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May 18, 2010

Interactive Intelligence Adds New Applications, Administrative Interface, to its Fast-Growing CaaS Service

By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet

Interactive Intelligence, which offers contact center and business process automation solutions for enterprises and SMBs, has added its workforce management and dialer applications to its Communications as a Service (CaaS) offering, as well as a new Web-based administrative interface allowing for client control over configuration and billing.

The company claims that since it transitioned its hosted service over to CaaS architecture about a year ago it has seen subscriptions increase by about 55 percent. One of the advantages of upgrading to CaaS (aka SaaS (News - Alert)) architecture is that it allows for simpler and more rapid uptake of the solutions, since they are now completely Web-based and thus require no client-side software.

Because companies no longer need to purchase additional hardware and software licenses in order to use the solution, they can deploy it more rapidly and with far less risk. What's more, the CaaS model means Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) takes on responsibility for application performance, including monitoring and maintaining all equipment and network infrastructure, which in turn greatly reduces the strain on internal IT departments.

With its new CaaS offering Interactive Intelligence is now able to more effectively target SMB market, whereas before it was predominantly focused on the medium to large enterprise space. With this new offering the company can now deliver its award-winning applications to contact centers with as a few as 75 seats. In this regard the CaaS service opens up a whole new market for Interactive Intelligence. As such, the company is anticipating considerable growth in the SMB market in the months and years to come.

When asked whether the company has any concern about its new CaaS offering cannibalizing its installed base, Chief Marketing Officer Joe Staples said 'cannibalize away,' and added that this new business model will result in a more stable revenue stream for Interactive Intelligence. Staples explained that by offering a subscription-based service, Interactive Intelligence moves to a more 'predictable' model that is less influenced by economic factors such as the recent recession. He pointed out that the traditional hardware-based sales model is more difficult to forecast - organizations are far less likely to make investment in new premises-based contact center technologies, which are many times more costly and time-consuming to implement, during periods of economic downturn.

The new Web-based administrative interface, or 'CaaS Portal,' gives clients control over core features and functionality. Supervisors can easily carry out add/drops and make changes to call routing schemes 'on the fly,' without the need to go running back to the vendor. The portal gives supervisors control over the core functionality of specific applications, including the ability to change the messaging and branching schemes in the IVR system. The portal also gives supervisors access to billing summaries and lets them drill down into billing details allowing for faster reaction to changing service rates.

Interactive Intelligence says it will be adding access to call monitoring and recordings in the near future.

Adding workforce management to the mix makes perfect sense since WFM has become the standard in medium-to-large contact centers where it is more difficult and time consuming to track, manage and create agent schedules. The workforce management software comes tightly integrated with the ACD, thus allowing supervisors to generate accurate forecasts based on historical call volume. The WFM software can also be integrated with Web chat and email services, thus giving supervisors the ability to schedule agents and build agent teams based on the desired skill sets. The WFM solution also sports an agent-supervisor portal that lets agents bid on or swap shifts, sometimes without supervisor approval, which in turn helps drive schedule flexibility and higher agent satisfaction.

The dialer application facilitates outbound messaging via the IVR, which is becoming increasingly popular for organizations looking to boost customer satisfaction through proactive alerts and reminders (for example, a pharmacy can autodial patients whose prescriptions are due to be re-filled, or a car dealership can send a reminder that a customer's car is due for servicing). The dialer application sports advanced speech recognition, allowing called parties to carry out natural dialogs without the need for live assistance, thus preserving precious live agent resources for more complex or 'higher value' interactions. Alternatively, the system lets called parties 'zero-out' and connect with a live agent at any time during the call. In the event a customer opts to zero out, intelligent call routing kicks in and ensures the called party is connected to the appropriate agent based on their stored profile or other meta-data.

Interactive Intelligence's CaaS offering can be integrated with both TDM and VoIP environments and offers a range of flexible deployment options. What makes the service unique in the marketplace is that Interactive Intelligence provides each customer with their own dedicated, virtualized server - thus providing a higher level of security, reliability and control compared to multi-tenant solutions. The new CaaS applications will be available in the late second quarter/early third quarter of this year.

In a recent video interview with TMC (News - Alert) CEO Rich Tehrani, Staples discusses the trend toward cloud computing and how the company is capitalizing on it with its new CaaS offering. To access the video, click here.

Tehrani also did a separate video interview with Staples focusing on the new enhancements to Interactive Intelligence's CaaS offering - to access that video, click here.


Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard




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