Aspect Communications Corp. (now Aspect Software)
Aspect eWorkforce Management v6.3
One cannot think of the call center market without considering Aspect. The company has been a market leader in the call center space for more than 20 years, and counts more than two-thirds of the Fortune 50 as customers. The latest version of Aspect eWorkforce Management (eWFM), v6.3, has a host of enhancements available, including features that automate schedule bidding and processing, customized performance optimization options, and a new module that lets businesses integrate outsourced and in-house workforce statistics.
eWFM has typical workforce management features such as optimizing scheduling efficiency and automating the selection and assignment of workforce schedules, vacations, holidays and other events. The solution also maximizes agent empowerment and retention by providing flexible scheduling that weighs both the organization's and the agent's needs. eWFM features powerful forecasting, scheduling and tracking, as well as optional packages that can fine-tune agent performance, empower agents and supervisors, and simplify the management of multisite contact center workforces.
eWFM fully integrates with Aspect's flagship Uniphi Suite, and includes significant new capabilities that drive workforce productivity. For instance, it includes increased agent input to scheduling, increased data and customization for analytics and the integration of outsourced and in-house staffing. The Empower module has added functionality to improve overall contact center productivity and to give agents more control over their work schedule by making bidding for schedules and vacations easier and by reducing the processing time involved. The enhanced version of Aspect Performance Optimization (APO) lets customers gather and integrate data from external applications, such as CRM and quality monitoring, so they may undertake more comprehensive analyses of their businesses and take informed action. One final enhancement in the new version that is unique is its new Encompass module, which lets businesses tie together intraday statistics from their outsourced resources with data from their in-house
resources for a comprehensive picture of contact center activity.
'In the past, allocating vacations and floating holidays was a labor-intensive process, with each agent filling out bid forms and requests being processed manually,' said Joseph Beery, senior vice president and CIO of America West Airlines. 'Using Aspect eWorkforce Management v6.3, we reduced the amount of time it takes to process annual vacation requests from 480 man hours to just 20 ' this is outstanding. We've rolled out the new solution to 1,200 agents across two sites, and we like that our employees can manage their own vacations.'
AT&T BusinessDirect eBill
Let's face it, nobody enjoys examining their phone bills to ensure accuracy. But if you think you've got it bad, just imagine that you are the telecom manager in charge of 10 disparate call center sites with millions of calls each month. How does a company make sure it isn't getting shafted by the phone company, or that there aren't fraudulent charges on the bills? Well, AT&T BusinessDirect eBill gives customers the ability to view their AT&T invoice details, analyze billing data by creating standard or custom reports, make inquiries and request billing adjustments online, see payment history, and pay bills online. When a customer disputes a charge online, it is automatically removed from the balance until the dispute is resolved. Disputing individual calls online is much easier than explaining the details of each disputed charge call-by-call with a phone company representative.
With eBill, customers are able to assign charges by location, branch, department, or other operating unit. Customers can also restrict access to various portions of the bill. The reporting and analysis tools allow customers to save hours each month, and help provide audit trails both financially and for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.
eBill offers a 13-month history online, plus the option of 'turning off' paper billing. Customers receive their bill electronically about five business days faster than paper. eBill is available for AT&T voice and data services.
AT&T claims that eBill is the only industry tool that offers online dispute capabilities; all others require a form that must be processed manually behind the scenes. The company also claims that eBill is the only portal that provides payment options via Financial EDI, credit/debit card, bank draft, online auto-pay, or click-to-pay.
In addition, access to eBill is integrated into AT&T BusinessDirect, the company's customer Web portal. Many competitors require multiple portals for different online tools. While AT&T actively promotes that customers receive their bills via eBill, those customers are not charged extra if they wish to receive paper or CD-ROM bills. AT&T informed us that it offers discounts to customers who select online billing and/or payment in the low-end market strata.
The reporting and analysis tools in eBill are very advanced, and are designed to save customers time in analyzing monthly bills. Many large customers must do organizational charge-backs each month for billing; eBill is able to consolidate multiple disparate bills and services for a customer, and allow for analysis within a specific bill/service, or across all as one entity. For example, a customer with a thousand locations, utilizing AT&T voice, data, IP, MIS and DSL services in varying combinations, can not only analyze one location or service, but the entire range of locations and services at the same time.
