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TMC Labs
September 2001

TMC' Labs Innovation Awards 2001

[ Go Right To The Awards Winners ]

TMC Labs Innovation Awards


We are pleased to present the second-annual TMC' Labs Innovation Awards, which were launched to honor products that demonstrate raw innovation, unique features and significant contributions to improving customer interactions. Innovation can be best defined as "new and original or taking a new and original approach." It can also be classified as "forward-thinking and progressive or the introduction of a new idea, method or device." While innovation is often a concept of "firsts," looking at things from a different perspective and molding an existing idea into a new shape is also considered innovative. Challenging the established standards to help achieve competitive alternatives with distinctive results helps define innovation within our industry.

With these twelve awards, we attempted to cover a wide spectrum of the industry, from LED panels to customer interaction software suites. While some of the functionality of the products may overlap, the innovations within these products are unique. Once again, our hats are off to the developers and engineers of the products who have earned a TMC' Labs Innovation Award.

TMC Labs' Innovation Awards Winners

Multimedia Suite Version 5 NetAgent Suite NetLite
Control-F1 NICE CEM CallMentor
Telescript 5.3 Enterprise Interaction Suite (EIS) version 4.0 VocalConnect
EchoMail Simul8 Release 7 Integrated Contact Center Network

Multimedia Suite Version 5
Apropos Technology, Inc.
Ph: 630-472-9600 

Successful contact centers today need the ability to interact with customers on all communication levels: traditional voice interactions, e-mail and all Web-based forms of communications. What's important to consumers, and what determines if a consumer becomes a repeat customer is receiving the best service possible. A company that provides well-informed customer service representatives who project a sharp company image further assures customers that they have purchased the right product. Apropos Technology not only provides "the next-generation of interaction management software" with Version 5 of its Multimedia Suite, but also furnishes the unique Interaction Vault (iVault) to help ensure long and mutually beneficial customer relationships.

Apropos describes iVault as a "unique application that is the first in the industry to provide instant access to customer interaction history by creating an archived record of all customer interactions." iVault provides a single source of intellectual capital, or intellectual property, comprising all past company and customer interactions regardless of medium: Web chat, e-mail, voice mail and traditional voice. Search capabilities allow agents to query for specific information using a variety of different criteria, or the option of viewing entire account histories.

Because Apropos is a standards-setting enterprise, it has developed and continues to improve upon an impressive feature set. E-mail management is a necessity for any contact center. Apropos' E-mail Management uses its version of skills-based routing to classify and route e-mail to the best-qualified representative for accurate and timely response. The e-mail viewer provides new features such as Auto-Suggest, which assists agents with a quick response to common questions by furnishing detailed answers. While the PSTN has become the means for many consumers to establish contact with a company, Version 5 provides customizable voice features such as text-to-speech automation and ACD capabilities, and also enables IVR, voice mail management, call blending and abandoned call management.

Today, many consumers enjoy the convenience the Web affords, recognizing it as their first choice to engage in commerce, the initiation of follow-up service and product support. Apropos' Web application features iType, which replaces Web callback and allows a customer to type a written request or schedule a time for a callback. Web chat supports simultaneous requests and VoIP-enabled Web chat. Assisted form filling, co-navigation, URL response library and the ability to manage any type of customer contact through a single, unified interface are product staples.

Multimedia Suite's new and innovative additions such as iVault, major reporting features such as enhanced browser-based Decision Maker and Personal Reporting, SQL Server support, PCI and T1/E1 support and Version 5 Task Management have cast a new and exciting foundation for this solution. Multimedia Suite Version 5 provides cutting-edge features and technology embedded within a proven, deep and feature-rich application developed by Apropos Technology, a company that currently has more than 250 clients worldwide. Exceptional human assistance via interactive Web chat or voice interaction is Apropos' definition of innovation, and we compliment Apropos on a job well done.

