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The TMC Labs Innovation Awards are now in their seventh year, and still TMC Labs is amazed at the continual innovation being brought to market in the contact center space to improve training, increase morale, reduce turnover, increase efficiency and reduce infrastructure software and hardware costs. The TMC Labs Innovation Award’s sole purpose is to distinguish products and services that have unique features and that often help to carve out a new market niche or start a trend. This award is also about recognizing products and services with creative and ground-breaking features their competitors’ solutions often lack.

TMC Labs researched each of the applications and eventually arrived at our winners’ list. These winners will be published in two parts in order to accommodate our in-depth write-ups for the winning solutions. Part two of the winners’ list will be highlighted in the October 2006 issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions. Congratulations to all the winners.

Tom Keating
Chief Technology Officer, TMC;
Executive Technology Editor, TMC Labs

Editor’s note: The following TMC Labs Innovation Award winners will be highlighted in Part II in the October 2006 issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions.
COMPANY
Mitel (News - Alert)
Nexidia, Inc.
Nortel (News - Alert)
Pegasystems (News - Alert)
Salesforce.com (News - Alert)
Spanlink Communications
The SAVO Group
Toshiba (News - Alert) Telecommunication Systems Division
Verint Systems (News - Alert)

Amcat
Amcat Contact Center Suite
www.amcat.com
Which is better: buying individual “best of breed” call center products in various genres, integrating them all together or buying a single solution that may not be the “best of breed” in each genre, but it doesn’t have the integration hassles, offers a single unified interface and can be orders of magnitude less in initial cost, as well as offer a lower TCO (total cost of ownership)? Well, Amcat is betting on the latter by offering its Contact Center Suite, a comprehensive call center solution that offers IVR, ACD, CTI, workforce management, predictive dialing, voice recording, multichannel contact (e-mail, fax, SMS, Web) and IP contact center functionality all rolled into one.

Focused on the small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) and call center market, Amcat provides an excellent solution for the fastest-growing and largest marketplace for customer contact solutions. Amcat Contact Center Suite offers a comprehensive path to IP customer contact, including VoIP and Web callback functionality. Amcat is unique in that it offers a choice in IP hardware supporting both the Intel (News - Alert) IPLINK IP product line and the Aculab (News - Alert) Prosody X product line. The Prosody X product is ideal for organizations with contact centers in different countries or continents because it is not tied to a specific communications protocol. Under a cost-free license, it includes signaling protocols for VoIP (SIP, H.323) and for TDM including DPNSS, Euro ISDN, NI-2, Q.SIG and SS7.

Amcat Communication Framework is a powerful software platform that provides next-generation communication capabilities for call centers. It was created using Intel’s Communication Services Framework (CSF). The Intel CSF provides Amcat developers with a high-level, object-oriented interface that abstracts the underlying Intel Dialogic telephony interface, allowing Amcat developers to focus purely on application development. Because of this, Amcat can easily integrate its solution with almost any element of the Intel telephony product line as well as many third-party solutions such as Aculab’s Prosody X.
The Amcat SIP softphone eliminates the need for a telephone handset or PBX for distributed sites and remote representatives. The Amcat Agent Web-based Desktop Application is Amcat’s next-generation IP agent desktop. Since it is HTML-based, it enables customers to access various data sources, other applications, or connect to an intranet or the Internet.
With a single unified platform, Amcat provides a consistent methodology for managing both the interactions and all the associated customer and product data, saving time and delivering better customer service. Amcat’s solution is based on Microsoft’s ( News - Alert) .NET Framework, making data sharing and software integration very easy. It also leverages Microsoft clustering for fault-tolerance.

Aspect Software (News - Alert) , Inc.
Aspect eWorkforce Management 7.0
www.aspect.com
Contact centers need to accurately plan, manage and optimize their staffing resources to save on labor costs and improve customer service. Aspect eWorkforce Management (eWFM) 7.0 provides all types of contact centers with a set of powerful workforce optimization and strategic planning tools that automate the complex tasks of managing the workforce and enhancing productivity.

