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Product Reviews
TMC Labs 2003 Innovation Awards: Part I

Each year, TMC Labs handpicks the leading innovative products and services within the call center industry for its TMC Labs Innovation Awards, and each year they have become more popular --- this year we received more than 200 applications! This is a good thing, but it is also extraordinarily challenging. While we are honored that more companies than ever have applied for this award, it has made it much more difficult to pick the 'distinctive' innovators in our industry, as there were so many innovative products to choose from.

It had been our goal to narrow the field down to approximately 20 winners, but picking an arbitrary number would have done a disservice to many innovative products. In fact, we could have easily chosen 50 products we loved from the applications, but we really wanted to find the truly unique products; products with features not often seen in competing products. We searched long and hard for the cr'me de la cr'me, which meant we had to exclude many applications from the winners' circle. Nevertheless, it is important to note that there are a great deal of unique products among those entered that could not be judged winners.

TMC Labs researched each of the applications, checked customer references and eventually arrived at our winners' list, which consists of 25 unique and innovative companies. We knew it would be impossible to squeeze all 25 winners into a single issue, and TMC Labs' trademark is 'quality' over 'quantity,' so to avoid sacrificing our very detailed analysis of each of the winners, the awards will be presented in two parts. (Part 2 will appear in the October issue of this magazine.)

So, without further ado, we present the winners of the TMC Labs Innovation Awards. Congratulations to the winners!

- Tom Keating, Chief Technology Officer & Executive Technology Editor, TMC


2003 TMC Labs Innovation Award Winners (Full List)

Company Name             Product Name                Web site

AltiGen Communications, Inc.

AltiContact Manager - Call Center Solution www.altigen.com
Aspect Communications Corporation  Aspect Scheduled Callback www.aspect.com
Castel Castel DirectQuest www.castel.com
Center Partners Smart Save www.centerpartners.com
Epicor Software Corporation Clientele Self-Service Portal www.epicor.com
eTalk Corporation Advisor www.etalk.com
Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Inc. Network IP Contact Center www.genesyslabs.com
GN Netcom GN 9120 www.gnnetcom.com
HeartMath, LLC 
Freeze-Framer www.heartmath.com
Inova Corporation Inova LightLink - Enterprise Edition www.inovacorp.com
LeftBank Solutions Monet Workforce Management System www.leftbanksolutions.com
Linktivity, a division of SpartaCom Technologies, Inc.  WebDemo www.linktivity.com
salesforce.com, Inc. sforce www.sforce.com
Salesnet, Inc. Salesnet Extended www.salesnet.com
SER Solutions
TSP500 www.ser.com

AltiGen Communications, Inc.
AltiContact Manager - Call Center Solution
www.altigen.com

Altigen is one of the true pioneers of the PC-PBX and IP-PBX market and, in fact, was the first company to launch a PC-PBX running on the Windows NT Server platform. We still remember the day Altigen sent us a pre-configured Windows NT server with a Quantum telephony card inside that could handle analog trunks and extensions, as well as VoIP capabilities. We were able to move the Quantum card to our own Windows NT Server Dell machine and turn a Dell computer into a fully functional PC-PBX! Even today, Altigen continues to lead the way in innovation in the PC-PBX and IP-PBX spaces.

We were impressed with Altigen's AltiContact Manager (ACM) system, which features an IP-PBX call processing telephony architecture that provides full availability, non-blocking scalability and excellent system growth. The AltiWare system's design integrates digital, analog and VoIP trunks, IP and analog extensions, voice mail, auto-attendant and other voice processing resources, even integrated call center capabilities, all on the same high-performance chassis.

AltiContact Manager was designed to support inbound, outbound or blended contact centers and is targeted at contact centers of 12 to 500 agents. AltiContact Manager is a turnkey IP hardware/software system for inbound, outbound or blended contact centers. Each ACM chassis will support up to 128 active agents with up to 500 active agents in a multiple chassis or distributed implementation.

