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March 2000


Marc Robins Cisco's Java Client Gives ICM A Jolt


As the traditional phone-based call center morphs into a multimedia-based customer contact center able to support multiple contact points whether they be phone or through the Internet there is a growing demand for products that can provide a painless migration path from the old to the new, without disrupting existing contact functions or causing a loss of existing (and significant) technology investments. Cisco recently made a couple of announcements involving its ICM software and Java client that have given multimedia contact centers a bit of a jolt, and I decided to use this months column space to discuss these announcements.

Cisco has introduced the latest version of its Java client for CTI desktop applications in the Cisco ICM software environment what the company is calling an ultra-thin client that allows complete browser-based deployment of agent desktop functionality. This client includes screen pop and soft phone features across multiple PC-based operating systems. In essence, Cisco is allowing customers to create an IP-based contact center architecture on top of their existing TDM-based CTI investments.

Ciscos ICM software helps manage voice and data distribution across enterprise networks and offers an integrated suite of intelligent contact management capabilities that support customer interaction via telephone, Web, fax, and e-mail across a heterogeneous network of automatic call distributor (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), database, and desktop applications. The Cisco platform also enables an organization to deploy a complete network-to-desktop CTI strategy by providing call-event and customer-profile information to a targeted agent desktop. ICM solutions are available for both single-site and multi-site contact center deployments.

As customers increasingly embrace network-based computing, Java enables application developers to write a single program that can be run on multiple platforms, including UNIX, Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, IBM OS/2, and browser-based desktops. The Cisco Java client has been written in pure Java for easy implementation with no vendor-specific Java extensions. Specifically, desktop applications written with the Cisco Java client are supported on any operating system or browser that supports version 1.1.5+ of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). This flexibility enables Cisco ICM users to deploy the softwares network-to-desktop CTI functionality throughout the enterprise as an applet on a browser-enabled desktop or as an executable in a non-browser environment.

One of the first customers to step up to the ICM plate is JC Penney Direct Marketing Services, a JC Penney wholly-owned subsidiary that markets supplemental insurance and an array of membership services. Using ICMs network-to-desktop capabilities, JC Penney DMS is now segmenting customers through IVR and database integration, and routing each customer to the most appropriate answering resource anywhere in the company. The desktop application, which was designed and developed by a JC Penney employee in less than five weeks, is designed to automate the customer-identification and data-retrieval processes.

According to Jeff Camp, VP of customer service at JC Penney DMS, We installed Cisco desktop functionality in our three call centers, which employ 850 representatives and process ten million calls annually, in just three months. It amazed a lot of people here how fast it went in both in terms of our previous experience with CTI and the size of the installation. After the ICM systems CTI functionality was implemented, representative talk time was reduced, on average, by 15 seconds per call.

Looking forward, JC Penney DMS plans to implement additional caller-segmentation capabilities to further improve and customize the service experience for each customer. The group is also looking at integrating Web and e-mail transactions into its call center environment and Cisco eMail Manager, so that inbound customer contacts whether they come from e-mail, the Web, or an inbound phone call are managed completely by the ICM application.

In addition to providing enterprise-class intelligent contact management software, Cisco also provides network applications management capabilities to the service provider market. Recently, MCI WorldCom introduced next-generation intelligent contact management capabilities that it will offer to its business customers based on Cisco ICM software. The in-network solution directs each voice contact on a call-by-call basis to the best qualified agent able to serve the callers needs, no matter where the agent might be located. This ensures that the customer receives the best customer service experience possible. MCI WorldComs new intelligent contact management service marks its debut as a Cisco Powered Network.

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