The TMC Labs Innovation Awards were created to honor products that help
carve a new market niche or start a new trend. The award also recognizes
products that stand apart from their competitors due to one or more
unique and innovative features. This is the fifth-annual installment of
the TMC Labs Innovation Awards for Customer Interaction Solutions'
First, we should point out that customer retention is a key requirement
to success, but unfortunately, many organizations cut back on the
staffing requirements or technologies necessary to keep customers happy.
It is therefore our intention to highlight the technologies and services
that exist today to help enable call center and customer service agents
to be as knowledgeable and productive as possible. As a result, TMC Labs
has based our award selections on not only innovation, but also on
products that will improve customer service, with a bottom-line return
on investment (ROI) that even the most strident cost-cutting CFO would
be hard-pressed to ignore.
We examined a plethora of applications, checked customer references,
researched the products extensively, debated our selections, and finally
came up with the cr'me de la cr'me: 26 winners within the customer
interaction space. The results will be published in two parts in order
to accommodate our in-depth reviews of the winners. The complete
winners' list will be published in both the September and October
issues; however, we will offer the detailed write-ups in alphabetical
order beginning with Alcatel this month and ending with Jacada. Next
month, we'll begin our company reviews with Kanisa and end with Witness
We offer sincerest congratulations to the winners.
- Tom Keating, Chief Technology Officer & Executive Technology
Alcatel Internetworking, Inc.
OmniTouch Unified Communications Suite
TMC Labs was very impressed with Alcatel's OmniTouch Unified
Communi-cation (UC) suite. OmniTouch UC offers a full set of IP-based
communication applications, enabling subscribers to customize, control
and manage calls, messages, directories, collaboration tools and
information from any location using any device and any interface.
This software suite implements a SOA (service-oriented architecture) and
is based on a multitude of standards, including Java (J2EE), XML/SOAP
and Web Services, VXML, SIP, RTP and RTSP. Alcatel claims this is the
first product to make unified communication available as a Web Services
tool for integration into third-party business applications such as
sales force automation or employee portals (i.e., call log, calendars,
These new technologies, particularly XML/SOAP and Web Services, simplify
and minimize the cost of this integration and maximize the
interoperability with existing corporate resources and business
applications. Alcatel informed us that OmniTouch has been successfully
integrated with IBM WebSphere Portal server, Microsoft SharePoint Portal
server, CRM applications such as Salesforce.com and Pivotal, and ERP
applications such as NQI and SAP.
What's really cool is that these standards can be used in conjunction
with Alcatel's IP Touch phones, which combine an integrated keyboard and
a graphical display, allowing users to access applications and Web
Alcatel's OmniTouch UC provides flexibility to customize application
development for unique business needs. OmniTouch UC is comprised of four
applications that deserve a detailed description due to their unique
features. The four apps include:
' My Messaging, a VXML-based unified messaging application handling
non-real-time communications with a single multimedia mailbox (voice
mail, e-mail and faxes). It enables remote access to e-mail via phone
with text-to-speech (TTS) capabilities.
' My Phone, an XML/SOAP-based real-time communications management tool
that allows a person on the move to transform any phone or multimedia PC
into a business phone, complete with full telephony features such as
conference calling, unified directory access and call log.
' My Assistant, a Web and VXML-based 'find-me-follow-me' call routing
and permissions application that defines when, where and by whom a
person is to be contacted and diverts non-urgent calls to voice mail. It
screens and intelligently routes calls based on caller I.D. and time of
' My Teamwork, a sophisticated set of collaboration applications that
facilitates conferencing and working together in real-time.
The Aplicor CRM suite was developed as a pure and lightweight Internet
architecture. This object-oriented, Web-based thin-client product was
built from the ground up with Microsoft's .NET (C#) development
environment and operates on a scalable multitier (n-tier) architecture
and processing platform. The use of .NET is one of the key elements in
providing a hosted user experience that is just as good as if the
application was installed locally as a typical CRM application. The
Aplicor CRM suite includes sales force automation (SFA), marketing
management and call center support.
Aplicor claims to be the first CRM hosting provider to replace the
'one-size-fits-all' hosting model with unique systems for individual
clients. Each Aplicor hosted client is afforded the same individualized
processing capabilities as if the software was installed locally and for
each client's exclusive benefit. Aplicor was quoted as saying, 'Unlike
the current generation of hosting providers that require all clients to
use the same product version and upgrade to future versions en masse,
whether the clients desire those upgrades or not, Aplicor allows each
client to choose when to upgrade their CRM application.'
The Aplicor solution is unique in that it's the first hosted solution to
be functionally equivalent to the prevalent client/server or on-premise
applications and still provide the advantages, benefits and capabilities
of the hosted model. One of the oft-discussed drawbacks of the hosted
model is the perception that users must navigate upward or downward
through a series of pages in order to change account views or functions.
