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April 2009 | Volume 27 / Number 11
Special Focus

Supplier Survey: Unified Communications

By Brendan B. Read
Senior Contributing Editor, Customer Interaction Solutions

Beginning with this issue Customer Interaction Solutions is surveying solutions suppliers to get their take on what is happening in their sectors, firms, and in the contact center industry. After reviewing the responses we have selected one to be published here; all of the replies will be appearing on TMCnet.com.

This month’s focus is on unified communications. The featured company is Zeacom (www.zeacom.com), and responding for the firm is Ernie Wallerstein (News - Alert), Jr. President-Americas:

The current economic situation is having a significant effect on the Unified Communications (UC) and Contact Center (CC) marketplace (note: Zeacom (News - Alert)’s perspective is that that CC is an essential component of an overall UC strategy).

Providing quantitative ROI for all aspects of any UC offering has become imperative. To date, ROI for UC has been relatively soft, which needs to change and change quickly. The pressure on the traditional PBX vendors like Nortel and Avaya (News - Alert) is immense. While these conditions are, generally speaking, slowing down the industry, they are having a converse effect on positioning the application-lead solution vendors, like Zeacom, which are benefitting as enterprises move away from PBX (News - Alert)-centric communications solutions.

Since its inception, Zeacom has always, and will continue to improve upon its Rich Presence solutions, as evidenced by recent technological developments. For example, by extending "presence" to the PDA, CC agents can quickly connect with other employees who may be critical to solving a customer issue, or to helping close a sale.

In addition, we have recently launched our Executive Mobile application, which extends "presence" from the desktop to the PDA. Executive Mobile makes life easier for today’s road warriors, empowering them with the tools to stay in touch with customers, and manage their communications as if they have never left the office. ZCC Executive Mobile brings the best in Unified Communications to the mobile phone.

Also of note is that Zeacom has added Conferencing to its solution. This functionality allows users to quickly initiate or schedule a teleconference from the same interface they use to manage their CC communications.

Lastly, in Q3 of 2008, Zeacom purchased a call-recording application to round out our all-in-one UC offering. Our customers were asking for recording from Zeacom, instead of a third party, and we made that happen.

Zeacom markets its solutions through resellers only, which sell to small/medium-sized businesses (SMBs). We can handle contact centers of up to 500 agents-per-location, and can provide UC from 30 to 4,000 employees per location (multiple locations can be networked).

By UC, we mean multimedia contact center, IVR, unified messaging, mobility applications, conferencing and reporting all from one engine, with one administration point and user interface. This "single solution" concept is our key differentiator; other vendors sell all these solutions, but through many different applications.

Zeacom is profitable and well positioned economically. From a marketplace perspective, we expect to emerge from this economic downturn as one of the few remaining independent (not owned by a PBX manufacturer) UC application solution providers. Technically, we will continue to be at the forefront of UC by expanding our Presence engine even further into other enterprise applications, such as OCS and Salesforcedotcom.

We view ourselves as a horizontal solutions provider. We consider SMBs as our target market but we do expect to continue increasing our penetration in certain vertical markets, such as debt collection and sales force enablement.

UC is still not there. As an industry, we are clearly past the early adopter stage and the technology continues to mature. However, quantifying documented ROI is perceived to be difficult. Given the global recessionary economy, coupled with the lingering disdain for ERP-like projects, communicating the ROI on UC is imperative.

Secondly, most companies provide UC via multiple platforms or applications, which do not work for the SMB marketplace. Singular points of administration are essential to resource constrained IT departments.

The barriers between the contact center and the rest of the organization will continue to come down like the Berlin Wall. We are all involved in customer service and we are all responsible for acquiring new customers.

In terms of growth markets until the downturn ends, credit/debt collection industries will be strong. We are also seeing a demand for sales force enablement and efficiency drivers. Following the economic recovery, most industries will begin to grow again. However, this growth will come from battletested companies that will demand hard ROI before making technological purchases.

Another interesting aspect of this economy is that only the strong, fiscally responsible solution providers will survive. There will be more than a few companies that don’t make it, but the Darwinian ones that do, will be legitimate, long-term players.

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