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Johanne Torres[February 23, 2005]

Spring IT EXPO Exclusive: Experts Head-to-Head in IP Contact Center Shootout

BY JOHANNE TORRES


Yesterday afternoon we ended the first exciting day of Internet Telephony Conference and EXPO with a great panel discussion titled IP Contact Center Shootout at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Miami. During our panel discussion we got to see how four experts explained the advantages of deploying IP-based communication systems in the contact center corporate environment. The following panelists participated in our debate at the Orchid A & B room of the hotel’s lower level IP Contact Center Summit moderated by our own Internet Telephony magazine editorial director Greg Galitzine: Tod Famous—product manager for Cisco Systems; Jonathan Philips—solutions architect for Nortel; Oscar Alban—principal global market consultant for Witness Systems; and Joe McFadden—VP of corporate marketing for Nuasis.


The panelists began the discussion by explaining the differences between residential and corporate contact center VoIP deployments. All panelists emphasized that VoIP deployment within a corporate contact center environment utilizes the clients access to a private network, unlike the residential use of the technology based on the access of the public, unsecured Internet; distinguishing the corporate deployment by making it more secure and reliable when prioritizing voice and its quality. Oscar Alban—principal global market consultant for Witness Systems, explained it well: “Clients need to educate themselves about what voice over IP really is by differentiating between voice over the private/corporate network instead of the general idea of voice over the general opened access Internet.”

When asked what aspects of a traditional corporate contact center system would teams rather not be without, Jonathan Philips—solutions architect for NortelCall said: “contact center managers like to keep their tools the same and have the same kind of access to the reports and information that they are accustomed to use.” Tod Famous—product manager for Cisco Systems said: “Call center teams don’t usually like to disrupt services because the customer contact is basically the core of the business.”

The experts also mentioned the ability of offering customers an extra communication tool only obtainable via an IP-based environment—the ability of using something other than a traditional telephone contact tool, such as e-mail, live chat and even video integration.

All panelists agreed that an IP-based system deployment will allow complete contact between the client site, and its home agents—making outsourcing a feasible and more affordable multi location reach. Explained Tod Famous—product manager for Cisco Systems, “agents working from home use broadband as a powerful tool, making an outsourced IP contact center in countries such as India, for example, to become a cost effective, more affordable reality. Home agents connected via broadband’s demand is increasing.”

One of the industries in which we have been seeing more outsourced contact centers is banking. Oscar Alban—principal global market consultant for Witness Systems said: “Banks use the system to route calls from the main contact center into local branches, since these agents are more than capable, and trained to answer questions and solve any customer problems or questions. It is actually about $11 cheaper to keep someone as a home agent instead of paying for them to work at the office.”

As far as security concerns when deploying an outsourced solution like this, Tod Famous, product manager for Cisco Systems, explained, “when using the public Internet, data security there would be a risk for banking clients, this is why more and more office workers are using client application such as Citrix, to prevent the process and access to data at and to a local PC or notebook.

“Outsourcing has become so popular that our clients tell us that they hire people at the on-site contact centers mostly because they have quotas to fill, and number of working hours to perform,” said Witness Systems’ Alban.

PC-based Softphones vs. IP Phones

Cisco’s Famous: “a high percentage of our clients prefer IP phones to PC-based phones in the call center environment.”

Nuasis’ McFadden: “If you have multimedia services (integrating e-mail, voice, Web, etc) it will be smarter to utilize a softphone. Vendors are all moving to IP, multi media, multi location centers. Call center is the current killer application.”

Our panelists discussed what to remember when you are about to deploy:

  • Look at the whole solution: hardware, software, phones
  • Look at the vendor’s experience
  • Weigh the hype
  • Look for company references
  • Go to conferences such as IT EXPO
  • Talk to current clients
  • Look at the political and business implications
  • Look at presence
  • Learn as much as you can about what your company is planning to do
  • Understand your team’s requirements; don’t depend solely on an IP PBX solution

Throughout this week, I will be keeping you posted on what happens during our Internet Telephony Conference and EXPO Spring 2005 Miami event right from where history unfolds.


Johanne Torres is contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at jtorres@tmcnet.com.

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