One of the innovative aspects of this system is its out-of-the box integration with leading CRM solutions, which eliminates integration headaches and reduces costs and implementation times. AltiGen provides built-in integration with other applications such as Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange, as well as Goldmine and ACT!. This integration comes in very handy when handling inbound calls. Inbound calls are routed with AltiGen's intelligent call routing, caller I.D. or integrated IVR. Using the CRM integration, businesses can automatically 'screen-pop' CRM records. With this automated screen pop and delivery of customer information to the agent or service representative, businesses can significantly reduce transaction times.

The AltiContact Manager platform has excellent VoIP capabilities. First, the IP gateway is built into the system, thus there is no need to have additional equipment at the remote site. AltiGen's Alti-IP 600 IP agent telephone can be plugged directly into a DSL or cable modem and function as a true agent extension anywhere in the world.


Aspect Communications Corporation
Aspect Scheduled Callback
www.aspect.com

While other companies offer a callback option for callers waiting in an incoming call queue, Aspect's Scheduled Callback has taken an innovative approach by integrating this function with workforce management; i.e., the scheduling of agent resources. Scheduled Callback integrates with the Aspect eWorkforce Management scheduling and forecasting product to match contact center resources with customer needs and enables customers to schedule a time for an agent to call them back, instead of waiting on hold.

The solution helps solves two major issues within the call center. First, it helps solve the issue of 'call abandonment,' which can result in added costs from repeated redials to a toll-free number, or worse, losing dissatisfied customers to competitors. Second, it matches agent availability with call volumes so that contact centers are never over- or understaffed.

Aspect's Scheduled Callback offers customer callers various callback times based on business rules involving estimated wait time, staff schedules and service-level parameters. For customers in the queue, Scheduled Callback automatically calculates the best options from staff schedules and contact center objectives. The caller can choose from available callback times in the near term or select a preferred period for which the system will pinpoint a suitable time. Callbacks can be initiated from the telephone as well as via a Web page. At the appropriate time, the system initiates a callback and matches the outbound call with an agent with the appropriate skills to handle the call. TMC Labs was quite impressed with the way this innovative approach can help contact centers can lower costs through fewer abandoned calls, reduced toll charges, smoother staffing and higher overall customer satisfaction.


Castel
Castel DirectQuest
www.castel.com

With the recent Federal Trade Commission's Do-Not-Call (DNC) rules soon to be enforced, having a predictive dialer that is compliant with the new rules is absolutely imperative. There was a recent controversy in our industry involving an analyst's review of several leading predictive dialers (including Castel's) and whether some of the predictive dialers 'could' adhere to the new FTC rules and ensure compliance. We will steer clear of that controversy and simply stick to the facts.

Castel submitted their DirectQuest predictive dialer, which is indeed quite innovative. First, unlike many predictive dialers that use DSPs to detect the 'hello' of the answering party, DirectQuest is one of only a few predictive dialers that is capable of 100 percent answer detection and 100 percent disconnect detection. Essentially, it uses ISDN's D-channel to determine exactly when the carrier network has connected the call and the remote party has answered. We should point out that Castel is not unique in its usage of the carrier's signaling protocols to accurately determine the call status. In fact, VXI USA's PDS predictive dialer (also a TMC Labs Innovation Awards winner this year) does this also, and supports not only ISDN, but SS7, R2 and other digital signals from the carrier network to get precise call analysis and call status.

However, Castel has some other unique and innovative features up its sleeve. While standard predictive dialers are designed to place outbound calls without an agent on the line and then transfer 'live answered calls' to an available agent, DirectQuest can proactively manage both inbound and outbound customer telephone interactions using a variety of capabilities including preview, 'managed auto' and predictive dialing as well as the routing of inbound calls and the maximization of agent productivity (also known as 'blended' operations).

