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March 2000


Web-Enabling For The Future


[Go Right To Customer Contact News]

The Web-enabled call center (WECC) market has changed dramatically over the past 12 months. The recent spate of WECC acquisitions by the incumbent call center technology vendors indicates that WECC technology is viewed as a critical asset by these vendors. But what are the driving forces behind these deals?

Cynically, we could say that because of the hipness of the Internet, vendors championing the WECC are merely seeking to increase their profile in collective consciousness. However, the move from �call center� to �contact center� is not solely motivated by the desire for marketing exposure. There is another imperative driving companies to acquire WECC vendors: The market for traditional call center technology is slowly becoming less and less attractive to technology vendors.

One vendor told Ovum that significantly raising revenues through sales of traditional call center kit is now an impossible proposition. For example, in the United States the number of call center seats is set to rise by only 14 percent in the next four years. Sure, the established base of customers will guarantee revenue from maintenance and upgrades, but in order for call center vendors to sustain growth and increase profitability, they must look towards new revenue sources. The most obvious of these sources is the Internet � more specifically, WECC technology.

As if the saturation of the traditional call center market was not enough for vendors to contend with, the contact center market is also being threatened by new entrants: the network vendors. Cisco�s acquisition of WebLine Communications yet again brought home the fact that WECC is part of the voice-data convergence trend. In this integrated world, it will be the network vendors that own the call center infrastructure and switches.

In most cases the extent to which the Web and traditional media are �unified� is debatable. Ideally, unification should allow administrators to configure both systems through a common interface and agents should not have to toggle between applications to take phone and Web calls. For many products this ideal has yet to be realised.

But there is a bright side. Because many of the acquired WECC products have not yet been fully integrated into the contact suites, users may still offer the opportunity of buying the WECC product as a stand-alone solution. By 2004 over a quarter of all of the call centers in the world will be Web enabled. Call center vendors have been quick to realise that the WECC is a means for them to gain and sustain market share in a nebulous niche, although it may be some time before the user community sees the technology as sufficiently mature for mass adoption.

Stephen Wood, an analyst at Ovum, works in the area of IT-telecommunications and call center technology. For more information, visit the company�s Web site at www.ovum.com.

Customer Contact News

Picazo Acquires NetACD Web-Based Contact Software Business from Compaq
Picazo Communications has acquired NetACD, the Web-based contact software business from Compaq Computer Corporation. Delivering human-to-human interaction via the Internet with integrated, real-time voice, video, and data communications, the NetACD software solution dramatically increases the probability of successful e-business transactions between a company and its prospective and existing customers � and reduces the number of sales that might otherwise go to the competition.
No. 528, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo 

Database Systems Announces Linux Support, Plus Two New Call Center Products
Database Systems Corp. (DSC), developer of call center software products, announced the release of Telemation support for the Linux operating system. This version has been successfully installed on several customer sites, and DSC is now providing the Linux software for general release. Using Linux as the operating system for call center servers, DSC can provide its users with a GUI, as well as character mode desktop operation. DSC currently supports Windows NT and Unix operating systems at the server level. DSC also provides its customers with its unique Windows �thin client� that communicates with all of these servers. With the extremely favorable reception that Linux has received in the marketplace, DSC products are well positioned in a wide range of operating environments.
No. 529, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

AltiGen�s Year 2000 Vision For Multimedia Call Centers For E-commerce
AltiGen Communications announced their year 2000 Intersect Vision. AltiGen continues their commitment to deliver today�s most powerful, Web-enabled communications technologies at a price that is affordable to the small to mid-sized business. Packet-based voice over IP is emerging as the telecom standard of the future. Small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) require reliable phone systems that will help them manage the transition from circuit, or the traditional PSTN, to packet-based voice over IP (VoIP), at a rate that is manageable and meets their business needs. The evolution from circuit to packet switching will not be a binary transition, but will integrate in degrees over an extended period of time. Because AltiGen�s AltiServ delivers both circuit and packet switching seamlessly and interchangeably it serves as the nexus point between networks, allowing businesses a smooth migration path to the converged voice data network. AltiServ will allow businesses to transition to an IP infrastructure in incremental steps, utilizing standard telephones and components rather than having to incur the costs associated with proprietary vendor IP phone technology.
No. 530, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo 

