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Nadji Tehrani
Executive Group Publisher, Editor-in-Chief


The Crystal Ball

Visionaries Offer Compelling Outlook For 2006 And Beyond
Industry Leaders Speak Out On The Future Of Contact Centers, CRM And Teleservices

From our vantage point, as the preeminent publication of the industry since 1982, it has always been our paramount responsibility to offer our valued readers reliable information about call/contact centers, teleservices, CRM and customer interaction centers.

With 25 years of industry coverage and leadership, we are fortunate enough to draw from the vast amount of experience and information to provide meaningful guidance to our subscribers.

Customer Care Is The Key
For the foreseeable future, it is virtually impossible to think that the call/contact center, CRM, customer interaction and teleservices companies will be taken lightly.

As stated in previous editorials:

'Companies live or die from repeat business.'

And'repeat business will not happen without outstanding customer care. No company can ignore customer care, for without it, they will vanish!

Given the vitally important contributions of the concept of telemarketing, which has now evolved to the contact center, this industry goes beyond just customer care. No company can ignore it.

Sales, marketing, notification, credit collection, fund raising, seeking blood donors, negotiations, job creation, job protection, CRM, customer care and customer retention, to name a few, are all VITALLY IMPORTANT to our livelihood.

In short, based on the above, contact centers will continue to grow and prosper for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, many technology-providing SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses) are growing at 40 to 50 percent per year (see 'The Boardroom Reports' at www.tmcnet.com/228.1), while well managed teleservices companies are growing at 20 to 25 percent per year!

Hosted Solutions Will Play A Major New Role In The Present & Future Of Our Industry
All indications seem to point to the major role that hosted solutions will play today and tomorrow! West Corporation (www.west.com), one of the leading diversified and most respected corporations in the contact center and customer interaction industry, is a strong supporter of hosted solutions, as described in the cover story of this issue. West Corporation, for example, offers a hosted speech technology-based solution to our industry.

The Visionaries Speak Out
In order to better serve the needs of our valued readers, we have asked several industry visionaries to share their views about what is ahead (in the short- and long-term) for the customer interaction, CRM, teleservices and contact center industries.

Here are their comments:

From: Charles Ciarlo, President and CEO, Left Bank Solutions (news - alerts)
The big trend for 2006 will be the ease in which the call center will be able to procure technology in the future. The on-demand model will make the task of purchasing ACD, IVR, QM, WFM and CRM technology almost as easy as ordering a pay-per-view movie from your cable operator. Therefore, expect many startup outsourcers to emerge, as well as existing vendors adding on-demand elements to their product portfolios. This trend represents a way for the industry to accomplish an even greater degree of market penetration as it makes WFM and other technologies simple to deploy and even more affordable.

From: Ralph Breslauer, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Aspect Software (news - alerts)
Companies continue to face the challenge of increasing customer satisfaction while reducing costs. This, combined with the desire for less complexity, will boost the adoption of more unified solutions, reducing the need for multi-vendor integrations and support 'finger'pointing.' We will see the addition of IP agents both in new centers and added to existing systems without compromising functionality. Also, we will see companies expanding proactive customer care and adding cross-selling opportunities through inbound customer service inquiries, given the existing legislation. Finally, I believe hosted offerings (ASPs) will grow in importance to a segment of the market.

From: Kent Charugundla, President and CEO, EagleIP, LLC. (news - alerts)
Internet and IP technologies have revolutionized the landscape of the contact center/customer interaction industry.'We are at the beginning of a solid and exciting revolution which will continue to change the way we communicate, interact and provide application services. Both technological as well as marketing innovations are excelling to provide a wide range of choices to end users.

In the short-term, few customer-centric application service providers such as ours will bring innovations to provide alternatives for contact center operators and enterprises. We are looking at a long-term future in which an enterprise may never again have to buy communications hardware or software.

From: Bill Hunt, President & Chief Technology Officer, Stroudwater Contact Point (news - alerts)
This coming year, I look for vendors and customers to finally realize that the contact center is not simply an expense but is, in fact, a critical strategic revenue and marketing component of any company. The ones that recognize this will thrive. Companies that don't recognize this and don't address the issues involved will fade, whether they are vendors or customers.

VoIP (define - news - alerts)will continue to grow, but I question for the short-term whether it will be the truly disruptive technology that has been forecast. I believe in the majority of cases, it will be deployed simply as a less expensive alternative rather than being leveraged to its full potential. For the long-term, however, it will add great value by allowing customers to chose their own methods of interaction with a company; on their own terms and in their own timeframe.

From: Dan Bodner, President and CEO, Verint Systems, Inc. (news - alerts)
The contact center solutions market is undergoing a major transformation: It's not just about contact center optimization anymore, but the entire customer process. True quality must extend beyond the contact center to every person, program and process that shapes and influences the customer experience. Companies today need to improve not only customer service, but also operational performance and quality objectives.

The adoption of enterprise quality processes for the back office is critical for enterprise transformation. Companies need to understand not only how and why back-office processes affect service delivery and customer satisfaction but also how to optimize process-intensive customer-facing businesses to ensure the consistent high-quality of interactions.

From: Eli Borodow, CEO, Telephony@Work (news - alerts)
Traditional technology deployment paradigms typically require multisite organizations to invest a lot of time and money in each location in order to integrate and maintain the various component technologies required to support a multichannel contact center. Two emerging trends address this core problem:

The first is market adoption of unified solutions; which are integrated-by-design to eliminate the costs, risks and delays associated with the custom-integration approach. Integrated SIP-based voice over IP enables agents to sit anywhere on the corporate network and fully leverage'multichannel applications.

The second trend is market adoption of'unified multitenant solutions. These'enable companies to maintain each business unit's privacy and security while'sharing'contact center application resources'across locations. The best also empower local business units to manage their own technology-driven business processes on those shared systems, ensuring technology responsiveness to local needs.

From: William J. Whearty, Vice President, Sennheiser Communications Corp. (news - alerts)
Wireless is a key driver in gaining market share outside of the classic call center market. People who are not phone-intensive love the freedom to conduct calls without being tethered to a handset, as well as the increased productivity of being able to go to a file cabinet, work on their computers, move between offices, and be able to receive calls away from their desks.

As always, I welcome your comments. Please e-mail them to me at [email protected]. CIS

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