[ Return to list of winners ]


Control-F1
Control-F1
Ph: 403-670-0891 

Expanding responsibilities for help desk personnel require new tools to help them cope with the increasing demand for their services. Control-F1 is a Web-based help desk solution that is "even better than being there," according to company co-founders and brothers Vinay and Veer Gidwaney. An innovative and well-rounded solution, Control-F1 is built on features such as secure Web-based communication, diagnostics, system management and desktop sharing tools. These tools are fundamental to making Control-F1 a comprehensive and innovative compilation of utilities and helps define a new help desk standard.

Administrative features, such as keyword routing (equipped with a time-saving testing tool) and wireless queue access, make it a quality solution by allowing query routing to the correct technician and permitting administrators to view queues via a handheld device. Technicians can also automate complex, labor-intensive and company-specific tasks with custom macros.

Using the Internet as its medium, Control-F1 provides simple yet effective browser-based GUIs, allowing technicians to use diagnostic and system management tools to remotely identify and harvest system and software logistics while end users continue operating their PCs. Call routing and statistic tracking features also aid in streamlining a customer's interaction time. There's no client software to install or the need for firewall penetration; users require only a functional PC, compatible browser (versions of Netscape and I.E.) and an account (unless the client-hosted model is purchased) to enter a queue and hail a qualified technician. Communications can be conducted via text chat, e-mail or the telephone.

Additionally, CRM integration is an option as Control-F1 is compatible with GoldMine, Remedy AR System, Interact Commerce SalesLogix and many other similar solutions. Control-F1 has also recently released several new product suites: eService, eSales and eTraining.

[ Return to list of winners ]


Telescript 5.3
Digisoft Computers, Inc.
Ph: 212-687-1810

Call management software is designed to increase the level of productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of a call center. The recent release of Telescript 5.3 from Digisoft has raised the bar for call center solutions, providing completely customizable campaigns, scripting capabilities tightly integrated with agent interfaces, critical open database design, call blending, a choice of dialing platforms and real-time reporting.

Digisoft has developed Switch Dialing, an optional component of Telescript 5.3. The technology allows a business to get the results of a predictive dialer without the hefty purchase price. The Switch Dialer allows a company to use its existing phone switch, thus providing a new and cost-effective alternative to the predictive dialer. The Switch Dialer is a computer fitted with Dialogic cards that dials through an existing PBX to provide the necessary call progress analysis while using a one-to-two ratio or a one-to-one, line-to-agent ratio.

The new release of 5.3 also employs digital audio and video agent monitoring, providing an effective, cutting-edge training tool. "Telescript's recording capabilities are built directly into the scripting component of the software, enabling management to decide at what point during a call information needs to be recorded," according to Robert Garber, executive vice president of Digisoft.

Enabling a user to schedule various reports to run automatically, Batch Reporting, another new feature for version 5.3, simplifies the process of systematically managing multiple campaigns. Reports can be scheduled to run at any time. A manager could request, for example, that reports should be run on the third day of each month or even every other Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. In the same spirit of automation, many non-reporting functions can be scheduled and batched as well.

Innovative market research features, such as Call Resume and Quota Management, are also new additions to the Telescript family. Call Resume allows agents to return to the point in the script where they left off if, for some reason, they are interrupted before completing a call. Additionally, Quota Management, which monitors and limits how many contacts are made in a specific demographic group, has been augmented to provide a new level of accuracy.

Digisoft adeptly demonstrates that behind any exceptional and comprehensive product there is a solid foundation of industry know-how and technological savvy. We are pleased to present an Innovation Award to Telescript 5.3 by Digisoft Computers, Inc.

[ Return to list of winners ]


EchoMail
EchoMail, Inc.
Ph: 617-354-8585
Toll free: 888-354-8585

Remember the promise of artificial intelligence from MIT? EchoMail Version 6 is an offshoot of that technological wonder and is touted as an "E-mail Relationship Management" solution. This is a suite of nine products that covers business intelligence, customer care, data warehousing and direct marketing. The suite classifies e-mail according to attitude, issue, product, request and customer. Depending on the classification, it then selects a reply from a number of prewritten responses. If an e-mail message has a negative attitude, it is forwarded to an assigned agent for a personal response. This is done through various means such as thesauri, dictionaries and morphological analyzers.

