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December 1999


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Oh What Changes Time Hath Wrought

BY RICH TEHRANI,
GROUP PUBLISHER, TMC


Recently, I was reflecting on the early days of the call center market. In 1982 when this publication was launched, the word call center was over half a decade away from being coined and we called the process of making or taking phone calls for any reason "telemarketing." Furthermore, automation was almost nonexistent: many couldn't fathom the additional expense of computerization. In those days, most telemarketing agents used index cards to keep track of all of their clients.

The larger telemarketing centers did have minicomputers or mainframes, but small to medium businesses were not so fortunate. Some of the first contact management systems to make a dent in this market were Telemagic and Salemaker, which were PC-based, single-user products at first. In the mid 1980s, companies such as Brock Control and others released Unix-based telemarketing center applications as well.

Even at that stage, however, call center technology decisions were simple—a few software apps to choose from, a few different ACDs and a predictive dialer manufacturer or two. A look at the call center industry today paints a dramatically different landscape than days of yore. Today, there are so many decisions to be made, I don't envy the people tasked with building call centers.

One of the biggest changes to the call center market is the new focus on customer relationship management (CRM). We've covered CRM heavily in this publication since our very first issues, way before the term was even coined. The logistics are obvious: back then, the call center was the primary place for customers to contact your company, thus it was the primary place where CRM transactions took place. As the market has evolved, so has this publication, so as of January 2000 this publication will enhance its name to "[email protected] Center CRM Solutions™" to more clearly reflect its coverage.

We must all adapt to change or perish. The Internet has had a profound impact on how call center products need to be purchased. Web, e-mail and chat integration are only a few items that must be taken into consideration in order to launch a successful contact center. And every purchase must be made with the underlying goal of providing superior CRM.

What makes all of this especially fun for me, someone whose job it is to keep track of all the changes in the market, is the amount of new players on the scene. Recently, Alcatel entered this market head on with their purchase of Genesys. 3Com will soon make a major push into the call center market with their NBX product line. And Cisco, a company that has made numerous acquisitions in this space, is poised to become a dominant player in the call center market in the very near future.

Of course, every new entrant into the call center market has a long-term and short-term strategy. Many of them are quite intriguing — I wish I had time to report on them all. As Cisco Systems is an extremely dominant leader in the router market, virtually owning the Internet, they have enough money to purchase as many companies as needed to dominate any market they wish. Currently, one of their main focal points is on this market and billions of dollars of acquisition are only the beginning of their strategy.

I thought it interesting to analyze Cisco's call center strategy in full detail, including how they divide up their various business units that deal with this and related markets. Whether or not you think you are ever going to be a Cisco customer, you must take their long-term vision seriously as they have proven to be ferocious competitors in the router and Internet telephony space, so I am sure they will have a dramatic impact on this industry as a whole.

After making a number of acquisitions such as Selsius, GeoTel and WebLine that all touch on the contact center, Cisco formed the Cisco Application Technology Group. This group is tasked with developing applications for customer contact and unified messaging across the enterprise, service provider, and small/medium business markets.

Cisco's goal is to deliver products that give companies the flexibility to interact with their customers via phone, Web, fax and e-mail while maintaining tight integration with existing ACD, IVR, network and desktop applications. By unifying the systems underlying voice and data distribution, they are enabling companies to implement "new-world" solutions at their own pace while leveraging their current technology infrastructure investments. Moreover, Cisco is concentrating heavily on giving their customers the ability to manage every contact center resource from a single control point, enabling companies to rapidly adapt their operations to evolving customer expectations and changing market conditions.

Business Units
The Customer Contact Business Unit (CCBU) develops and markets Cisco ICM software, intelligent contact management solutions based on technology acquired from GeoTel Communications. CCBU products enable premises-based contact centers to personalize service and enhance customer retention by supporting multimedia contact channels, multivendor technology platforms, enterprise answering resources, including small office/home office (SOHO) agents, and network-to-desktop CTI.