One major problem experienced by nearly all organizations is disparate database systems making it difficult to see a unified view of all company data. AttachmateWRQ's Verastream solves this problem by enabling organizations to maximize the value of their existing IT investments while providing a Web-based front-end interface to all data.
The target market for Verastream typically includes contact center managers and their IT directors and supporting IT staff at medium-sized and large enterprises. These buyers are tasked with integrating existing business logic and data from host applications in support of new initiatives. Verastream specifically targets call centers using real-time customer-focused applications, including Web self-service applications and packaged CRM applications that need to leverage mission-critical functionality residing within legacy applications.
Verastream host integration software enables contact centers to boost productivity by combining customer information locked away on multiple legacy screens into a single, easy-to-use Web interface. AttachmateWRQ stated, 'Since the majority of customer information is stored on host systems, contact center employees often have to look through as many as 100 different screens before finding the customer data needed to answer a customer query.' Using Verastream, agents are able to handle calls in seconds instead of spending minutes struggling with the complexities of the legacy applications.
Contact centers leverage Verastream to provide agents and customers with simplified access to billing status, order histories, product inventory and other customer-related information.
Verastream also enables contact centers to provide customers with direct access to information via the Web, enabling them to cut caller wait times, reduce data-entry errors and improve agent productivity. 'We have seen a dramatic increase in my reps' productivity, because now they don't spend so much time looking through green screens,' an AT&T rep said. 'They put the phone number in, and 10 to 15 seconds later, here come the results. The new efficiency allows CSRs to focus elsewhere.'
Using Verastream's designer interface, users can quickly add multiple legacy databases to a single Web screen. Using a sophisticated design tool, contact center developers without specific Web development expertise can create an object model of a host application. Navigating through the host application screens, they simply click the fields that will be used in the new application, leaving the original application intact. The resulting object model can perform any transaction supported by the host application, including screen navigation, reads and writes. Full integration for a wide variety of application program interfaces, including Java, JDBC, COM, .NET, SQL, and Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004, is available. Verastream was one of the first host integration vendors to offer an adaptable Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) approach for reusing legacy logic and data in Web applications, CRM applications or portals that enable contact centers to deliver rapid results.
Citrix GoToMeeting Corporate 2.0
Citrix is renowned for its remote- access solutions and its superb screen-sharing technology that compresses screen images, keystrokes and mouse movements so remarkably that it even performs well on dial-up Internet access. GoToMeeting Corporate is another innovative solution from Citrix. It's a collaborative meeting software solution that primarily targets SOHO/SMBs. However, Citrix told us that with the release of v2.0, larger businesses will adopt GoToMeeting as well.
Citrix GoToMeeting Corporate enables a collaborative online meeting via an extremely easy-to-use interface. It supports up to 200 attendees per meeting and its instant screen-sharing technology allows presenters to share PowerPoint slides, or any other PC application with all participants in real time.
The solution features bundled integration with popular applications such as e-mail and instant messaging. It also features true 24-bit color representation of the presenter's PC so all illustrations, graphic-intensive applications and pictures are shown to meeting attendees in their native high-color state. It also features excellent security with 128-bit end-to-end AES encryption. GoToMeeting also includes a free audio bridge, giving meeting participants immediate access to audio conferencing. GoToMeeting is bandwidth-adaptive to ensure that participants with different connections ' even dial-up users ' can connect to a meeting.
The Web-based Administration Center provides a central point of control and robust real-time usage reports to facilitate easy management. Detailed reports can be created to track meeting information and usage statistics. With version 2.0, Citrix added desktop recording and playback, specific application sharing, drawing tools and a Web services application programming interface, which allows third-party applications to integrate GoToMeeting into their solutions.
Citrix Online claims it has the industry's first 'All You Can Meet' pricing model. The pricing structure offers an unlimited number of meetings of unrestricted length for a flat, monthly fee. Most competing online meeting services charge per-minute and per-user fees, plus overage charges, making GoToMeeting a very advantageous choice when evaluating and selecting an online meeting solution.