Aspect eWFM 7.0 supports outsourced, in-house, hosted, single-site, multisite, multiskill, multichannel, inbound, outbound and/or blended, covering the entire spectrum of performance optimization. Several enhancements were made in version 7.0. First, there is a new and improved user interface adding enhanced usability and increased efficiency in performing daily workforce management tasks. Aspect also added new navigational functionality and data manipulation capabilities to improve usability and reduce training costs. Additionally, the solution offers more languages, including Chinese (simplified and traditional), Korean and Japanese, bringing the total number of supported languages to eight.

In addition to traditional inbound scheduling, eWFM also handles outbound scheduling. A sophisticated algorithm helps organizations to schedule the right number of agents to handle the predicted outbound and inbound/outbound blended workload and to maximize the number of contacts made and revenue generated. It produces accurate staffing forecasts based on contact completion information, blending rules and standard staff group parameters. Customized data regarding campaign size and passes can also be used. Additionally, the software effectively tracks schedule performance, including offered and handled contacts and contact handle time, so real-time adjustments can be made quickly and easily.

TMC Labs liked that eWFM can handle multiskill scheduling for multimedia communication channels, adds real-time schedule adherence monitoring, while also enabling Web-based agent self service. The software features accurate demand forecasting and allows users to create “what-if” scenarios to evaluate future needs or campaigns. Call centers can also track intra-day performance so managers can react quickly. The product also features adherence monitoring, historical reporting and real-time monitoring tools to help ensure agents adhere to schedules, and helps identify agents or groups who are the most or least productive. The most innovative aspect of the Aspect software (pun intended) is that it offers inbound, outbound and blended functionality, combined with forecasting, scheduling and adherence along with quality management features — all in a single comprehensive product.

Citrix Online
GoTo Webinar
www.citrix.com
Citrix has been providing remote access solutions for many years to improve the productivity of workforce employees. Over the years, Citrix has leveraged its expertise in screen-sharing technology (compressing screen pixels, mouse movements and keystrokes) to offer application streaming, application virtualization and Web collaboration software. Citrix GoToWebinar is Citrix’s managed online event service designed to enable online Webinars and targeting the small to medium-sized business market, leveraging their screen-sharing expertise.

In fact, GoToWebinar uses proprietary bandwidth-adaptive compression and screen-sharing technology used in other Citrix products to enable event organizers to meet with attendees using a variety of Internet connections. Bandwidth adaptive compression technology provides faster performance, and screen-sharing technology provides excellent 24-bit color.
GoToWebinar is similar to Citrix’s GoToMeeting Corporate; however, GoToMeeting allows only 25 members, whereas GoToWebinar was designed to handle up to an astonishing 1,000 users, making it perhaps the most scalable solution in the market. GoToWebinar also features recording, live annotation and mark-up, text chat, an attendees’ panel and very good scheduling and invitation functionality.

Using Dashboard, organizers can monitor overall attendee attentiveness displayed as a percentage. In other words, the host of the Webinar can see whether any attendee has temporarily switched to another application during the Webinar. This isn’t meant as a tattletale feature, but rather to measure the Webinar’s overall ability to hold the audience’s attention. Poor attention may indicate the need for better content, shorter duration or a different speaker. In addition, users can also measure and record attendees’ feedback and satisfaction with the session. Webinars can be recorded (both the screen and the audio) and can be distributed as standard Windows Media files.

GoToWebinar features advanced security and industry-standard encryption for maximum privacy and data protection. GoToWebinar allows users to start using Web events instantly with a flat-rate subscription to the service. Many Webinar packages base price on usage instead of a flat-rate. Citrix calls this licensing “all you can reach” and it includes planning, presentation and reporting functions for one flat fee with no hidden charges.