On inbound calls, DirectQuest can use the incoming ANI (automatic number identification) information to identify which agent the caller spoke to last. If that agent is available, the call can then be routed to him or her. Additionally, DirectQuest can instantaneously access the account information and route the call to the accounts receivable department if the account is past due. For outbound calls, agents are able to hear the first 'hello,' so they are able to determine the mood of the prospect and react accordingly.

Other important features includes the ability to provide different ANI information for each call placed, centralized call center management, distributed telephony switching for multisite centers, silent monitoring, coaching, supervisor barge and announcement playing. These features add real value to the end user customer without the expense and issues associated with multiple product integration.


Center Partners
Smart Save
www.centerpartners.com

We all know that it costs more to gain new customers than it does to retain your existing customers. Center Partners' Smart Save is an innovative automated business intelligence-modeling product that was designed to preserve customer retention if 'saving' a particular customer makes strategic sense for the business. It works by compiling all available behavioral data about an individual customer and models those data against the total customer database. Smart Save builds customer profiles, comparing each customer to every other current and past customer. The resulting information is used two ways: first, to score customer risk and value (likelihood that the customer will leave and the total estimated lifetime value of the customer); and second, to understand the customer's likelihood of purchasing certain products and upgrades.

At the agent level, Smart Save can push real-time, customer-specific information to the desktop, informing the agent about the customer across multiple categories. For example, it might identify a customer as having a high customer lifetime value score as well as a high risk for churn. In such a case, Smart Save would inform the agent what action would most likely save this customer. On the other hand, if the customer has a negative customer lifetime value score and a high risk for churn, Smart Save could indicate to the agent that he or she should politely deactivate the customer without an attempted save, reducing the average handle time and improving service levels.

Using Smart Save, a company can increase the customer save rate, and/or provide a business with more strategic control over the customers who it is choosing to save based on estimated customer lifetime value. While we should point out that many companies have developed risk/value models, they don't tactically apply these models where it really counts  at customer-facing point of contact, i.e., the agents. Smart Save is a true innovator in that it combines the business' customer behavior modeling with the agent's desktop application to drive the desired results.


Epicor Software Corporation
Clientele Self-Service Portal
www.epicor.com

Clientele Self-Service Portal provides customers with access to information and answers to their questions, all at the customer's convenience. With Clientele Self-Service Portal, customers can submit support calls as well as check on the status of open calls. In addition, customers can view their service agreements, returned merchandise authorizations (RMAs) and products they have purchased directly over the Web. Clientele Self-Service Portal includes an online knowledge base, allowing customers to help themselves to information at anytime and from anywhere in the world. In addition to delivering increased customer satisfaction, the Clientele Self-Service Portal can dramatically reduce the number of first-level calls made to the support department. Online self-service from Clientele allows support staff to concentrate on solving more complicated problems while reducing support costs. Also, because the information exchanged through the Clientele Self-Service Portal is integrated with the support center, service representatives are always up-to-date on customer accounts and issues.

Clientele Self-Service Portal takes advantage of the benefits of the Microsoft .NET Platform to further increase customer satisfaction and enterprise efficiency. Epicor claims to be the first CRM portal solution built from the ground up on the Microsoft .NET Framework, which delivers extensive flexibility, scalability and customization capabilities as well as quick and easy integration. Clientele Self-Service Portal employs Visual Studio .NET as its customization tool. Utilization of this industry standard means hiring developers to complete customizations is cheaper and easier. Clientele Self-Service Portal also includes a SDK for customizations. The SDK installs directly into Visual Studio .NET, providing code samples and online help for developers tasked with extending the integration between the Self-Service Portal and Clientele Customer Support. With the SDK, developers can modify existing self-service Web parts or create new parts that link directly into the Clientele system.