Concerto Software, Inc. (now Aspect Software)
An ensemble is defined as 'a group, an orchestra, a collection, as a whole.' Concerto Software's EnsemblePro fits that definition to a tee. EnsemblePro takes various important call center functions, such as skills-based routing, e-mail management, chat, fax, campaign and agent management, queuing and predictive dialing, and orchestrates them into one package.
The ACD capabilities of Concerto EnsemblePro answer calls as they enter the contact center and intelligently route them to available agents, based on the dialed number (DNIS), calling party identification (ANI), available agents, customer profile, service levels and defined business rules. The multilevel, skills-based routing functionality ensures that the customer is routed to the most appropriate agent. Concerto EnsemblePro also offers overflow routing, call re-routing based on queue statistics, abandoned call recuperation and multisite routing.
The predictive dialer functionality of Concerto EnsemblePro helps increase agent productivity through automated dialing and real-time access to customer information, while offering campaign and agent management capabilities that increase operating efficiency. An IVR/voice self-service feature is available, allowing customers to query their account information without agent assistance.
The multichannel capabilities for voice, e-mail, Web and fax allow customers to contact the organization via the medium of their choice. E-mail tools include auto-acknowledgement, greetings, signatures, e-mail templates and attachment capabilities and distribution lists and e-mail campaign tools.
Designed for contact centers with between 10 and 3,000 seats, Concerto EnsemblePro was one of the first products to unite inbound, outbound and blended multichannel contact (voice, e-mail, Web and fax), while also delivering robust queuing, routing, reporting and agent empowerment capabilities in a single solution.
One very innovative aspect of this solution is its workflow routing. For example, a typical help-desk agent handles calls, but also manages customer issues using a trouble ticket management application. The phone calls delivered to the agent can be routed, queued and prioritized; however, the service requests (SR) in the ticket management application are static, leaving the agent to manually select the next SR to work on. With Concerto EnsemblePro, the service request can be prioritized and blended across all the other interactions the agent can handle. For example, if a service request has a critical priority, it may be delivered before the next phone call. This level of workflow blending allows companies to ensure a certain level of customer service quality by applying their own customized business rules.
Contactual OnDemand Contact Center
Contactual OnDemand Contact Center is a hosted contact center application that is VoIP-based (SIP) and 100 percent Web-provisioned and -configured. Contactual claims to be the first SIP- and VoIP-based hosted contact center (in early 2000); and the company also claims to be the first hosted VoIP contact center solution to integrate with major on-demand CRM applications, including those of Salesforce.com and NetSuite.
One of the most important features is that this solution is 100 percent Web-provisioned and Web-configured. Some of Contactual's competitors require going to data centers and configuring on site for new customers. Worse, some hosted competitors have to do a truck roll and configure on site the required customer hardware and Telco equipment.
Contactual is a very scalable and easy-to-use hosted contact center application; it claims four nines of reliability/uptime in 2005. Contactual cited an example of an insurance adjuster that has seasonal peaks and a need for catastrophe overflow ' they were able to scale from one to 200 seats overnight.
Contactual features skills-based routing across e-mail, chat and phone. Voice recording/logging is also available. There is also co-browsing with navigation and form-fill synchronization, integrated to chat, standard phone and VoIP. E-mail management is very sophisticated and flexible, and includes virus and spam filtering, priority and skill presentation, keyword and address routing, complete logging, auto-responders and optional FAQ/knowledge base integration.
Does this sound familiar?
'Sue, do you have that survey report for me?'
'No, not yet, John. I still have to cross-reference the three database files, and then design a complex SQL query to pull the data, and finally output it to Excel so I can create a graphical chart.'
Messaging data and creating meaningful reports is a very complex and often labor-intensive task that is often assigned to MIS personnel. The problem is MIS has database savvy but not necessarily marketing or reporting savvy, often resulting in a disconnect between what sales or marketing teams want and what MIS provides.