In the call center, this makes life considerably easier by combining electronic customer relationship marketing solutions and application service provider (ASP) models in the e-business arena. (EchoMail, Inc. refers to itself as an ASP.) This suite analyzes, routes and monitors all incoming e-mail messages rapidly and cost-effectively. It warehouses, mines and queries incoming e-mail messages to compile real-time business/customer intelligence. It also generates focused mailing lists and executes effective outbound e-marketing campaigns, as well as captures and manages leads based on the e-mail demographic input.

Techno-geeks might ask how this is accomplished, so we will attempt to respond. There are actually three core technologies for e-mail categorization, processing classification and database modeling. These are known as XIVA, based on research and experience in the field of pattern recognition (this is where the detection of "attitude" comes from), Trinity, a scalable server technology, and INO (In & Out), a database modeler. It is also available in nine noncomputer languages and has been going strong since 1995.

This product deserves an Innovation Award because it promises to simplify a way of life that did not exist a decade ago and has now become ubiquitous. It combines three areas of time-consuming drudgery into a simple solution (on the surface). It might even mean we need no longer dread returning to work after taking time off to have a life by auto-answering, cataloging, indexing, processing and responding to our accumulated e-mail for us.

[ Return to list of winners ]


NetAgent Suite
eshare communications, Inc.
Ph: 888-eshare4

Aleksander Szlam, chairman of eshare communications, holds more than 40 patents related to the customer interaction management industry. According to eshare, several of these innovative patents have resulted in the development of "much of the market's standard technology, from predictive dialing to screen pops to call blending."

eshare's flagship customer interaction management solution, NetAgent Suite, is built on the functionality of its predecessor, NetAgent. NetAgent Suite delivers CTI-based voice, VoIP and live Web interaction management. The suite advocates customization, allowing any combination of capabilities to be incorporated into a single solution, providing customers with the option of buying only what they need, when they need it.

The newly renamed MEDIA-CHAT enables agents to respond to multiple inquires, supporting up to six online MEDIA-CHAT customer interactions simultaneously. To prevent the daunting task of handling multiple interactions simultaneously, scripting and FUIs (frequently used items) provide agents with complete, detailed solutions for quick response to common customer inquiries. Customers' problems finding and filling out forms can be addressed by NetAgent Assist, which allows agents to help online consumers complete questionnaires and other forms. If richer communication is required, NetAgent TELEPHONY integrates inbound PBX/ACD calls with MEDIA-CHAT, in addition to telephony-enabled Web callback requests.

E-mail remains the method of choice for many customers. If e-mail correspondence is preferred, NetAgent EMAIL and NetAgent ANSWER both aid in generating timely and accurate responses to customers. While EMAIL sorts inbound e-mail according to topic and uses skills-based routing to ensure the most qualified agent responds, NetAgent ANSWER can filter nearly 20 percent of incoming e-mail, according to eshare, and is capable of responding accurately, quickly and automatically without taking valuable time from an agent's schedule. Often, e-mail can be a much more agreeable medium by which to receive promotional and other types of company offerings, allowing potential customers the luxury of not feeling pushed or harassed. NetAgent CAMPAIGN offers options for targeting and launching outbound e-mail campaigns. Finally, wireless access to performance statistics is available via NetAgent WIRELESS, which may be accessed via PDA.

Combine eshare's time-in-market and NetAgent Suite's comprehensive CIM solution and utilities that enable real-time assistance to customers through virtually every medium available today, and you can easily define innovation.