The Network Applications Business Unit (NABU) develops and markets Cisco NAM software, network applications management solutions based on technology acquired from GeoTel Communications. NABU products enable service providers to expand addressable markets, increase customer loyalty and reduce operating costs by delivering value-added services such as network voice applications, VPN, virtual call center and network CTI.

The Unified Communications Software Business Unit (UCSBU) develops and markets Cisco GateServer software, unified messaging applications based on technology acquired from Amteva Technologies. UCSBU products enable service providers to reduce churn, increase revenue and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) by providing a single, unified means to satisfy all of a customer’s fax, voice mail and e-mail requirements.

Cisco ICM Software
For premises-based applications, Cisco ICM software is an enterprisewide, intelligent contact management solution based on GeoTel’s Intelligent CallRouter. ICM software enables a company to effectively manage customer interaction by intelligently distributing incoming requests from multiple contact channels, including carrier networks, the Internet, fax and e-mail, to resources across the enterprise such as ACD and IVR systems, SOHO agents and desktop applications. As each incoming request is received, the system profiles the customer to select the most appropriate resource the first time. ICM software scales to support single-site or multisite contact centers.

Cisco NAM Software
Cisco NAM software delivers network applications management capabilities to the service provider market. This solution, which is based on the GeoTel Network ICR platform, enables service providers to participate as full partners with their customers in all aspects of customer interaction. Most fundamentally, carriers can now offer full-featured automatic call distribution (ACD) as a network service using network agents combined with a customer’s own ACD agents in an enterprisewide virtual call center.

Network prompting and CTI can be provided either in the network or on a customer site or both, with complete customer control and integrated call processing across all platforms.

With the entrance of so many new companies into the call center space, we can expect fresh new ideas on how we can improve our customer relationships. Before you make your next call center product selection decision, make sure to consider long-time players as well as the new entrants. Every call center is unique and it may just be a blend of products from old and new players that you need to put together the most ideal solution for your corporate needs.

Sincerely,

Rich Tehrani
Group Publisher
rtehrani@tmcnet.com 


Complete Your Education At Our Spring 2000 EXPO

As new technologies emerge and it becomes more and more challenging to keep up with the advancements in the call center market, where does one go to figure out how to prepare their organization for the future? Believe it or not, even in this Web-based world of ours, trade shows are still the best way to learn about the latest products and compare them for yourselves.

As technology has evolved, so has our trade show. Effective in spring 2000, our expo will have a new name, COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTIONS ™ EXPO, which provides a much more accurate description of the types of products and services on display on the exhibit hall floor than did the former name, CTI™ EXPO. We are excited to bring this show back to this nation’s capital April 26-28th. If you register online today at www.ctiexpo.com, you will save the $50 entry fee that will be charged at the exhibit hall door.

Realizing that you are busy and that your time is precious, we have spent days constructing a conference program for COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTIONS™ EXPO.

While we have extremely detailed descriptions of each conference for your perusal on the Web and in brochures in this magazine, I will summarize some of what I consider to be the most appealing sessions to aid in your decision-making process.

PRE-CONFERENCE
CTI Solutions
The Open Telephony Trend - And Its Limitless Possibilities
Learn about next-gen communications servers with open interfaces that you can forever expand and never outgrow.
The PC-PBX — The Next Big Disruptive (and Empowering) Technology
A less expensive PBX, a more open PBX and a more programmable PBX. You can’t lose.

Internet Telephony Solutions Track
IP @ Work — Advances In Enterprise LAN-Based Telephony
Steps to take so you are not left behind in the race to merge your corporate voice and data networks.