Clientele Self-Service Portal's benefits are two-fold. First, it provides an easy-to-use Web interface offering convenient anywhere, anytime access for customers to product and service information as well as answers to their questions. Second, it offers customers the opportunity to resolve certain issues without calling the support center, saving the customers' time and the company's money and improving the call center efficiency.


etalk Corporation
Advisor
www.etalk.com

For a call center to be truly successful, analyzing data and generating meaningful reports is critical to ensuring quality of service and customer satisfaction. To do that, you must measure not only call volumes, but conflict resolution, customer satisfaction and a range of other variables. Another problem is that there is so much information and no easy way to view it in a centralized location and in an organized fashion. etalk Advisor, a browser-based evaluation and analysis tool, solves these problems by delivering easily accessible, detailed information on the quality and productivity of customer contact personnel. Advisor automatically collects productivity statistics from an ACD or other business systems and pairs that information with quality data from evaluations to provide a complete view of the agents' performance. Users can even import data into Advisor from ACD/PBX systems, spreadsheets, MIS reports, sales and HR databases, e-mail and other sources. SQL and ODBC compatibility enables you to report across agents, groups, contact centers and regions. Advisor features a number of graphical and easy-to-use standard reporting formats. You can also customize your own reports using Crystal Decisions' open report designer.

Advisor also incorporates innovative remote evaluation capabilities. This allows administrators to download agent information from the Advisor database to a remote PC or portable device. A manager can then conduct evaluations from that remote device and upload completed reviews to the Advisor system. This feature lets managers work independently of network connections and allows multiple reviewers to conduct simultaneous and consistent agent evaluations.

Another important feature is that users can set improvement guidelines and quality assurance plans by agent, agent type, call type, service type or virtually any other criteria. Advisor then gives you a wide range of evaluation options, including a single-page, HTML-linked format that allows fast access to agent-related data. We were impressed by the skills-mining feature that allows users to create a custom, user-defined scoring model based on Advisor data. This feature ensures that customers receive optimum service and that agent deficiencies are quickly identified and corrected. Using Advisor, call centers can enhance the quality of their agents, which will translate into higher customer satisfaction and higher job satisfaction, resulting in a reduced turnover rate.


Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Inc.
Network IP Contact Center
www.genesyslabs.com

Genesys Network IP Contact Center is designed for telecommunications companies and service providers relying on carrier-grade IP soft switches. Network IP Contact Center extends the benefits of Genesys' contact center software to carriers or service providers that are offering managed and/or hosted contact center services to enterprises.

Using Network IP Contact Center's innovative architecture, users can deliver all the feature-rich functionality formerly available only in traditional telephony environments all from the service provider/telco network. Genesys Network IP Contact Center provides a platform-independent solution that allows enterprises to maintain a full-featured contact center suite of applications, while allowing them to migrate to a hybrid or pure IP-based environment at their own pace.

Genesys Network IP Contact Center tightly integrates the Genesys Network Routing engine, soft switch and IP backbone to create a unique end-to-end solution that allows service providers to deploy more revenue-generating services to enterprise customers. Genesys told us that their first deployment of Network IP Contact Center in Japan will help carriers and service providers gain more market share in a region traditionally dominated by NTT DoCoMo. As part of the rollout of Network IP Contact Center, Genesys is using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) as a standard to interconnect with soft switches to provide 'toll-free' services for VoIP solutions deployed in the network.

With Network IP Contact Center, Genesys is breaking new ground by extending its contact center capabilities to the broader IP-managed services market. By providing IP '800,' or Free Dialed Number (FDN) services, including number translation, Genesys is playing a key role in bringing FDN functionality to small and medium-sized businesses in Japan. TMC Labs hopes this innovative approach does well in Japan and eventually extends across the Pacific Ocean to the U.S., where we would like to see managed service adoption grow.