[ Return to list of winners ]


NICE CEM
NICE Systems
Ph: 888-577-6423

Recording and monitoring systems are a staple within the contact center environment. Traditionally, these systems record voice conversations along with some CTI information, such as caller I.D. or account number. Today, however, customers demand other avenues of communication with your business, including e-mail, chat and even VoIP. It is essential that newer recording and monitoring systems capture an agent's screen and associate it with the voice recording of the call to truly capture the customer and agent experience.

TMC' Labs is familiar with NICE Systems' CEM (Customer Experience Management) product, which features synchronized voice and screen recording, record-on-demand capabilities, as well as evaluation and analysis tools, and agent coaching to improve the customer experience. NICE Systems' product is innovative in that it provides a comprehensive solution that encompasses most channels a customer would use to contact a company.

Additionally, NICE Systems' CEM features some integration with third-party applications. For example, it integrates with Blue Pumpkin, a workforce management solution, to determine if the recording schedule defined coincides with the agent's work schedule. In the next release (version 8.7), NICE Systems will integrate with leading e-mail management systems such as Kana, eGain, Genesys and Lucent. This integration will allow a supervisor to perform a search within the NICE Log system based on the e-mail address or the subject of an e-mail message, and will then be able to play back the screen recording of the e-mail response. This utility can demonstrate the real-time typing speed of an agent, spelling and grammatical errors and the overall content of the message. Another useful feature in the next release is VoIP recording capabilities, supporting up to 24 channels. For providing a comprehensive solution with a very impressive feature set, we tip our hats to NICE Systems.

[ Return to list of winners ]


Enterprise Interaction Suite (EIS) version 4.0
Sideware
Ph: 703-437-9002

We are impressed with Sideware's Enterprise Interaction Suite (EIS) version 4.0 for many reasons. First, EIS can meld a company's sales and customer service channels into a single focal point. This includes combining e-mail, telephony, collaborative chat, self-service, VoIP and wireless applications into one Web-based contact management center. The suite is also modular, so users can choose which applications they need.

One of the key modules of EIS is Sideware Assist, which assists in resolving customer issues on first contact. This includes providing an intelligent search engine, natural language processing and collaborative capabilities. Customers type their questions and the module analyzes, categorizes, determines the pre-defined answers that the system regards as most accurate and displays the information on the customer's screen. Besides this functionality, Sideware Assist can also query the customer regarding the level of helpfulness of a response. If the customer rates the answer as poor, the system will learn to improve its response the next time the question is posed. As a result, Sideware Assist guides customers to the information they need in a timely and efficient manner -- less service representative time would be needed, more customers would be satisfied with correct answers and costs for maintaining the business would decrease. Of course, customers can still contact a live service representative immediately with Web collaboration or a callback request, if required.

EIS is Java-based, providing an open system that can integrate with other databases and legacy systems. Once it contacts a company's databases, EIS sorts the customer information and allows users to personalize every customer interaction. Its back-end database tools help create responsive communication between the customer and the agent, and its Web collaboration module allows for chat, whiteboarding and pushing Web pages. Using these features, a company can attain its goal of acquiring and maintaining new and longer-lasting customer relationships.

[ Return to list of winners ]


Simul8 Release 7
Simul8
Ph: 800-547-6024

When we reviewed Simul8 Release 6 in the February issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions', we could immediately see the value of the simulation software -- primarily to predict and plan for the current and future needs of a contact center. This simulation software allows a user to effectively develop a new business model and evaluate new ideas and scenarios. When the model is implemented, the simulation can lead to improved customer satisfaction and a stronger business. Simul8 accomplishes this simulation effectively, exercising its animations, graphs and statistics to answer questions concerning the performance of a contact center or the logistics of setting up a new business venture.

Recently launched, Release 7 of Simul8 offers improvements to an already solid product. The most significant improvement is the product's support for XML. A complete definition of the exact simulation can now be stored as XML files in databases or even in other XML files. Once created, these simulations can also be generated without using the Simul8 software and can be read or edited by many simple programs or text editors. We believe that this incorporation of XML is a first for any simulation product, and it is truly a welcome addition.

