So you're building a new call center and you're making a list of
communications paraphernalia that you will need to adequately support your
call center's technological needs. If you're in the call center market,
you already know this list must include a PBX, ACD, predictive dialer, IVR,
auto-attendant and a contact or CRM database. You could buy separate
products that perform each of these functions or you could install
D�cisif's Focus Computer Telephony Suite, which has all this combined
functionality (minus the PBX). D�cisif makes a complete suite of products
which integrates with your existing PBX to provide everything a call
center needs, including skills-based routing, help desk automation,
desktop call control, customer relationship management, campaigns, agent
and queue reporting, customizable scripting and even Web call ticket
A team from D�cisif visited TMC Labs and brought with them a
Windows NT Server PC with all of the software preinstalled, as well as a
Nortel Norstar switch with which to integrate. They also brought a Nortel
CTA 100, which provides the communications layer (CTI events) between the
PC and the Nortel switch. We also used a Teltone analog simulator to
provide simulated analog trunks to the Norstar switch, and two standard
Nortel phones with LCD displays to represent call center agents. We hooked
up the hardware and phone lines in a matter of minutes without
encountering any difficulties. We had planned to uninstall and reinstall
the software to see how easy the software installation would go, however,
this would have erased all the sample data that were included on the
server. Since end users would not typically perform the software
installation (a VAR would), and since we wanted to keep the sample data,
we decided it was not necessary to reinstall the software.
This product has many features that require extensive reading of the
manuals. We felt it was a bit difficult for a new administrator to compile
all the information needed, which is scattered across several manuals.
Although training is included in the price of D�cisif's product, the
manuals should be better organized.
Thus, we would suggest having a Getting Started Guide, with a
hypothetical call center consisting of five agents, four ACD queues and
two IVR scripts. The Getting Started Guide should go step-by-step through
the process of setting up this hypothetical call center. Learning by
example is often the best way to understand a product and how to configure
it. The manuals are three-ring binders and include tab dividers to
separate each section. Unfortunately, the tab dividers have only numbers
on them and we could find no reference to these numbers. We would like to
see descriptions on the tab dividers for easier reference to a particular
topic. One item we like about the documentation is the series of excellent
tables of contents, although each tab-divided section has its own table of
contents, with no apparent "master" table of contents at the
beginning. This was a bit confusing at first, since we assumed the first
table of contents was "comprehensive," encompassing each
section, but this was not the case.
Listing all the features of this product is beyond the scope of this
review, but we will cover the major ones. One very important feature is
skills-based routing. An agent can be assigned to various skills with a
"weighted" value or score assigned to each skill to allow the
ACD to assign the call to the most appropriate available agent. Another
routing method supported by this product is the round robin method, which
is based on agent idle time. In addition, the suite automatically sends
all available customer information via simultaneous screen-pops to the
targeted agent's desktop. A graphical user interface allows real-time
status monitoring of agents, groups and events for effective management of
the company's informal call center.
The Focus Predictive Dialer module is designed for sophisticated
outbound campaigns. The dialer can detect busy, no answer, voice mail,
fax/modem or human response and instantly connect the line with an
available agent. This module features simultaneous campaign processing,
real-time control, agent/application grouping, answering machine/fax tone
detection and more. It also supports VBA for custom programming
The D�cisif Telephony API is implemented as a COM/DCOM (ActiveX)
component. It can be used by developers in any programming language that
supports COM/DCOM specifications (VB, VC++, Delphi etc.).
Other important features of the suite include call blending, campaigns,
real-time graphical analysis and reporting, IVR/auto-attendant, screen-pop
with relevant customer information, predictive dialing and customizable
IVR and agent routing via a Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) language.
The Focus CT Suite consists of several modules, including Focus IVR,
Focus Intelligent Message Router, Focus Predictive Dialer, Focus Report,
Focus Agent Console, Focus Contact, Focus Contact Web and Focus Contact
Telecom, all of which were extensively tested by TMC� Labs. The
highlights of our findings follow.
Just as its name indicates, this module is the interactive voice
response module responsible for the personalization and automation of
voice processing. This module can manage complex, multiple self-service
applications simultaneously and includes a VBA programming environment.
From this VBA environment, you can create scripts to perform tasks such as
playing a prompt and routing calls to specific queues, as well as allow
callers to input and retrieve information from ODBC-compliant databases.
TMC� Labs was very impressed with the power and flexibility provided by
VBA (a well-known programming language among developers) in designing IVR
applications. We found we could set breakpoints and trace our way through
the code. One feature we noticed was conspicuously absent from the IVR
module, though, was the ability to right-click on an IVR port and reset
Focus Intelligent Message Router
Skills-based routing is the heart of any call center, and D�cisif's
IMR module is no exception. Before we continue, we should explain that
D�cisif uses the term "queue" to denote "skills." We
set up several queues (operator, sales, support) and assigned four agents
to one or more of these queues. We were also able to assign "skill
levels" to each agent so calls could be routed according to an
agent's proficiency in any particular set of skills.