CustomerSat Enterprise is a hosted (ASP) survey solution, tailored to the needs of clients, that gathers customer and market feedback by multiple channels (e.g., online, phone, speech-enabled IVR and PDA), and then delivers real-time analytics on survey results without requiring MIS intervention. Such reports include frequency distributions, cross tabs, correlations, trend lines, significance testing, and other statistics-through-portal-accessible, interactive dashboards and 'push' (e-mailed) reports, enabling managers throughout clients' organizations to pinpoint customer concerns and market opportunities.
CustomerSat also drives actions enterprisewide by e-mailing detailed alerts, and by using business rules to instantly open and assign cases, when customers' satisfaction and other scores fall below specified thresholds. Thus, one of the general benefits of the alerting and reporting is that it enables enterprises to save at-risk customers and renewal revenue before they are lost. CustomerSat Enterprise integrates with the clients' CRM and other corporate IT systems through secure Internet protocols to automate the deployment of both event-based (continuous) and relationship (periodic) surveys.
Powerful cross-tabbing and survey-results analysis (e.g., satisfaction by region) is built into the product. Similarly, you can drill-down from aggregate statistics to detailed survey responses that the statistics comprise. For example, in a frequency distribution bar chart for a particular rating question, clicking on a bar in the chart brings up a summary table of the respondents whose answers comprise that bar in the chart. Clicking again on any row in the table brings up the completed questionnaire and allowed descriptive fields of each customer.
CustomerSat claims to have invented the first 100 percent online, real-time survey cross-tabs generation (1997) and the first to create real-time trend lines of call center customer satisfaction online (1998). Additionally, you may have encountered their PopUp-on-Exit surveys for Web site visitors, which pop up when visitors exit the Web site. CustomerSat claims to be first to do this as well. One key benefit of this product is its enterprisewide survey invitation controls to ensure that customers are protected from too many survey requests from multiple divisions and departments within the enterprise. Unique real-time positioning charts are also provided to segment and position customers, products, call centers and sales regions based on satisfaction and loyalty.
Speech IVR integration is admirable through integration with third-party IVRs. CustomerSat Enterprise records
and stores customers' verbatim comments as audio (.wav) files, which can be played back from within Enterprise, thereby enabling managers to hear comments in a customer's own words, tone of voice and spoken ratings. A speaker icon in Enterprise analytics indicates that a recorded comment or suggestion is available. If a customer states a very low rating, such as two out of 10, the unfavorable score can trigger e-mail alerts and cause a case to be instantly opened and assigned.
One final feature of note is the bounce e-mail management. According to CustomerSat, 'When e-mailing invitations to surveys, our clients receive large volumes of bounce e-mail messages: out of office, mailbox full, user unknown, etc. Some of these messages are critical for updating their e-mail databases; others can be ignored. Managing them is labor-intensive and time-consuming.'
CustomerSat Enterprise's automated bounce e-mail manager receives, interprets, categorizes and files these bounced e-mail invitations to help eliminate this labor-intensive task, raise productivity and improve e-mail list quality.
Virtual Contact Center
The hosted contact center model is becoming more popular as customers realize that IP communications not only are reliable, but also provide a single unified solution that combines CRM, telephony features and VoIP, all in one affordable package. The Five9 Virtual Contact Center (VCC) exemplifies this model with its enablement of companies to build a comprehensive, feature-rich contact center ' anywhere in the world ' without any hardware, software or up-front capital expenditures.
Five9's on-demand service allows for easy setup and administration of at-home agent workforces, as well as single-site or distributed multisite centers to act as one, regardless of geographic location.
What makes VCC unique is that Five9 built it from the ground up to eliminate any third-party license fees and integration hassles, thus ensuring low costs. Any business with only a PC and a broadband connection can afford a comprehensive suite of applications, which include the following: ACD; predictive dialer; CRM; IVR; CTI; remote-agent capabilities; skills-based routing; recording; silent monitoring; real-time reporting; chat; and centralized management for multisite and offshore contact centers. All of Five9's advanced VoIP-based contact center functionality can be integrated with leading on-demand CRM solutions from Salesforce.com, Unipress and RightNow.