CustomerSat, Inc.
CustomerSat Enterprise
www.customersat.com
CustomerSat Enterprise is a hosted (ASP) survey solution designed to gather customer and market feedback by multiple channels; e.g., online, phone, speech-enabled IVR and PDA, then deliver real-time analytics on survey results — frequency distributions, cross tabs, correlations, trend lines and other statistics. These results are delivered to a portal and can be measured via interactive dashboards and “push” (e-mailed) reports. Most important, it delivers these real-time analytics on survey results without requiring MIS intervention to perform complex database queries. It also allows users to define business rules and alerts that will automatically open and assign survey cases when customer satisfaction and KPIs fall below specified thresholds.
CustomerSat Enterprise is a true innovator in the online survey market. It was the first to create an online, real-time generation of survey cross-tabs (1997), and the company claims to be the first to offer real-time trend lines of call center customer satisfaction online (1998). CustomerSat also claims to be the first to offer pop-up-on-exit surveys for Web visitors exiting a Web site (1999) and the company has a U.S. patent to boot. Their newest release includes integration of CRM-class case management and reporting features in an online survey system. For example, if a customer has the case closed and gives low scores for the case resolution (entered into the CRM system), this can automatically kick off a CustomerSat survey, which can be used to address what caused the customer’s dissatisfaction.

An innovative feature to note is how well CustomerSat manages bounced survey invitations (out of office, mailbox full, etc.). CustomerSat Enterprise provides an automated bounce e-mail manager that receives, interprets, categorizes and files these bounced e-mail invitations. CustomerSat sorts bounced messages of different types into separate e-mail boxes that users can access and quickly process. This feature eliminates a common labor-intensive task and improves e-mail list quality.
The latest version enables CustomerSat users to graphically analyze, sort and prioritize cases based on such attributes as case I.D., case name, category, date created, days remaining until closure deadline, days since activity, goal in days (closure goal), number of days case has been open, case outcome and days since deadline passed. These case reporting and management features make CustomerSat Enterprise a unique hybrid between an advanced online survey system and a CRM system.

CustomerVision, Inc.
CustomerVision BizWiki
www.customervision.com
Wikis have become a very popular collaborative and democratic exercise in allowing users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. The most popular example, of course, is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that relies on users to provide and edit content. Enterprises are now looking to deploy secured wikis in the corporate environment.

CustomerVision BizWiki delivers the first Web 2.0 enterprise-ready wiki that blends the power of collaboration with content creation using a user-friendly WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. CustomerVision told TMC Labs, “We believed there was a gap in corporate and/or member communication between what happens in e-mail and traditional content management solutions or Web portals. CustomerVision saw the opportunity and gap to fill a communication need between the two that enables collaboration, manageability and usability.”

BizWiki addresses companies’ needs to create a medium for rapidly sharing knowledge, developing new ideas and capturing repeatable business process. CustomerVision BizWiki combines the power of content management, wiki collaboration, RSS (real simple syndication) and “ask the expert” workflow functionality into the BizWiki for an end user to securely and effectively capture and share a company’s intellectual capital.

CustomerVision stated that their solution is deployable in minutes. In addition, with security levels necessary for an enterprise deployment, CustomerVision BizWiki blends itself as a portal or portlet off any customer Web site and enables usability back and forth with e-mail interaction and alerting to draw users to the wiki and keep them coming back.
The software features templates for powerful CMS-like functionality and easy, on-the-fly design changes, full text search with advanced query options, as well as the ability to tag pages with additional keywords for improved search and display. Other nice features include threaded discussion support, blogging support and e-mail alerts.

etalk
Qfiniti Explore
www.etalk.com
Qfiniti Explore is a speech analytics solution that uses a combination of voice processing technology and conceptual search capabilities to allow organizations to automatically find recorded customer calls for customer intelligence, business process automation and quality monitoring purposes, saving time and cost over manual call monitoring.

etalk leverages the Intelligent Data Operation Layer (IDOL) engine from its parent company Autonomy, a market leader in enterprise search. Most customer information that passes through the call center is in some form of unstructured data, such as recorded calls, e-mails, PDF files, etc. etalk leverages the IDOL engine to analyze and be used to search unstructured data and help the contact center more strategically analyze its customer intelligence.