E-Sales—E-Service Solutions Track
Dot Com To Income: Turning A Profit In The Internet Channel
Processes and procedures necessary for winning in the electronic marketplace.
Foiling The Hackers: Implementing E-Commerce Security
Learn how to safeguard your company and your consumers.
Helping Customers Help Themselves Through Better Web Site Design
A well-designed Web site allows potential buyers to find all the information they need before they buy.
Why You Need Chat And Instant Messaging On Your Company’s Web Site
Properly implemented, chat and instant messaging capabilities on your Web site can take the place of expensive toll-free telephone calls.
Listen To Your Customers: Using Feedback To Improve Sales
Wouldn’t it be valuable to find out why your e-shoppers don’t complete transactions? Gain valuable insight on how to design effective survey and polling campaigns.

Call Center Human Resource Solutions
Taming Turnover With Solid Employment Strategies
Become enlightened on the hiring strategies you need to maintain a full house.
Money Or Motivation: What Counts More?
Proven motivation and compensation options for you to consider and match to your individual circumstances.
Training 2000: Time For Updates
Quickly come up to speed on training your staff how to communicate via all the new forms of customer interaction.
Logging & Monitoring: Big Brother Or Better Business?
These technologies can only mean better business for all involved: you, your reps, your customers — and your bottom line.
Who’s On First? Ending The Work-force Management Nightmare
Learn how today’s workforce management solutions have evolved to meet the needs of evolving call centers and their ever-demanding customers.

MAIN CONFERENCE
CTI Solutions
All Eyes Are On Applications That Are All Ears — The Triumph Of Speech Recognition
Learn how to teach your application to listen to what your customers have to say.
Getting The Response You Want: Creating Customer-Pleasing IVR Applications
A user-friendly IVR is a must today, and this session will help you decide what your customers are looking for when they call you in the first place.
Is Your Voice Processing System Somewhat Spartan? Maybe It’s Time To Consider Something More Sumptuous
With everything voice processing has to offer, there’s really no need to settle for something austere. Attend this session, and explore your options.

CRM Solutions Track
Using Knowledge Bases For Better CRM
Techniques and technologies available to allow you to connect your company’s touch points to your corporate knowledge bases.
Technologies & Techniques For Data Mining And Warehousing
This session will focus on the database tools available for creating common data repositories as well as the data mining resources that allow access to this information by the people who need it.
The Nuts And Bolts Of CRM
Find out which departments are involved in CRM, how to change your business processes for successful CRM and which technologies you will need to implement an effective CRM solution.
Using CRM To Target Your Best Prospects
Get the information from your customer contact points to your marketing department and learn to develop one-to-one marketing campaigns that keep sales in the loop.
How To Use Web Portals For Improved CRM
Find out how Web portals can take advantage of existing systems and provide timely, targeted information.
How CRM Can Reduce Customer Churn
How to provide a consistent message and quality service across all customer interaction channels.
Implementing CRM Systems: Turnkey Or ASP?
Examine the pros and cons of using an all-in-one integrated system versus outsourcing to an application service provider.

Call Center Solutions Track
Success Factors For Virtual & Distributed Call Centers
This session will cover such challenges as managing your dispersed staff, establishing the appropriate network configuration, and more.
Hello, It’s Me: Self-Service With Speech Recognition Technology
If you were unimpressed with speech recognition technology in the past, it’s time to take a new look.
Present And Future IVR: Taking Advantage Of The State-Of-The-Art
Attend this session to learn about the latest developments in IVR, including new and innovative Web-based features.
Web-Enabling Your Call Center? Think Twice
Don’t think twice about doing it; think twice about how you’re going to do it. Critical elements to consider before Web-enabling your call center.
The Call Center: Gold Mine Or Money Pit?
Develop a new strategy for turning your existing call center into a profit center.
CTI, The Call Center & The New Millennium
Gain a comprehensive (and comprehensible) understanding of CTI and what it can mean to your relationship with your present and future customers.
Your Place Or Mine? Call Center Outsourcing Options
This session will provide you with a comprehensive formula for evaluating call center outsourcing providers.







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