GN Netcom
GN 9120
www.gnnetcom.com

Headsets are a staple within call centers, though some call center agents would argue that headsets are the bane of their existence. You may be asking yourself, 'What could be so innovative about a headset?' We thought the same thing when GN Netcom applied for this award. Even we were surprised at just how innovative and advanced headsets have become since their early beginnings. GN Netcom's 9120 introduces hands-free, wire-free mobility with a unique conferencing capability which we will detail later. One unique feature of the 9120 is that it works up to an amazing 300 feet away from its charging station. The fact that it's completely wireless means that agents don't need to remember to disconnect their headset before getting up. Anyone who has used a 'wired headset' has inevitably experienced the headset wire knocking over a drink or having his or her ear or head yanked when forgetting to disconnect the headset.

What is truly innovative about this product is its conferencing capability, which eliminates the hassle of being confined to a conference room and yelling into a speakerphone. Multi-unit conferencing enables up to four individual GN 9120 units to be synched into one conference call. Once a connection has been established, users wishing to participate in the call simply 'synch' their headsets to the same charging station. The originator will be notified through a beep on his or her headset that additional users wish to participate in the call, at which point authorization can be granted. Those granted access will experience a discrete and clear conference call while having the freedom to spread out within a 300-foot range. In addition, GN Netcom offers a USB adaptor for the 9120, which makes it compatible with all VoIP applications.

The GN 9120 transmits on the 2.4 GHz frequency and uses the Digital Spread Spectrum protocol initially developed for secure military communications. The signal switches channels 90 times per second, providing security and privacy while ensuring that the signal does not interfere with other signals in the 2.4 GHz spectrum such as WiFi or Bluetooth. Other nice features include good battery life, nice ergonomic design and the ability to switch from wearing the headset over-the-ear to over-the-head. One final cool feature is the optional robotic lifter, which is a robotic arm that picks up and hands up the phone so the user can freely roam the office and receive phone calls.


HeartMath, LLC
Freeze-Framer
www.heartmath.com

After examining this product, a TMC Labs engineer exclaimed, 'This has got to be the most innovative call center-related product I have ever seen! This is the granddaddy of all the Innovation Awards! Wow!' Before we get to the product, first let's provide a primer. As we know, in call centers, the pace is fast, the demands unrelenting and the stress is ever increasing. The result of an agent's stress is burnout, anger, worry, tension and depression. These symptoms then translate into bottom-line issues such as unscheduled agent absenteeism, turnover, short- and long-term disability payouts and rising use of healthcare benefits. There are also other indirect effects of stress such as customer complaints, error rates, escalations, increased response times, poor call quality and low customer satisfaction ratings as well as decreased customer lifetime value. In addition to agents, stress affects call center management as well. Contact center managers, team leaders, supervisors and directors are also subject to the stressors of a call center.

HeartMath hopes to come to the rescue with its innovative biometric feedback Freeze-Framer product, which is a PC-based software package that allows users to 're-calibrate' between stressful events. The company states, 'The shift from a stressed to a balanced state of mind can result in a dramatic increase in performance and the quality of care given to customer-clients.' Who could argue with that?

The Freeze-Framer software package includes a finger sensor that detects heart rate and pulse and sends information to a computer. The information is interpreted and displayed on the screen as the user's heart rate. The program gathers data for 10 seconds, then displays a real-time graph of the user's heart rhythms. As the user's physiologic responses become more balanced, he or she can see that on the screen. There are three colorful games designed to support the user in learning and practicing the technique. Each session can be saved and then reviewed for a later measurement of progress. These sessions will help users recalibrate themselves and deal with customers more effectively. The information sent from the heart during a stressful situation, momentary feelings of panic or anxiety, has a profound affect on the brain's ability to function, including performance, coordination and reaction speeds. Once the user sees that information and interprets it, the Freeze-Framer technology allows for balancing and restoring proper functioning of the nervous system. This rebalancing reduces the stress of the moment, and reduces blood pressure and stress symptoms such as sleeplessness, indigestion, anxiety and tension that affect agent performance over the long haul.

