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TMC Labs
June 2001


White Pajama

White Pajama
Hayward, CA
Ph: 877-PAJAMA1; Fx: 510-723-1158
Web: www.whitepajama.com

Price: Varies between $560 and $800 for concurrent agent seats, with price dependent upon seat count and contract length

2001 Editors' Choice Awards

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

Perhaps one of the most daunting aspects of contact center products is the time, cost and hassle of installing and managing these enterprise-class systems on site. We have all seen demonstrations of yet another product promising to revolutionize a company's contact center, only to find that regardless of its impressive features, it costs upwards of $20,000 and requires six days of installation and training. Another frequent problem is the disconnect between two acronyms: CIM and CRM. Where an increasing number of companies position their wares as complete contact center solutions, closer inspection reveals a heavy concentration of either customer interaction or relationship management features. As a result, a truly complete solution tends to require the separate purchase of at least two enterprise-sized systems and all the related integration: small to mid-sized companies are left out of the discussion before it really begins.

How refreshing, then, to explore White Pajama, a service whose remotely hosted ASP model allows the company to address both of these problems. White Pajama combines multimedia customer interaction features (such as automated e-mail, chat and call distribution) with CRM capabilities (storage, retrieval and tracking of customer histories) into a single service, requiring no onsite installation or related costs.

Since White Pajama fully leverages the merits of an ASP model, its service does not require hardware setup or system integration on the client's site. Additionally, each agent's PC and telephone requirements will not be difficult for most companies to meet (Pentium II, 64 megs of RAM, a gig of hard disk space, 56k or better connection -- though broadband access is recommended -- and an analog phone with a direct number). According to White Pajama personnel, an account is usually delivered within 24 to 72 hours. The delay is attributed to the fact that the company does not offer a completely Web-based, or automated, setup. While shielding you from the extensive hassle of onsite installation, White Pajama does not shield users from having to speak with salespeople, and in between application on the company Web site and implementation, customers must wait to be contacted by a company representative. While setup is not as immediate as with some ASP services (such as 3Cube and Orchestrate, reviewed for this magazine's sister publication Communications ASP'), it is still an improvement on the installation time required of a typical contact center product offering a similar feature set of communications channels, CRM features and reporting options.

Another way White Pajama optimizes the ASP model is through effective documentation. Combined with the fact that the service is intuitive and easy-to-use, the documentation will assist companies in getting the solution up and running without the lengthy and expensive onsite training usually required by many non-ASP contact center products. A centrally located table of contents enables each step-by-step tutorial to serve either as a topical help file or a training manual. In addition to these separate files, individual pages on the administrative screens, for example, contain helpful glossary-style definitions of service features as used by White Pajama.

White Pajama combines a host of traditional contact center features, usually available only through multiple products, and offers them via a largely simplified (but not simplistic) ASP model. This variety of features may be grouped into three general categories: customer interaction, customer relationship management and aspects of workforce management in the form of a performance analysis component.

On the customer interaction side, agents armed with a phone and a Web browser can handle telephone, e-mail and chat interactions, which are all queued and distributed through an ACD system responding to priority, agent availability and user-defined agent skill sets. CRM features include contact and case management systems geared toward efficient issue tracking and resolution. The system also furnishes a variety of customer self-service options in addition to agent tools. IVR capabilities can play greetings and prompts while hosting interactive menus, allowing customers to enter identification and case numbers for issue follow-up. FAQs are used as a tool both for agents -- who can use them as prepackaged chat responses -- and for customers to access during self-service queries. Spanning customer interaction and relationship management, White Pajama's CTI features provide agents with screen pops based on user and case information associated with all incoming contacts, whether they arrive via phone, e-mail or chat channels.

Regarding workforce management, the system offers both real-time and historical reporting, providing managers with information as general or as detailed as they require. Specific agents and queues can be viewed to determine factors such as number of contact interactions, time spent wrapping up calls, time unavailable and average handle times. Drilling up, charts and graphs display overall contact center performance, enabling managers to get a broader view of past, current and projected contact center performance.

Operational Testing
With White Pajama, walking through the administration process was perhaps as important as testing the end results. In looking at the Configuration Manager, we were able to get a good sense of how easy the service would be for a small or mid-sized company to implement, through a unified configuration interface enabling IVR, ACD and other traditionally separate and complex systems to be set up in one place.