Qfiniti Explore is quite innovative in that it can find calls based on the “meaning” or the context of the conversation, returning the most relevant recordings based on the concepts discussed in the conversation. It is also unique in its Trend Spotting functionality, which automatically groups together related concepts and displays in a visual map to highlight common themes being discussed in calls. Having a contextual understanding means that Explore can distinguish between calls using the same words but with entirely different meanings, reducing false positives and wasted time.

FrontRange Solutions
GoldMine IP Voice Suite
www.frontrange.com
In the 1990s, the integration between the phone system and CRM databases required expensive and often proprietary CTI (computer-telephony integration) software and/or hardware to interface between the PBX and the CRM software. Today, with the advent of IP-PBXs and VoIP solutions that sit on the network, as well as open standards such as SIP, the convergence between various business applications is much easier and less expensive.

GoldMine IP Voice Suite is a unique customer interaction solution that combines IP telephony and CRM into a single, comprehensive solution. The innovative offering features a VoIP telephony application that includes full integration to GoldMine Corporate Edition CRM. This integration between the phone and the CRM application helps companies elevate the quality of interactions with their customers, which in turn boosts sales, increases customer loyalty and raises the productivity of service teams. As calls come in, GoldMine IP Voice Suite triggers screen pops of customer records from the GoldMine database. For outbound calling campaigns, users can click to dial from customer records, as well as other productivity-enhancing features such as preview dialing, calling scripts and campaign status reporting.

Other advanced functionality is built-in, including the ability for employees to one-click record conversations (transaction, customer complaint, etc.) and attach the recordings to customer records for later review. In a similar manner, inbound customer voice mails are saved as audio files right in the GoldMine customer history, instead of an employees’ personal phone.
Most important, GoldMine IP Voice Suite offers a single vendor solution that provides advanced CRM, VoIP, call center and CTI functionality that perfectly addresses small to medium-sized companies’ limited budgets and the technical know-how required to integrate and maintain several disparate systems.

GFI Software
GFI EndPointSecurity
www.gfi.com
As removable storage devices become more prevalent, especially portable removable storage devices such as USB memory sticks, the need for securing these devices in the enterprise becomes paramount. GFI is a software provider that offers IT departments popular software utilities including anti-spam software, anti-virus, server monitor and fax software. The company has now added the ability to secure portable removable devices. GFI EndPointSecurity lets companies secure entry and exit of data via portable storage devices, allowing organizations to prevent users from taking confidential data or introducing viruses and Trojans to the network.

GFI EndPointSecurity allows companies to actively manage user access to media players (including iPod and Creative Zen), USB sticks, CompactFlash, memory cards, PDAs, Blackberries, mobile phones, CDs/DVDs, floppies and more. This device control solution allows administrators to actively manage user access by defining which users can use removable media centrally from Active Directory simply by making these users members of pre-defined groups.
GFI EndPointSecurity was the first product to feature a group-based approach for assigning policies to computers. This unique approach offers the customer more ease-of-use for defining device access permissions, and also provides single-click network-wide deployment of the GFI EndPointSecurity agent.

GFI EndPointSecurity’s group-based approach allows the user to first set up groups, each defining the policy for a set of computers. When a policy is defined, one or more computers can be added to the policy, which marks the computers with a pending update state. At any time, pending updates can be deployed via a single click, which will trigger deployment on all computers. Finally, administrators have the ability to monitor the use of a removable device and even block access if the activity is suspected of compromising the integrity of corporate data or the security of the network.