HeartMath Freeze-Framer claims that it is the first and only scientifically validated performance enhancement and stress reduction interactive learning system with biometric feedback that quantifiably  and dramatically  reduces stress while boosting the productivity of agents and managers. While we can't validate the company's claims at this point, the concept behind what they are trying to do is very innovative. This is perhaps the most innovative product designed to improve call center efficiency (by reducing stress) we have ever seen, and that includes ACDs, workforce management solutions and other call center technologies! Well done, HeartMath, we are not easily impressed!


Inova Corporation
Inova LightLink - Enterprise Edition
www.inovacorp.com

When we saw that a wallboard manufacturer had applied for the TMC Labs Innovation Awards, our initial reaction was, 'Boring! What's so innovative about call center wallboards? They've been around forever.' Well, we were wrong.

Inova LightLink - Enterprise Edition is much more than a traditional call center wallboard display. First, Inova claims LightLink is the first digital (software-based) solution to employ distributed component technology as opposed to the client-server model followed by their competitors. When multiple instances of a component are distributed in this manner, they also provide redundant fail-over for one another. This eliminates any single point of failure in the LightLink core, providing high reliability that is crucial when dealing with mission-critical data. Also, this architecture supports efficient and reliable transfer of massive amounts of data in real-time, as well as providing new levels of security and administration.

LightLink employs an advanced Windows NT/2000 security model that leverages a customer's existing network security settings. User privileges are tied to an individual's network log-in, not a specific computer, enabling roaming profiles. All individual and group permissions are configurable from within a single, easy-to-use security application. In addition to user security, LightLink provides full data access control and data stream encryption to control access to sensitive data.

Additionally, this product drives contact center optimization through performance management, activity monitoring and reporting. This information can be presented in any number of formats such as digital dashboards for self-correction and monitoring, high-visibility displays for team performance monitoring, reports for management visibility and control, e-mail or wireless alerts for problem notification, or other formats. This information can also be published to a data warehouse for historical trending and analysis.

LightLink rapidly provides significant results, including measurable productivity increases, time-savings and cost-savings. Inova told TMC Labs that LightLink provides immediate results that typically achieve a complete return on investment within 6 to 12 months.


Left Bank Solutions, Inc.
Monet Workforce Management System
www.leftbanksolutions.com

There are several good workforce management solutions on the market today. The problem is, they are often priced too high for small to mid-sized contact centers. Monet Workforce Management System (WFMS) is the first complete, end-to-end workforce optimization solution designed for small and mid-sized contact centers, and the only end-to-end workforce management solution of which we are aware that is priced under $5,000. Until now, small centers had to resort to using antiquated Erlang calculators and manual spreadsheets to produce call center forecasts and schedules. The Monet WFMS includes all the 'must-have' features needed, including forecasting, scheduling, staffing, intra-day management and integration with ACDs to provide real-time agent adherence features.

In addition to its plethora of features and its unique targeting of the small to-mid-sized call center, Monet is extremely quick to deploy'perhaps the fastest in the industry. With a built-in self-installer, Monet can be installed by someone with little to no technical knowledge in only a few minutes. In addition to its built-in import feature, it has the unique ability to generate the call center's call history using the Quick Data Builder so that within minutes, the call center can begin to create forecasts and schedules. Compare this to the lengthy consulting and training processes of other companies!

Some of its other features include shrinkage, maximum tolerance and abandon levels built into forecasts; the ability to forecast incoming calls, e-mails and other non-call activities; 'what-if' scenarios to see how a change in volume would affect the center; and the ability to manage seasonal and holiday volume through Distinctive Day forecasts.

TMC Labs can unequivocally state that the Monet Workforce Management System has all the features necessary for a small to mid-sized call center to run a 'world class' contact center just like the 'big boys' all in one easy-to-install and easy-to-use application at a fraction of the cost of many competing products.


