Richard Brock, founder and CEO
of Firstwave, who has spent nearly 20 years developing software for the
CRM market, compared many CRM packages to someone going to a gym and
continually adding weights to their workout, which just doesn't make
sense if the person ends up stacking on more weights than they can lift.
Brock said that instead of trying to compete on feature lists, Firstwave,
in the release of version 8.0 of it eCRM Suite, concentrated on fit
instead of features, listening to its customers and studying how they work
(Firstwave also worked with a third-party to conduct usability surveys).
'We develop technology to help people use our system by starting at the
end user and working back. The essence of software is that it is
prescripted. Ours is not prescripted but adaptive,' said Brock.
As a result of listening to suggestions from their customers, Firstwave
added functional improvements on how the eCRM Suite looks and operates in
version 8.0. The product is tailored for each client and the screens are
customizable with Firstwave's eWorkbench toolbox. The new interface is
designed to allow for faster and easier navigation, reducing the number of
clicks needed to reach information and perform important tasks. Each group
of users can have a customized view within the application so all of the
group's relevant data is readily accessible. Firstwave's eCRM 8.0 also
provides fast access to client information by its 'one-click' data
export to Microsoft Excel and new sales analysis reports.
The eCRM 8.0 solutions include: eMarketing, which creates, executes and
tracks one-to-one marketing campaigns that are tied to return on
investment objectives; eSales, which is used to develop more accurate
forecasts, measure effectiveness, up-sell and close accounts; eService,
which is used to provide customer service that anticipates customers'
needs; and u.Dialog, which is used to proactively control the flow of
information between sales, marketing and support.
Firstwave is also unbundling the product into two distinct modules,
which can be sold separately. The Sales and Marketing module is now the
base product that is delivered to customers with each sale, while the
Services module will be available to those who wish to purchase it
According to Joe Heinen, vice president of strategic
marketing at Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, more enterprises are
trying to find seamless bridging between self-service and assisted service
so they will have the ability for live agents to jump in when opportunity is
there. Heinen said that Contact Navigator in version 6 of the Genesys Suite
gave the agent desktop customer data and chat tools, and with the Genesys
Voice Portal, there is now a Genesys wrapper around customer contacts from
first point of contact to last point of analysis tools.
Ashish Gupta, vice president of marketing and business
development at Telera (which was recently acquired by Genesys' parent,
Alcatel), said that users want to change the economics of voice by adding
the ability to use off-the-shelf hardware. The advantage of voice is that it
is a natural bridge for self-service and more and more information is being
opened up for phone access. Gupta added that there are two large categories
ready to take advantage of the voice portal: 1) business-to-customer
information (such as obtaining account balances, transferring funds,
requesting literature, checking flight status, ordering products and
scheduling services) and 2) business-to-employee (giving employees access to
personal information and voice-activated dialing).
The Genesys Voice Portal is an open, standards-based
software solution that is designed to leverage Voice XML and other Web
standards to provide 24x7 access to information using natural voice
commands; supports 'in front of' or 'behind' the switch
configurations; supports advanced network routing, self-service, intelligent
queuing and routing; leverages the existing Genesys reporting capabilities
of Contact Center Analyzer and Contact Center Pulse to provide real-time and
historical reporting across self- and assisted-service; provides for central
configuration and management through the Genesys Configuration Management
Environment; is integrated with leading speech recognition engines; and
provides a migration path for enterprises moving from a circuit-switched to
a voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) converged network.
Voice Portal has three primary software components that can
reside on a single server or can be separated onto individual servers. The
Voice Communications Server terminates incoming calls, delivers VXML scripts
and transfers callers to the appropriate contact center resource. The Voice
Portal Manager is a Web-based interface that is used to configure and manage
the Voice Portal components. Genesys Studio is a drag-and-drop development
tool for the creation of VXML-based applications.
Alorica has added new mobile capabilities to it Helix 2002
CRM software that are designed to improve its mobile field service and
warehouse offerings. According to Mark Biskeborn, Alorica product marketing
manager, CTI capabilities will allow agents to receive customer information
and agents can perform searches in the knowledge base, which provides
intelligence to determine the helpfulness of the answer. Biskeborn added
that field service agents now can get dispatch information via wireless
devices and that back-end information and business rules can schedule
service visits automatically.
Through its support of mobile applications, Helix 2002
provides service representatives with up-to-date product and customer
information before they arrive on a repair site through wireless personal
digital assistants (PDAs) and Web-enabled cell phones. The Web-based
software's compatibility with RF scanners further assists in facilitating
inventory processes by delivering real-time product availability updates.
Field service agents can now update inventory status and retailers can track
warrantee costs through Helix and manufacturers can track problems with
products. Agents can now give customers real-time information on the status
of field repairs and can create RMA (returned materials authorization) so
that returned parts can be tracked through reverse logistics.
The new Knowledge Base element provides call center and
online tech support personnel, as well as customers through self-help Web
portals, with up-to-date information for such vital customer support issues
as product diagnostics, repair processing and warranty management. Through
the use of the Knowledge Base component, call center agents immediately
recognize who is calling, what products have been purchased and the warranty
status of each product. Once a problem with a product is presented, the
software guides the call center representative through a series of actions
to resolve any customer issue, if at all possible, while they are on the
Helix 2002 is compatible with Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and
Oracle as well as Microsoft's Windows CE and Palm operating systems. The
Web-based software also provides real-time business intelligence on all
consumer purchase and service behavior.
Enhancing the versatility that comes with an all-IP-based
system, Aspect Communications has added voice self-service capabilities to
its IP Contact Suite. Brian Anderson, product marketing manager for Aspect's
IP Contact Suite, pointed out that with an all-IP suite of products, the
switch and call control are all within the software, not the hardware, which
allows for greater flexibility in handling all contact channels and
reductions in integration and infrastructure costs (the system can operate
on standard Windows 2000 servers). Anderson added that the IP Contact Suite
supports SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and softphones from Cisco,
Siemens and Pingtel, as well as Microsoft's NetMeeting.
The IP Contact Suite provides a single development
environment for creating routing rules that handle self- and live service
through voice, the Web and e-mail. Aspect's software is standards-based
and integrates with VXML 2.0, allowing customers to perform the same
self-service functions over the phone that they perform on the Web. Using
natural language (through support of speech recognition software from Nuance
and SpeechWorks), customers can request information, fill out forms and
place orders. The enterprise uses the same databases, application servers
and business rules as it does for the Web to process the voice self-service
The Aspect IP Contact Suite enables integrated multichannel
communications, including traditional voice technologies (PSTN), VoIP,
e-mail and Web collaboration. Voice traffic travels over the same IP network
as data and other communications such as e-mail and Web-based
communications, as opposed to over a traditional separate circuit-switched
network. Aspect's solution merges all communication into a unified queue
and delivers it to the integrated desktops of service representatives. One
network for voice and data centralizes administration, and the browser-based
desktop applications allow the representatives to respond to contacts via
all channels on a single desktop interface.
The single development interface also helps to reduce
application development time and costs. Aspect's self-service technology
provides automated customer service, using links to databases and platforms
to ensure that customers have access to the appropriate information needed
to complete transactions. The software gives customers the ability to
request live assistance, routing the contact along with relevant information
to the appropriate representative.