Another interesting new feature of Simul8's latest release is its mobile resources functionality. Now, users can see the current location of every member on the simulated team and control how long they take to reach their destination, helping expand efficiency. Of course, there can be a great difference between a simulated worker and a real worker, but this functionality is still a useful resource.

Additionally, we liked that Simul8 works hand-in-hand with Visio and can be saved in either application under one file name. Custom images can now be displayed to replace a standard graphic, and text or images can be linked to the Web or to any simulation. Overall, the new and the old functionality of Simul8 work well together and combine to make an excellent product.

[ Return to list of winners ]


NetLite
SYMON Communications
Ph: 800-827-9666

Full-matrix LED panels are used for displaying large amounts of statistics, such as stock market quotes or call center statistics. Of all the panels available, SYMON Communications' NetLite is one of the most striking because of its colorful LEDs, scrolling and flashing message displays, multiple display boards on one panel, audible alerting and a thin frame (1 5/8"). This thin frame is possible because of the use of a remote power supply which circumvents the need for cooling fans and allows the panel to be placed as far away as 300 feet from the AC power.

It is, however, the integrated Ethernet connection that makes NetLite truly innovative. Instead of requiring dedicated serial wiring, more standard and less expensive Cat 5 cabling can be used. A jumpstart utility is also employed to simplify the initial configuration. Once the panel is set up, an indicator provides the link status for the LED panel. With this IP connection, messages can be displayed quickly because more bandwidth is provided. Also, networking functionality, such as PING, Telnet and BOOTP address resolution, can be incorporated -- essentially making NetLite part of the network. On a PC, a graphical interface can be used remotely to configure the settings for LED displays. In addition, password protection is provided for each display.

For real-time messaging, NiteLite can be integrated with SYMON2000, which monitors and alerts administrators about the status of networks. With SYMON2000, information about the status of call queues, wait times and average call times can be more easily accessed. Additionally, alerts may be sent to wireless phones and PDAs.

For us, choosing SYMON Communication's NiteLite for a TMC' Labs Innovation award became obvious once we carefully looked at NiteLite's functionality. It became easy to see that overall, NiteLite is a truly innovative product.

[ Return to list of winners ]


CallMentor
Ulysses Learning
Ph:
800-662-4066

In an effort to serve customers better and faster, Ulysses Learning's CallMentor offers a general simulation training suite so novice agents can learn through experience without initially having to take live calls from customers. It prepares new agents to take charge of calls, meet customer needs and enhance the company's relationship with customers. This element of CallMentor is provided in a training program called ServiceMentor. Once the agents become efficient at their jobs, they or supervisors can coach novices through appropriate and proven methods. These methods are taught in a program called CoachingMentor. With this combination, CallMentor attempts to improve the performance of every representative in the contact center.

We reviewed the CallMentor Suite in the May issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions' and found it to be quite useful and unique. In general, CallMentor works by simulating a complete call between either a customer and agent or coach and agent. In ServiceMentor's case, the customers speak their greetings and initial comments, and the agent chooses from three or four multiple-choice responses. That choice is graded on a scale of 1 to 5 on quality and appropriateness. After the agent chooses, he or she speaks the response so they or their supervisor can hear the voice played back at a later time. Then, the simulated customer reacts to the agent's choice either by remaining calm if the agent responded well, or becoming more aggravated or confused if the agent responded poorly. Another set of multiple-choice responses appears after the customer finishes speaking, and the agent again chooses the response he or she thinks is best. This procedure continues through more call segments until the conversation has ended and a final assessment score is given. By working on various aspects of the call, the agent should improve as he or she progresses through the training.

