Customers are the lifeblood of any organization. As a result, keeping
your customers happy is critical. Implementing technology to ensure good
customer service is one of the best investments a company can make.
Unfortunately, what often happens is that companies weigh the expense of
an agent's salary against the cost of good customer service. They often
downsize the number of agents or implement self-service IVRs and hope the
customers can find the solutions themselves via the IVR before having to
'zero out' to an agent. Some companies even go as far as to disabling
the '0' touch-tone key and changing the option to reach an agent to a
different key (i.e., '#' or 9), forcing the customer to listen to all
of the options before finally discovering how to reach a live agent.
Fortunately, many companies have realized that 'pushing' customers
into automated response units, while a valuable tool to reduce costs, is
not the entire solution. Intelligent, conditional routing which routes
incoming calls to the best available agent has become a valuable tool in
ensuring first-class customer service while increasing agents'
productivity. In addition, many solutions have realized the power of 'presence
management' to ensure that when a call is transferred from one agent to
another agent (or manager), that person is 'available' to take the
transferred call. This helps avoid unnecessary callbacks and blind
transfers, and prevents customers from being sent to voice mail. This
results in first contact resolution and increased customer satisfaction.
Siemen's HiPath ProCenter Agile features intelligent call routing as
well as integrated presence management capabilities (see Figure 1) in
their Windows-based client interface. In fact, the presence management
capabilities are some of the most extensive and user-friendly that we have
seen. One sure benefit of presence management is that you will know your
fellow agents' and supervisors' statuses (at lunch, on the phone,
logged out, etc.), which makes it easier to know if a particular person is
available to take a call.
TMC Labs traveled to Ontario, to see the product within Siemens' test
lab facilities. First, we were impressed with the ease of installation.
For such a complex, feature-rich product, installation was an absolute
breeze. In fact, Siemens claims that it is a one-day install without any
costly professional services that often accompany competing skills-based
routing solutions. After seeing the installation phase for ourselves, we
couldn't argue with that.
We then moved on to using the application and were immediately impressed
with the look and feel of the agent's desktop interface, which was very
clean (see Figure 2). It used the minimal amount of valuable screen
real-estate while still displaying pertinent information. Also contained
within Figure 2 is the optional Broadcaster, which can pull pertinent call
center statistics such as service level, average hold time, etc.
In fact, the agent desktop interface is extremely customizable. We should
point out that how the agent interface is graphically designed is critical
for agent productivity. We were very pleased that Agile doesn't 'pigeonhole'
the agent into a single, statically defined view. Agile gives the agent
flexibility to view or hide various aspects of the interface, including
the ability to dock or undock toolbars. Users can change the languages of
the interface on-the-fly to one of six available languages. This is
obviously a valuable feature for multilingual call centers. Also, from the
agent desktop interface, the agent has the ability to view his or her own
personal performance statistics, such as average handle time, calls
We were able to create Team Lists containing our 'favorite' list of
coworkers with whom we interact the most. From the Team Lists, you can
transfer, consult, conference, etc. Since you can see status/presence of
coworkers in your Team List, you can save time and avoid dialing an absent
coworker or transferring customers to an unavailable agent. Also, from the
agent interface, a contact log displays customers caller I.D. information,
allowing agents to simply click on the record to call the customer back.
Other interface capabilities within HiPath ProCenter Agile include
screen-pop functionality to display the customer's information,
extensive right-click functionality, drag-and-drop functionality, as well
as color coding within the agent application to indicate call volume. For
instance, you can make a rule that if 5 callers are on hold, the
application appears green, if 10 callers are on hold, it's yellow, and
if 20 customers are waiting, it turns red. This lets agents know how much
they should pace themselves. You can also do this for the 'utilization'
category; i.e., utilization can turn red if the agent's utilization
percentage drops below a certain number.
The Manager interface was even more powerful than the Agent interface.
From this tool, users can set up digital wallboards (broadcasts), add
agents and set agents' permissions, monitor important statistics,
schedule and run reports (see Figure 3), as well as access the Design
Center. Reporting is very powerful, and users can even schedule the
reports and have them sent to the screen, a printer or a file.
TMC Labs was impressed with the graphical application generator/designer
tool called Design Center (see Figure 4), which lets users drag-and-drop
various icons, with each icon representing a certain function. For
example, we could place an icon with several 'branches' to other
icons, and then depending on the DNIS, transfer the call to a certain
queue. From the Design Center, users can define both their routing and
queuing strategies. The Design Center was very easy to use and features
the ability to use wildcards and partial matching. Some of the icon
functions included the ability to collect digits, perform a database
lookup, play a message and transfer and queue a call. One nice feature
within the app-gen is that it shows the number of inputs missing if a user
deletes one of the graphical icons. Overall, this was a very powerful tool
that was practically a no-brainer to use, yet we were able to create some
very complex routing algorithms.
Room For Improvement
We'd like to see a 'listen in' feature from the graphical user
interface so managers can quickly listen in on an agent's call. You can,
of course, use the switch's listen feature, but typing in a sequence of
DTMF digits is tedious. We'd also like to see a one-click record feature
within the GUI, although Siemens told us they do partner and work with
third-party recording/monitoring packages from NICE, Verint and others.
We liked the 'threshold' notification capabilities within the
reporting module. For example, the reports can play sounds and display
other visual cues; however, playing sounds can be done only from the
real-time report (has to be constantly running to receive visual or sound
cues). So we'd like the main client application to monitor various
thresholds and play sounds when applicable. One minor complaint is that
the Contact Log doesn't display a record with caller I.D. info for
abandoned calls. It would be useful to have a record in the Contact Log to
return abandoned calls.
[ Return To The
June 2004 Table Of Contents ]
When you consider that Siemens will be providing an upgrade path from
HiPath ProCenter Agile to the higher-end HiPath ProCenter Suite, you know
that Siemens has done a fantastic job of architecting their product to be
very modular. Too many other solutions require a complete forklift
upgrade, which is much more expensive. We can best sum up this product
with the following feature summary: quick installation, excellent user
interface with very good customization, powerful application generator for
defining your routing strategies, and excellent reporting. The presence
management capabilities are certainly a nice touch to an already
feature-rich product, and certainly TMC Labs would not hesitate to
recommend HiPath ProCenter Agile.