Linktivity, a division of SpartaCom Technologies, Inc.
WebDemo
www.linktivity.com

Many of us have used some sort of collaboration software to be able to remotely view slide presentations or be able to see someone else's shared screen for product demonstrations or collaborations. Typically, these collaboration solutions use a hosted model, which means that users pay a rental fee each month for using one of these hosted products and never truly 'own' the product. Linktivity aims to change this model with WebDemo, an easy-to-use, in-house server software solution that provides users with all the tools necessary to conduct a highly interactive, Web-based meeting. WebDemo lets users employ the Internet to extend the reach and impact of their ideas to virtually anybody, anywhere in the world. All a user needs to conduct or join a meeting is a computer, an Internet connection and a phone line (for the audio conference).

Available in a cost-effective server package, WebDemo is available in 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 and up to 500 or more concurrent user licenses. As an example, a 10-user license package permits any 10 people to be connected at one time, from any PC. Unlike other Web conferencing products, the licenses aren't specific to any person or PC.

While online with WebDemo, a user can hold a meeting, conduct a training session, perform a sales presentation, demonstrate software live, view, annotate or edit documents, share applications and even do live video conferencing. Linktivity told TMC Labs that their video conferencing feature offers up to 30 frames per second (fps), while most competitors offer only 15 fps. Additional unique features include built-in polling and surveying, the ability to transfer files, document management and the ability to conduct a Web tour.

One of the most technologically innovative aspects of this solution is that it doesn't require client software or a plug-in. WebDemo uses browser-based Java technology that allows attendees to participate using only a Web browser and an Internet connection. There are no uploads to a server such as a user would need for an ASP/hosted solution. Because users have complete command of the appearance and feel of the user interface, they have total control of the data they display and are not uploading potentially confidential information to another person's server.


salesforce.com, Inc.
sforce
www.sforce.com

There are several ASP-model (hosted) CRM applications on the market today. TMC Labs won't waste time extolling the benefits of hosted CRM applications, since those benefits are well known to our educated readers. However, there has always been a serious 'room for improvement' issue that TMC Labs has had with these hosted CRM application companies. We have always wished they would offer the ability for end users to modify and customize the application themselves using open standards. Typically, users get a canned, 'out-of-the-box' experience from these companies, who then charge users for any extra customizations they require.

With salesforce.com's new product, sforce, users can say goodbye to static and closed hosted applications and hello to dynamic, end user-customizable applications using open standards. Essentially, sforce 'opens the hood' to the salesforce.com engine compartment to let users do whatever they want using standards such as XML, SOAP and WSDL. The idea is to extend salesforce.com by making the underlying infrastructure that is used to deliver its hosted CRM service available to other software developers. With sforce, developers will now be able to create and rent out hosted software services of their own.

salesforce.com has partnerships with Microsoft, BEA, Sun and Borland. These partnerships are based on a common commitment to Web services standards (including XML, SOAP and WSDL) that TMC Labs knows will become as important as HTTP. Because of these major partnerships, salesforce.com said its sforce developers can use their favorite tools, including Sun's Sun ONE Studio tools, Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET, Borland's JBuilder and BEA's WebLogic Workshop 8.1.

The sforce Developer Program provides sample code, technical support, tools and salesforce.com Developer Edition. The development tool kit is free, with applications served on the platform costing $50 per end user, plus $1 per megabyte per month. Most important, developers don't pay anything until their apps go live.

sforce is unique with its strong premise of openness and success. Not only can any developer access all the documentation, code, samples and community necessary to build with sforce for free, but companies pay only for applications that have been successfully deployed. This model stands out in contrast to the traditional CRM extension approach, whereby companies are required to spend thousands of dollars just to begin development and thousands more on deployment, regardless of whether the project was successful. Considering that over 60 percent of CRM deployments fail, TMC Labs tips our hat to salesforce.com's innovative approach to providing a truly open solution, solving CRM deployment nightmares (including wasted costs), while at the same time giving developers the opportunity to resell their applications.