VCC is cost effective and very fast to deploy. According to Five9, customers can be up and running in hours, as opposed to the days or weeks they would have to wait for other solutions. Because it is an on-demand Web-based solution, companies can deploy 'distributed call centers,' in which agents work out of remote locations around the world, and calls and tasks are routed to them over the Internet. This also enables outsourcers to deploy call centers on their clients' behalf within the same country or internationally. Five9's combination of ACD, IVR, predictive dialing, call scripting and branching, call recording and skills-based routing make it one of the true innovators within the hosted contact center space.
IEX Corporation, a Tekelec company
TotalView Workforce Management System
IEX has been in the call center space for many years, and the company has won numerous industry awards (including several from Customer Inter@ction Solutions). IEX's TotalView Workforce Management System enables contact centers to deliver consistent service with lower operating costs, as well as increased employee morale. It is designed to improve the scheduling and agent management processes in both single-site and multisite environments.
In fact, IEX claims it offered the first system to address the needs of a multisite environment, further claiming its multisite workforce management functionality as one of the company's core strengths. IEX has two other firsts to its credit: the first system to offer Web-based agent self-service applications; and the first to support skills-based routing in a multisite environment, with multiple call routing configurations.
The system's advanced features include skills-based and multimedia scheduling, real-time and historical adherence, intraday and performance management, enterprise reporting and data exchange, vacation and holiday planning as well as short- and long-term resource planning. TotalView offers these powerful features with a single-server architecture that enables easy system installation and maintenance.
TotalView has complete multichannel management, including inbound, outbound, e-mail, Web chat, fax, etc. Multichannel management is enabled with TotalView's Skill Block Scheduling feature. It allows centers to forecast when they will receive multichannel contacts and then schedule the optimal time for handling them, allowing centers to take advantage of cross-training and multisite management while determining the optimal windows of time for agents to devote to multichannel contact handling.
IEX continually invests in R&D to better improve the company's products. One such development is the SmartSync application, which serves as a single point of entry and enables improved data integrity for shared data elements across multiple platforms. This technology allows IEX to strengthen its offering through tight integration, such as a strong performance management and strategic planning.
There are several Web conferencing products on the market; and of those, many have integrated an audio phone-bridge conference number. But how many take advantage of video, and how many of VoIP? Not too many. Interwise's ECP Connect is an exception, featuring voice, video, Web and data ' all in one solution.
ECP Connect meets the complete conferencing and collaboration needs of an enterprise in a single, IP-based solution that allows individual users to conduct scheduled or ad-hoc voice-only or voice/Web/video conferences from any phone or personal computer. ECP Connect and Interwise's fixed-price/ unlimited-usage business model, as well as its flexible deployment options, makes it easy for companies to replace their multiple conferencing and collaboration products with a single solution. With ECP Connect's fixed/unlimited pricing plan, there are no per-minute charges and no overage charges, so you know what you are paying for.
Interwise claims ECP Connect is the only conferencing solution to unite the data stream and voice stream into one IP-based solution. In addition, Interwise's software-only Multimedia Softbridge distributed media server architecture efficiently routes, bridges and manages integrated voice, data and video streams across multiple sites in real time. Further, it includes media services, session control, content distribution and an any-device access layer.
Additionally, ECP Connect is unique in how it optimizes the IP bandwidth; it is able to detect the end user's bandwidth (i.e., 56K vs. broadband or T1) and adjust the flow of voice, data and video so as not to overload the bandwidth going to and from the end user's PC. Interwise said, 'ECP Connect breaks ground in being a software-only solution capable of being deployed on low-cost commodity servers. There is no need for expensive hardware (PBXs, etc.) to deploy this solution across an extended enterprise. Also, ECP Connect is the only Web-based conferencing solution capable of scaling to tens of thousands of concurrent users.' TMC Labs has personally tested and used Interwise's ECP Connect for a Web-VoIP-video conference and we found it worked well with nearly 30 participants.
KANA Resolution is an enterprise software application aimed at increasing customer service agent productivity while also delivering cross-sell/upsell opportunities. KANA Resolution leverages knowledge and intelligence to automatically provide agents with the best information needed to resolve customer requests. In doing so, it provides three primary business benefits: increased customer satisfaction, reduced cost of service and increased revenue.