To excel in ease-of-use delivery and earn quick user adoption, Aplicor
pioneered one-click-access navigation throughout the application. This
allows the user to leap from one account record to another in a single
keystroke and offers the ability to go anywhere in the system without
first having to back out of multiple screens.
In fact, we saw a demo of the product and we liked how the interface
emulates the experience of a Windows application rather than a typical
browser interface. Its ease-of-use features include user-defined tree
and hierarchical structures, drag-and-drop data placement (very cool),
visual queues such as color-coding intelligence, a progressive
three-level help engine (functional help, page-level help and
field-level help) and online self-paced tutorials.
The user interface also allows simple and quick modification so users
may customize menus, tables and forms for individuals, roles or groups.
For example: menus, tables and fields can be removed if they don't apply
to certain users, or can be modified to display only those portions that
do apply to each type of user. These are features typical of a CPE
software application, not a hosted application.
Another unique feature is Aplicor's online test drive (a 'try it before
you buy it ' program), as well as the absence of long-term contracts
that are often associated with hosted CRM solutions. When TMC Labs
discovered that the complete Aplicor solution is provided for $89.00 per
user per month and includes customer support services, our jaws nearly
hit the floor! This product is not only innovative, but it is certain to
make some waves in the CRM industry with such a fabulous price point.
Who would have thought that a traditional phone company would open its
network for access using Internet technology and standards for customer
self-service provisioning, repair requests, billing access and more?
Well, times have changed, and phone companies are trying to shed their
proprietary images. AT&T's BusinessDirect portfolio is a collection of
powerful e-commerce, e-servicing and e-care capabilities that empower
customers from all market segments to enhance productivity and reduce
costs as they manage their various AT&T services and accounts. This is
accomplished by giving customers hands-on control over their telecom
networks. The portfolio consists of:
' Secure AT&T BusinessDirect Web Portal and its online tools, which
deliver round-the-clock e-servicing capabilities;
' AT&T eBonding and AT&T eXpress Bonding, which help customers with very
high volumes of e-servicing transactions to maximize productivity by
eliminating manual processes such as re-keying data into a Web browser;
' AT&T BusinessDirect's single, unified portal capability, which puts
more control in customers' hands. This unified portal capability enables
business customers worldwide to place orders and check their status,
view and analyze bills, report service problems and track them through
resolution, test circuits, re-route network traffic in real-time, manage
DNS records and secondary domain names and perform other customer
service-related tasks online. This means there is no more waiting on
hold hoping to speak to an agent, and users can perform operations
themselves. Access to information such as billing in a digital (versus
paper) format lets users more easily bring the data into a reporting
package, Excel or other formats.
With AT&T BusinessDirect, customers can improve the accuracy of their
transactions, obtain faster service ' including faster repairs and
faster order fulfillment ' and enjoy convenient, round-the-clock
electronic access. These capabilities help customers improve
productivity, cut costs and most significantly, meet their own business
needs more effectively.
One excellent feature is that it shows customers a graphical map view of
their entire network, integrated with ordering, maintenance, inventory
and status capabilities. Simply point and click to manage any of your
AT&T network nodes. In addition, BusinessDirect offers AT&T eBonding, a
breakthrough capability that enables large enterprise customers to
simplify inventory management, maintenance and ordering via direct
computer links using eXtensible Markup Language (XML) over SOAP
interface. It links the customer's ordering, inventory and maintenance
systems directly into AT&T's provisioning, repair and inventory systems,
thereby ensuring faster and more accurate service delivery, repair and
Call Compliance, Inc.
TMC Labs has never been known to become too excited over technologies
that implement the national and/or state do-not-call (DNC) lists ' give
us a cool VoIP phone with presence or PDA with GPS any day! However, we
do realize the extraordinary importance of implementing this sort of
technology to avoid liability and hefty fines for non-compliance. This
technology is especially important to service agencies, particularly
outbound telemarketing organizations.
To ensure compliance, you need look no further than Call Compliance's
TeleBlock. It has been commercially available for over five years, and
the end-user telemarketing community has been incredibly receptive to
the idea of a network-based DNC solution delivered via telephone lines
and trunk groups. TeleBlock requires no additional hardware or software
at the customer premise and is customized and managed by subscribers on
their own behalf. The system uses Signaling System 7 (SS7) and Internet
Protocol (IP) technologies, so there is no logging in or logging off
required. An optional module called VoIPBlock works with Voice Over IP
providers and works on all VoIP telephones, ATA adaptors and other IP
The beauty of TeleBlock, as it relates to end-user subscribers, is that
it functions the same way for a Fortune 1000 client as it does for a
small office/home office (SOHO) client. One alternative to this blocking
technology is list management or list scrubbing. List management firms
do not physically screen and block calls in real-time across a
subscriber's enterprise. They use a technique called 'scrubbing' which
was designed for calling efficiency and the targeting of specific
geographic regions and/or demographics (and not for DNC compliance
purposes). Scrubbing allows a subscriber to cleanse a calling list
against available federal, state, third-party and in-house do-not-call
lists prior to running a calling campaign.