CoachingMentor's main focus is on the "pivotal" behavior for a particular call. It is this behavior that is critical to the success or failure of the call. Ulysses Learning's experience and research have made CoachingMentor the most improved module in its latest version. The company made these improvements by uncovering the rationale behind selecting the pivotal behavior and by presenting an example of preparing the coach to give feedback so the objectives of the program are clearer to the user. Other improvements include reorganizing Coaching Mentor into three sections similar to that of ServiceMentor, and offering immediate coaching face-to-face or remotely by phone.

In many ways, CallMentor is a one-of-a-kind product. While there are some training simulation programs, no program that we know reaches the complex and random levels that CallMentor does for agent training. Ulysses Learning's CallMentor is not meant to cater to every company. Instead, Ulysses uses its psychology and contact center expertise to generally help all companies with contact centers. In this effort, the company is admirably successful.

[ Return to list of winners ]


VocalConnect
VocalScape Communications, Inc.
Ph: 604-437-VOIP (8647)
Toll-free: 888-339-VOIP

This package is designed to help bring resolution to the "abandoned shopping cart syndrome" prevalent in e-commerce. It does so by allowing the customer to either click on the phone button to request a Web chat session or speak directly to a CSR.

With the EyeFon application within the VocalConnect product, a Web site may be transformed into a live communications center via a live CSR who can lead customers to a friendly finalization of purchase rather than an abandoned shopping cart. Agents can handle up to four conversations simultaneously, using two hands, both eyes and both ears.

This proprietary, battle-hardened, Java-based Web-to-phone software can be deployed on virtually any portal or commercial Web site to provide PC-to-phone or PC-to-PC telephony service. The application is easily downloaded and installed dynamically from the portal via an MS Windows environment. UNIX and Mac versions will become available toward the end of this year. The client software is built on open standards using Java, the H.323 protocol (a SIP-based product will also become available at the end of the year) and the G.723.1 codec. The business-end software uses Linux, Java, C++ (for now), PHP and XML, as well. The competitive cost models run from easily affordable monthly fees for the SOHO version up to full-blown stand-alone systems if companies are willing to invest that much time, effort and capital expense into this kind of contact center solution. There is no installation fee.

What is special about this product is the application skins can easily be changed to reflect the customer's commercial Web site genre and "feel," instead of using VocalScape's own color and logo scheme.

This product puts the fun back into "instant" Web-based business-to-business or customer online interaction by providing the customers with a choice to work in an interactive e-mail mode chat session or connecting to an agent to conclude the transactions by voice by simply clicking on the Java-based phone button.

For offering an inexpensive yet comprehensive Web-based chat/voice-enabling solution for business transactions, we commend VocalScape Communications and wholeheartedly bestow upon them a TMC' Labs Innovation Award.

[ Return to list of winners ]


Integrated Contact Center Network
White Pajama
Ph: 877-PAJAMA1

White Pajama's innovation is in what it has accomplished: providing a converged application service provider-modeled customer interaction management/customer relationship management (CIM/CRM) function for the less-than-100-seat call center at an affordable price. TMC' Labs recently reviewed White Pajama in the June 2001 issue of this magazine.

A centrally located table of contents enables each step-by-step tutorial to serve either as a topical help file or a training manual. FAQs are used as a pre-packaged tool by agents and for customers to access during self-service queries. So is this innovative? Not really. It's just common, converged sense.

So what makes this product special? It combines multimedia customer interaction features (such as automated e-mail, chat and call distribution or CIM) with CRM capabilities (storage, retrieval and tracking of customer histories) and aspects of workforce management in the form of a performance analysis component into a single service, requiring no onsite installation or related costs.

White Pajama fully leverages the merits of an ASP model...its service does not require hardware setup or system integration on the client's site, so it represents an improvement on the installation time required of a typical contact center product offering a similar feature set of communications channels, CRM features and reporting options. The application uses a unified configuration interface, enabling ACD, CTI, IVR and other traditionally separate and complex systems to be set up in one place.

It may be a trite comparison, but this package brings the industry closer to the small, "Swiss army knife" model of call center solutions for smaller businesses. For that reason, we have given it our Innovation Award.

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