Next, we logged on both John Agent201 and Bill Agent202 by pressing a
designated "agent log-on" button on their respective Norstar
phones. We then dialed into the IVR from an analog phone plugged into the
Teltone simulator. The IVR prompted us to "press 1 for sales, 2 for
support, etc." We pressed "1" for sales and the IVR said,
"Please hold while we connect your call." We examined the
Telephony Console and could see that the call was routed to John Agent201,
the first available agent in the sales queue. At the same time, John
Agent201's phone rang and we answered the call.
With this call still live, we made another call into the IVR system and
again pressed "1" for sales. Since we purposely set only one
agent in the sales queue, there was no agent available and this time the
caller was put on hold in the sales queue. Once we hung up the first call,
John Agent201's phone rang again and the second call was connected. We
should point out that D�cisif allows you to set wrap-up times, but for
testing purposes, we had it set to immediately "go available"
once an agent terminated the current call. We should point out that the
IMR module also supports "round robin routing" to route calls
based on agent idle time.
Focus Agent Console
The agent console allows you to perform desktop call control and
includes the ability to display contact information using caller I.D. to
query a database. When we transferred an incoming call to another agent,
the information on the caller was transferred along with the call. We were
impressed with the fact that similar to the IVR module, Focus Agent
Console also uses the VBA programming environment, which opens the door to
some intriguing possibilities.
We were impressed with this module due to its extensive amount of
built-in canned reports as well as its ease of use. Focus Condition
Builder allows even a novice user to build filters for creating custom
reports. Some example reports you can view are problems reported, handled
or resolved; campaign success rates; and agent productivity (including
agent talk time, agent idle time and total number of inbound calls). One
feature that call center managers will love is that they don't have to
change the date or enter a date range to run a certain report. The report
auto-adjusts to the current applicable date, allowing a user to click on
"this month," "last week," "this week,"
"yesterday," etc. As a result, with a single click, a call
center manager can view his or her favorite report.
Contact is D�cisif's customer relationship management (CRM) software
and was designed to keep track of all customer relationship information.
This module allows call centers to keep track of all customer transactions
and includes the ability to create "call tickets," which can be
opened or closed (resolved). We noticed the GUI was based on Microsoft
Outlook, which will help shorten the learning curve. Using CTI, Contact
can be integrated into your phone system so that each inbound/outbound
call will generate a Contact screen-pop with all relevant call information
displayed on the agent's desktop.
Focus Contact Web
D�cisif has extended its impressive Contact module to the Web to
allow customers to open, close or change a call ticket. Now customers can
see the status of their existing problems as well as close tickets on
their own, which can save agents' valuable time.
Room For Improvement
We were unsure whether a score applied to a particular agent's skill
was better if it was a lower number or a higher number. This is a
situation in which context-sensitive help in the software would be
beneficial, eliminating the need to hunt for the information in the
manuals. On a related note, and something that we mentioned previously,
the manuals should have descriptive tab separators. There were also too
many separate tables of contents and we felt there should be a
"master" table of contents and index for the whole binder. The
Contact manual should also contain help on configuring and using the Web
interface. Infact, a manual on how to use the Web interface was nowhere to
Within the Telephony Console, in the Call Center view, you cannot
double-click on an agent to edit the agent's settings, although we
discovered you can right-click and choose "Open" to edit the
One final item that could be improved is the inclusion of a multimedia
tutorial about how to make the most use of this product. We were sent a
demo CD that contained a "sales presentation" and high-level
overview of the product, but we think an in-depth multimedia tutorial
would be quite beneficial, although D�cisif provides extensive training
on its product.
D�cisif describes its product as a "call center in a box"
and TMC� Labs couldn't agree more, considering this product has nearly
everything a call center needs to get started. We were especially pleased
with the user-friendly graphical interface, easy-to-use canned or
customizable reports, the ability to customize your application using
Visual Basic and the built-in CRM capabilities. What many potential
customers will like most about this product is that it doesn't necessarily
require a VAR to maintain, manage or modify the system. This system is so
easy to use that after an initial setup by a VAR, the actual management of
the system, including campaigns, IVR applications and more, can be
performed by a company's internal MIS department or possibly even a call
center manager. It's that easy to use! For this reason, as well as for the
large feature set and excellent customization capabilities, we
enthusiastically bestow our Editors' Choice Award on D�cisif's Focus
to the July 2000 table of contents ]