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labs.GIF (1895 bytes)
July 2000


Focus CT Suite

D�cisif, Inc.
4 Place du Commerce
Suite 500
Montr�al, Qu�bec
Canada H3E 1J4
Ph: 888-517-2929
F: 514-362-0456
Web site: http://www.decisif.com

Price: Base (4-port IVR) - $10,000, $750 per additional IVR port. ACD and Predictive Dialer starts at an additional $10,000 - includes five agents. Additional agents are approximately $1,000 each. Special pricing for bundles. All pricing includes an installed and configured server and training.

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Installation: 5
Documentation: 3.5
Features: 5
GUI: 4.75
Overall: A

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 integration.

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 applications.

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.

Operational Testing
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.

Focus IVR
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 it.

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.

Focus Reports
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.

Focus Contact
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 be found.

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 settings.

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 Suite.

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