Aided by the on-screen tips and comprehensive training, we went through a logically ordered sequence of configuration steps ranging from creating agent groups, supervisors and skill sets to configuring communications channels and queues. To assist in making the process as easy as possible, the Configuration Manager is laid out like a traditional Web site with a "home" page and then subsequent pages ordered in the process a user would most often employ during setup. After an exceptionally quick setup process, we went on to try the agent interface and various contact channels. We got a second chance to see how easy the admin features are to use. In attempting to initiate a chat with our simulated agent, we realized our virtual person had not been configured as having the required skill. Since the ACD found no agent qualified to respond, our simulated customer was sent an "agent unavailable" message. To retrace our steps, find the agent, enable chat and save the change did not take more than a minute, and was all a matter of pointing and clicking.

The chat feature, although quite straightforward, nevertheless appeared to be one of several very effective means by which customers can contact a White Pajama subscriber, though it has a few nice enhancements. One useful feature we have seen in other products, such as eShare's NetAgent, is the ability to push FAQ content in response to customer queries. Overall, chat also provided an excellent example of how effective multimedia blending can be in a contact center environment. In terms of customer information, we received identical screen pops regardless of whether a simulated customer was contacting us through the phone or chat channel. Like many contact center products, the system delivered either a blank or prepopulated contact entry depending upon the status of the new caller or chat participant. Performance was impressive over the TMC' Labs T1 connection in terms of the immediacy with which we received and answered calls or chats, especially given the circuitous route not only over the Internet, but also through an off-site hosted ACD.

Chat was one of several communications channels we could access when acting as customers, through a customizable "Support Center" subscribers to the service can put on their Web sites. From there, customers can access phone, FAQ, chat, e-mail and self-service links, connecting them to a company's agents, knowledge base or CRM system as hosted by White Pajama. The self-service link, in particular, stood out as an effective yet simple way for customers to become involved in the process of issue resolution, as opposed to feeling completely at the mercy of a company's tech support services. By entering a customer I.D. (which in our case was automatically e-mailed to us, along with default auto-reply content we scripted in the configuration screens), we entered a simple screen enabling us to view, mark as resolved or post follow-ups to our sample issues.

In terms of the agent and supervisor experience with White Pajama, there is a lot to cover. In addition to an extremely simple agent interface (which provides a clearer view of both present and past customer information than the royalblue SupportCenter product we tested recently), as supervisors we were continually kept abreast of all activity within our mock contact center through e-mail messages displaying a complete list of all open or unresolved cases, sent according to time parameters easily set using the Configuration Manager.

Room For Improvement
We had very few suggestions for improvement. As stated throughout this review, White Pajama covers a range of CRM, CIM and performance analysis features that would normally require several products to achieve. While we'd like to suggest that the product might be improved through the addition of VoIP push-to-talk buttons, chat productivity tools or more extensive knowledge base search devices, we have to say that small to mid-sized organizations would be hard-pressed to find other products that allow them to set up such a complete contact center so quickly in this price range. In fact, many call logging and tracking products alone, without White Pajama's integrated ACD, CTI and IVR features, can cost three times as much. Nevertheless, over time, this impressive first start could be even better fleshed out in subsequent upgrades through the addition of integrated VoIP, Web callback features and other enhanced services.

One final notation: like other new Web-based ASP services we've test-driven, in spots White Pajama's interfaces have a bit of a "homegrown" look. Unlike those other services, the issues here are purely aesthetic and do not get in the way of White Pajama's functionality. As a result, we feel the company merits an A+ rating. The reporting and analysis tools are a good example of a way the service's interfaces could be improved: while in many ways, the service's simplicity is one of its chief merits, the graphics can still appear a bit rough around the edges. We suspect that much of the graphic design on this first iteration of the product was probably done in-house and perhaps hastily on a closely guarded budget, as is often the way with start-ups. The point is, a drive to attract continued funding and, most importantly, customers can only be helped by securing every appearance of legitimacy. We recommend White Pajama hire a design firm to go over the interfaces with a fine-tooth comb.

Needless to say, we were genuinely impressed with White Pajama, both as a contact center service and as an ASP model. After this, it may be difficult to look at non-ASP contact center products in the same way. This is not to suggest that they are outmoded; nor is it to suggest that something like White Pajama will necessarily be a perfect fit for large, enterprise contact centers that may still want centralized control of databases and applications, as well as an enhanced feature set complementary to their budgets, staff and infrastructure. But larger companies are already served quite well, and it is refreshing to see someone offering options to small and mid-sized organizations.

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