Besides the 'human element' of having to manually scrub a list, a major
flaw associated with such a process is the continually changing nature
of do-not-call lists. Any delay, minimal or substantial, can render a
scrubbed list non-compliant. Larger firms utilizing this process must
manage a number of satellite offices and outsourced call centers
contracted to call on their behalf. These entities must clean their
lists, distribute them across the corporation and/or to contracted
calling parties and run the cleansed calling campaigns each time
additional do-not-call numbers become available. With TeleBlock,
subscribers do not have this concern. Regardless of whether an
organization runs a campaign two days, two weeks or two months later,
TeleBlock will still screen and block calls to numbers on available DNC
lists in real-time.
Many readers have probably heard of WebTrends, which is a provider of
Web ana-lytics for measuring and analyzing a Web site's trends, traffic,
favorite links, demographics, etc. Consider the possibilities if there
existed similar analytics that included not only Web, but other
communication methods such as IVR, speech systems and enterprise
applications such as ERP and CRM.
We were impressed with ClickFox (and we like the name, too), which has
the ability to translate complex customer interactions across multiple
self-service channels ' such as interactive voice response (IVR), speech
recognition, Web sites, kiosks and customer relationship management
(CRM) systems ' into fact-based decisions that optimize channel and
cross-channel business performance. By using the ClickFox customer
behavior intelligence system, companies can dramatically reduce
operational costs, improve customer satisfaction and revenue generation
and enhance the overall interactive customer experience.
ClickFox software is unique from that of competitors such as WebTrends
in its ability to map customer interactions to a business-relevant model
of the system, pinpointing customer successes and failures. ClickFox
claims to be the industry's first customer behavior intelligence
solution for optimizing self-service systems. It provides users with the
ability to visualize the 'big picture' of the customer's experience, not
just a small sample. One really interesting feature is that it uses
patented artificial intelligence and heuristics algorithms to recommend
improvements in customer-facing systems. It also provides the ability to
optimize across customer interactive channels, including IVR, Web and
CRM (rather than focusing on each separately).
Most current tools provide only volume and traffic statistics. ClickFox
provides strategic insight that static reports cannot, while improving
the ability to align system goals with business objectives. ClickFox
takes the guesswork out of understanding customers' needs, not by doing
random surveys or usability studies, but through an automated, aggregate
look at actual behavior.
Contact Center Compliance
DNCScrub provides client access to a sophisticated application that
manages, on the client's behalf, the federal do-not-call registry, all
state DNC lists, the Wireless Database (including daily updates on
wireless portability data), Canada TPS, DMA TPS, the client's internal
DNC list(s), the client's existing business relationship database,
branded DNC policy for each client project and complete state and
federal DNC exemption support (including applicable preemptions) for
vertical market exemptions.
An example of a vertical market exemption: newspaper sellers are exempt
from the Florida state DNC list but not the federal list containing
Florida residents. An example of proper preemption application is in
Indiana, no existing business relationships (inquiry or sale) are
recognized, therefore the system will not honor EBR records in that
state because federal law is less restrictive than the state law.
The DNCScrub product is unique because it is not a merge/purge
mechanism; rather, the system is intelligent. It 'knows' state and
federal law including state and federal exemptions, EBR durations and
vertical industry exemptions available to clients. The system
understands the relationships between a client's EBR database and the
state laws that apply to that type of a campaign as well as how it is
affected by other databases such as internal DNC lists.
Clients simply check a set of boxes to inform the system what type of
project is being undertaken. For example, if the box is checked
indicating this is a telephone company offer, the DNCScrub system knows
the state of Idaho does not recognize any EBR exemption; as a result,
when processing data, the system removes prohibited records under that
The Contact Center Compliance solution can use e-mail technology to allow clients to
receive an e-mail on the DNC.com server from an authorized party and
automatically scrub the attached zip or text file, forwarding it to
whomever is on their distribution list. One innovative feature is
SmartSniffer, which allows clients to submit data in any format. The
system is able to take any text or zip file (password included) and the
system will 'sniff out' the phone number and scrub it, relieving the
client of the burden of formatting the data prior to submission.
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September 2004 Table Of Contents ]