterprise solutions at Cambridge and increased annual revenue from $25 million to $90 million. He was then promoted to executive VP of Cambridge North America, where he managed annual revenue of $500 million and 2,600 employees. He was also an officer of the company and a board member of Cambridge Technology Capital Fund.
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