Resolution is business-rules-driven, and dynamic form-based scripts offer step-by-step guidance for all types of service calls. It also includes integrated knowledge management and automatically recommended knowledge articles to reduce research time and provide help to the agent. A unique feature is its ability to automatically present personalized offers, integrating cross-selling and upselling into the service interaction.
Kana Resolution also features e-mail integration and the ability to write data to back-end and CRM systems ' two features that allow for rapid response delivery, system updates and case closure. Visual drag-and-drop design tools are available to enable users to quickly and easily model best-practice service processes.
KANA has integrated its two product offerings, KANA Response and KANA IQ, into KANA Resolution, providing agents with a more complete solution for knowledge-powered and agent-assisted service. Kana Response automates the process of responding to simple and repetitive inquiries so agents can concentrate on more complex questions and escalations. It automatically responds to customer e-mail, and routes inquiries to the appropriate customer service expert. To drive additional revenue in the contact center, KANA Resolution guides the agent through the customer service interaction, suggesting appropriate actions and providing cross- and upsell recommendations.
Resolution is built on a Web services architecture, which allows for easy integration with common enterprise application environments. KANA provides seven pre-built adapters, enabling integration with major call center applications, such as Siebel, Clarify, PeopleSoft and SAP. One final feature of note is the solution's research capabilities, which reduce diagnosis and research time by integrating knowledge management and offering multiple diagnostic and advice tools, including natural-language query, clarifying questions, scripts and expert modeling.
Knova SRM Suite
Built on knowledge management and search technologies, Knova's service resolution management (SRM) applications optimize the resolution process across multiple service channels, including contact centers, self-service Web sites, help desk, e-mail and chat. Knova's SRM applications complement, integrate with, and enhance traditional CRM, contact center and help desk applications by providing knowledge management solutions that improve service delivery.
One interesting feature to note: Knova was the first to integrate forums into its solution. The company also claims to be the first to implement self-service wizards for customer self-resolution. Another unique capability is the Knova Field Service, which is a knowledge-empowered mobile support application that enables service professionals to quickly resolve customer issues on site.
One of the truly powerful aspects of Knova is its superb search engine, featuring enhanced natural-language processing and contextual proximity indexing, resulting in much more accurate search results and saved time and effort for agents. In addition, Knova offers enhanced content management with new authoring and content management features that support personalization and compliance goals.
Microsoft Speech Server 2004 R2
Microsoft Speech Server (MSS) is a Web-based, speech-enabled interactive voice response (IVR) and multimodal application solutions platform designed for enterprises that want to build applications with speech capabilities. MSS is a Speech Application Language Tags (SALT)-based platform, and uses an ASP.NET-based Web server as the application server. Already supporting English, MSS R2 adds French and Spanish recognition, as well as more efficient ASR and TTS engines. Besides IVR applications, you can also develop other types of applications, such as the ability to read your e-mail using TTS. In fact, using MMS you can deploy DTMF (touch-tone) applications, speech-enabled telephony applications, and multimodal (mixed speech/ visual) applications.
The two main core components included with MSS are the Telephony Application Services (TAS) and Speech Engine Services (SES), including automatic speech recognition (ASR), text-to-speech (TTS) and prompt manager. MSS 2004 R2 can now be deployed in an all-in-one server configuration. In addition, customers can benefit from expanded telephony boards coverage and VoIP support for MSS 2004 R2 including Aculab, Brooktrout Inc., Eicon Networks and Vail Systems Inc. According to Microsoft, 'Built on .NET technologies, MSS is the first product in its class to seamlessly integrate Web technologies, speech processing services and telephony capabilities into one platform that enables companies to leverage existing technology investments.'
Microsoft aims to have the Microsoft Speech Platform permit speech-enabled access to applications not only from telephones and cell phones, but also from handheld devices such as PDAs, smart phones and tablet PCs. A solution like this one, which can help further enhance self-service capabilities by leveraging speech-recognition while simultaneously enabling other types of touch points, will go a long way toward enhancing customer service and customer loyalty. CIS
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TMC Labs Innovation Award winners will be highlighted in Part II
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