IEX Corporation, a NICE Systems (News - Alert) company
IEX TotalView Workforce Management system
www.iex.com
IEX has been a leader in providing workforce management solutions since workforce management (WFM) solutions were invented. WFM solutions are designed to improve the scheduling and agent management processes by automating tedious tasks and performing complex calculations. IEX actually pioneered many advanced WFM features. The company was the first to create a multisite WFM solution. Some other innovative firsts claimed by IEX include: the first system to have a true client-server architecture, the first to offer Web-based agent self-service applications, and the first system to support skills-based routing in a multisite environment and with multiple call routing configurations.

IEX’s TotalView Workforce Management system enables contact centers to deliver consistent service with lower operating costs while at the same time increasing employee morale.

TotalView’s advanced features include skills-based and multimedia scheduling (e-mail, Web chat, fax, inbound, outbound, etc.), 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 features utilizing a single-server architecture that enables easy system installation and maintenance.

InQuira, Inc.
InQuira 7
www.inquira.com
InQuira 7 customer interaction platform helps companies accelerate the time to sales conversions and time to service resolution, through intelligence that understands customer needs and delivers an optimized response online. InQuira’s core products include Intelligent Search, Knowledge Management and Analytics solutions for Web marketing, Web self-service and call centers.
InQuira helps enterprises engage their Web site visitors in an experience that is satisfying to both parties. Rather than having to list every possible keyword combination or permutation, InQuira can understand the intent or semantic meaning behind visitor’s search behavior (using natural language technology) and use that insight to deliver a personalized experience specific to each person’s needs. The company’s technology can reduce thousands of searches into “true intent” categories, and customers can have a manageable number of interactions, around which the business can formulate an intelligent response.

InQuira is the first to develop and market intent libraries for several vertical markets. Intents refer to the meaning behind the different ways people articulate their needs, and they serve two distinct purposes: they provide a way for companies and their Web site visitors to engage in a rewarding online dialog, and through this dialog they help companies increase sales conversions, decrease service resolution times and deflect calls away from live call center agents.

InQuira helps enterprises address their business problems by reducing support costs. It does this by minimizing calls and e-mails to call centers as well as solving problems such as inadequate site search, ineffective online marketing, ineffective Web self-service and the inability to understand customer needs.

M1 Global Solutions, Inc.
Business Convergence Platform
www.m1global.com
M1 Global’s Business Convergence Platform is a standards-based communications platform that enables companies to create and deliver communication-enabled business processes on-demand by harnessing the power of network convergence and service-oriented architecture (SOA) in a single, hosted platform.

The M1 Business Convergence Platform consists of a hosted IP-based communications infrastructure (which includes the PBX, VoIP equipment, IVR, Web servers, e-mail servers and chat/collaboration servers, etc.) controlled by the M1 Business Convergence Suite, a unique business process management (BPM) software suite capable of modeling and executing voice, Web and data flows using a visual, drag-and-drop modeling tool.

According to M1 Global, “This unique architecture enables a business analyst or IT professional with limited coding skills to design a multichannel business process model, translate the process model into the desired application and then execute the application on our platform to orchestrate communication channels such as voice, Web, e-mail, etc., manage people-based workflow including complex skills-based routing of tasks, and integrate to Web services and other data sources.” The on-demand nature of the platform enables an organization to test the benefits of SOA, BPM and even VoIP and voice self-service without large capital expenditures. M1 states, “We are the first to incorporate the functionality of business process management and its benefits of simplification, control, adaptability and integration that come with it, into the world of multichannel interaction management.”

The Convergence Studio serves as a centralized modeling tool for accessing and customizing the integrated interaction management. In fact, the M1 Convergence Studio is the first business process modeling tool capable of modeling a multichannel business process involving voice, Web and data flows in a single environment. This eliminates the costs and complexities associated with integrating several disparate systems as well as the ongoing management. Finally, it’s important to note that M1 uses an MPLS VPN to deliver VoIP services with guaranteed quality of service for voice.

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