Blue Pumpkin To Expand Channel Partner Strategy
Blue Pumpkin Software, a leading provider of workforce management solutions, announced the launch of the company�s Channel Partner Program designed to enable Blue Pumpkin partners to successfully sell and integrate the company�s workforce management solutions. With more than 50 channel partners worldwide already participating, the new program will enable Blue Pumpkin to continue to establish relationships with industry-leading call center technology companies and resellers by providing the tools and marketing programs necessary to allow channel partners to successfully address critical business issues for their clients.
No. 531, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo 

e~Telesales Deploys Internet Customer Service
e~Telesales has announced that christmasdepot.com, bodybar.com, LivingMaine.com, NiftyCool.com, eCollegeWear.com, and Gimbelsdepartmentstore.com have selected e~Telesales to manage their Web-enabled call center customer service needs by adding live voice assistance via Push to Talk (PtT) technology. These recently forged customers are part of an ongoing e~Telesales first-to-market e-commerce initiative to offer new, cutting-edge technology to achieve real-time live human interaction on the World Wide Web. �These established e-commerce Web sites have entered into a business relationship with e~Telesales because of our ability to offer 24/7 live online support to their Web sites � today,� said e~Telesales president and CEO, Wayne Moore. �e~Telesales is lowering the barriers to entry for organizations that wish to embark upon an Internet customer service strategy and we recognize the need for advanced multimedia solutions to maintain customer loyalty and increase sales,� said Moore. e~Telesales' live online customer service offerings are powered by eFusion's (PtT) technology which enables PC users on the Internet to make calls to a standard telephone or to a call center agent without interrupting the Internet session.
No. 532, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo 

Teloquent, Comverse Infosys To Provide Recording And Monitoring For Call Centers
Teloquent, a provider of customer interaction solutions for Web- and phone-based call centers, announced that it has reached an agreement with Comverse Infosys, a division of Comverse Technology, to provide advanced recording and monitoring for call centers. Under the agreement, Teloquent will offer Comverse�s products to its customers seeking to incorporate recording and monitoring capabilities into their call centers, and its call center platform will support Comverse�s technology.
No. 533, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo 

Servicesoft, IBA To Merge
Servicesoft Technologies merged with leading e-services consulting firm, Internet Business Advantages (IBA). With this agreement, Servicesoft will deliver the industry�s most complete integrated customer service product suite with comprehensive eService practices to enable the rapid deployment of business-critical, highly successful eService solutions. Companies today are demanding fast product implementation and expert business guidance as they face tremendous time-to-market pressures to implement online service solutions that support their explosive eBusiness growth. Servicesoft�s new eService offerings meet this demand by combining award-winning technologies with effective strategy and implementation expertise.
No. 534, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo 

Freeserve Selects White Pine�s CU-SeeMe Web
White Pine Software announced that Freeserve, a U.K.-based Internet service provider (ISP), has selected CU-SeeMe Web technology to implement live, Internet videochat. Freeserve will make Web-based videochat available to customers subscribing to its new high-speed Internet access service. Freeserve, which provides free dial-up Internet access and related services to over 1.5 million people in the UK, announced a new trial offer in November which made high-speed Internet access available to its customers in mid-January using ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) technology. ADSL will allow Freeserve users to send and receive data over existing copper wires at speeds of up to 20 times faster than a normal phone connection. It will also enable Freeserve to introduce new Internet services to these high-bandwidth customers using enhanced video and audio functionality powered by the CU-SeeMe Web technology.
No. 535, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo 

Silknet Unveils eSales Virtual Sales Assistant
Silknet Software has unveiled Silknet eSales, a new e-sales application that assists consumers in their selection of online products and services using a virtual sales assistant. Silknet eSales brings a new dimension to Web-based self-service sites by creating a virtual personal sales assistant who can help a customer through the online purchasing process while improving the overall customer experience. Silknet eSales results from the company�s acquisition of InSite Marketing Technologies. The goal of the Silknet eSales virtual assistant is to not only make it easier for a customer to buy products and services, but to also build a higher level of trust and personalization between the customer and the company.
No. 536, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo 

e-assist.net And Lipstream Partner On PC-to-PC Live Voice Service
e-assist.net, a specialist in e-business customer relationship management services, and Lipstream, a leading Internet voice service provider for e-business, have partnered to add Lipstream�s PC-to-PC Live Voice service to e-assist�s customer interaction services. The partnership will voice-enable emerging dot-com Web sites to allow their customers to talk live with support representatives via the Web. e-assist.net has added voice over IP (VoIP) capability to its existing outsourced eBusiness customer care service offering, which includes e-mail, chat, direct marketing services, and an artificial intelligence knowledge base that captures online transactions and facilitates expert analysis of the information.
No. 537, www.comsolmag.com/freeinfo

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