Salesnet, Inc.
Salesnet Extended
www.salesnet.com

Salesnet Extended is an online CRM solution that specializes in automating and reinforcing the sales processes and workflows that help sales teams around the world maximize their selling potential. Salesnet Extended users can easily access reports, while also having their critical sales and marketing data come to life via a fully customizable CRM dashboard. One of the key innovations of SalesNet is that the company built 'workflow processes' into its core application. It follows the customer throughout the entire lifecycle  from the first contact to follow-ups to accounting collections. Understanding that the three fundamental constructs in CRM are the contact, the process and the team, Salesnet claims to be the first online CRM solution to build the notion of the team and team selling into the architecture of the system.

Knowing that security is a key worry for companies deploying hosted CRM systems, Salesnet developed the first secure offline CRM solution built on Microsoft SQL Server Desktop and the Microsoft .NET framework and implemented it with high security in mind. Other offline CRM products use unencrypted XML or Excel-based spreadsheets to share data between the offline product and the online database.

Salesnet features comparative analysis and historical snapshot reporting to easily analyze changes, additions and deletions to critical business reports (such as forecasting). In addition, Salesnet's wireless application enables customers to increase the productivity of their sales teams by having anywhere, anytime access to their critical data from any wireless connection, whether via a cell phone, PDA or any other wireless device. It works even without an Internet connection and can handle all the complex synchronization required to keep data up-to-date.

Salesnet's Process Builder allows the customer to assign usage rights to a process for specific positions, teams or users to ensure everyone is using an appropriate process. This ensures that the inside sales team does not mistakenly use the accounting process that was designed strictly for the accounting department. As the salesperson moves along the deal, the Process Builder automatically prompts with the information needed for the next step. By utilizing this defined process, customers are able to easily track and manage ongoing deals and ensure that each salesperson, regardless of location, is following the same process. Too often, customers get lost in CRM databases because the CRM databases merely 'warehouse' the data and don't proactively analyze the data and 'push' business processes and rules to the salesperson or agent, resulting in 'lost in the shuffle customers' and causing lower sales and lower customer satisfaction. TMC Labs was quite impressed with Salesnet's innovative approach to monitoring a customer throughout the entire business process as well as their excellent offline data access capabilities.


SER Solutions
TSP500
www.ser.com

SER's TSP500 is SER Solutions' latest predictive dialing switch, and one the company reports is in compliance with all state and federal regulations. With increased scalability and functionality, the TSP500 supports up to 288 agents, and using SER's patented Smart Pace VI dialing algorithm, it has a highly successful connect rate. In addition, the TSP500 enables contact centers to consolidate their operations through the use of integrated VoIP, connecting remote agents to the predictive dialer switch. Enhanced caller I.D. functionality allows contact center operators to display both the telephone number and designated name of the caller or client for effective campaign management and compliance with FCC and FTC mandates.

TMC Labs was very impressed that the TSP500 can scale to 288 agents, provide VoIP functionality, enhanced caller I.D. capabilities and have a high connect rate all on a single system. To achieve similar capacity, scalability and functionality, many predictive dialers would require the user to purchase multiple systems, which then must be 'daisy-chained' and integrated together.

The new switch provides contact center operators significant cost savings through the ability to consolidate equipment and locations by leveraging the increased agent capacity of the TSP500. Now, rather than supporting 288 agents at multiple locations, a contact center can use a TSP500 at a single location and support up to 288 agents located at the same contact center as the TSP500, or using VoIP can support agents located at one or more remote centers. In addition, the TSP500 provides critical caller I.D. capabilities required by the FCC and FTC.

TMC Labs Innovation Award Winners To Be Featured In The October Issue Of Customer Inter@ction Solutions:

[ Return To The September 2003 Table Of Contents ]


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ITEXPO West 2012
October 2- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
MSPWorld
The World's Premier Managed Services and Cloud Computing Event
Click for Dates and Locations
Mobility Tech Conference & Expo
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
Cloud Communications Summit
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas

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