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June 2009 | Volume 28 / Number 1
Customer Interaction News

Customer Interaction News

• AccuData Integrated Marketing (www.accudata.com) has launched AccuBase, a cost-effective customer and prospect database marketing solution. AccuBase gives marketers total control over their database management and campaign performance right from their desktop. It provides a richer view of customer behavior by centralizing, standardizing and segmenting customer and prospect data. It then allows users to quickly and easily execute integrated telemarketing, direct mail, e-mail, and point-of-sale campaigns. AccuBase also offers a variety of reporting and campaign management software options. AccuBase is backed by AccuData's consultative services that help clients accurately target qualified buyers and drive marketing ROI.

• Air2Web (News - Alert) (www.air2web.com) now offers the ability to easily integrate mobile into enterprise platforms environment with Air2Web's DirectTEXT for high volume messaging. Key features include Free-To-End-User (FTEU) message delivery, which is ideal for customer care and financial services applications where enterprises for messages so that customers do not have to. U.S. regulations ensure customers are protected from additional expenses from collectors and FTEU now allows mobile to be a viable communication vehicle. They also include concatenation for extended messaging with extended message length up to 2,000 characters to support longer and more specific offers and expanded worldwide message delivery supports international mobile programs with delivery to virtually any handset globally.

• AltiGen (News - Alert)® Communications (www.altigen.com) has released the second update for AltiGen’s MAX Communications Server 6.0 VoIP unified communications platform. New and redesigned applications include MaxAgent 6.0 Desktop Application for Call Center Agents, MaxSupervisor 6.0 Desktop Application for Call Center Supervisors, and MaxInsight 6.0 Readerboard Application for displaying real-time call center statistics. MAX Communications Server 6.0 key features and benefits include native Microsoft (News - Alert) Exchange Server 2007 integration for a complete, unified messaging solution, new software-based distributed softswitch architecture and new .NET-based desktop telephony client with enhanced call control features. There is also integration with Microsoft Office Communicator to deliver rich presence management and expanded meet-me conference bridge with scheduling application supporting 120 participants.

• BenchmarkPortal (News - Alert) (www.benchmarkportal.com) has issued a new report, ‘Technology Adoption Strategies for All-In-One Contact Center Solutions’ sponsored by Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) (www.inin.com) that shows how contact centers can protect existing investments, while making a phased migration to all-in-one communications software suites. It found that there is a sizeable experience base of contact centers that have migrated to all-in-one communications software suites over time. Also, migration to them is generally no more difficult, and is frequently less difficult, than other IT initiatives within contact centers. Approximately four out of five managers with multipoint solutions feel that a gradual migration strategy would make adoption of an all-in-one communications software suite more attractive.

In conjunction with the BenchmarkPortal report, Interactive Intelligence has launched a competitive replacement program. This program gives discounts to contact centers that opt to replace specific multipoint solutions with the company’s all-in-one IP communications software suite, thus making migration even more cost-effective.

• Genesys (www.genesyslab.com) and InQuira (News - Alert) (www.inquira.com) have integrated their software suites. The joint solution combines Genesys’ customer interaction software with InQuira's knowledge management applications and in doing so supports e-mail, chat, and self-service web and mobile for customer support.

The InQuira knowledge suite enhances self-service interactions, and provides answers and continuity throughout any customer inquiry including across different conversation channels. Integrated with Genesys (News - Alert)’ chat and e-mail escalation features, it enables an organization to seamlessly extend customers’ interactions as their self-service sessions are fully captured and leveraged as part of a more extensive customer-service engagement. In turn Genesys customers can get the right answer with InQuira's intent-based retrieval capabilities. InQuira discovers the true intent of each question to find the most relevant answer as quickly as possible. InQuira leverages profile data, customer searches and other information maintained in Genesys to deliver even more targeted and personalized answers.

• Jigsaw (www.jigsaw.com) has released the trigger on Data Fusion, a new SaaS (News - Alert)/hosted application that reportedly is the first automated system for acquiring, cleansing, and managing new sales prospect records for CRM and marketing automation systems, including Salesforce CRM. Data Fusion leverages the Jigsaw database to move CRM record management to the hosted cloud. It can append incomplete records, turn junk data into clean contacts. Identify and update junk data with business data, flags dead (graveyard) records for deletion and duplicate contacts for consolidation and in doing so improve overall results.

• NICE (www.nice.com) NICE Perform now supports SIP-based recording and enhanced virtualization. NICE Perform 3.2’s SIP feature set integrates with leading session border controller vendors. Companies standardizing on SIP can achieve cost savings by eliminating redundant network infrastructure and reducing resources through data center consolidation, enabling organizations to reduce call recording costs while increasing call capacity. Enhanced support for server virtualization enables organizations consolidate and reduce their operational IT and other data center related costs. These include floor space, hardware, and maintenance related costs and fewer servers.

• Spectrum (News - Alert) (www.specorp.com) neXorce Enterprise Software visual data management solution now offers includes a new historical reporting module, automatic version update scheduler, enhanced Failover module, and new features to the XorceView desktop software. The neXorce historical reporting module will capture and store real-time data for historical analysis, trending and reporting. The automatic update scheduler offers customers an annual service agreement to ensure that they have the latest versions. The failover module will attempt to reconnect to the primary source, such as an ACD or database fails and the primary source is still unavailable, the module will connect to the secondary source. There is now a data grid feature to its XforceView PC desktop application allowing users to display KPIs and metrics in that format.

• Connie Smith (News - Alert), a noted customer service expert and speaker who has helped contact centers for leading firms such as Southwest Airlines, Staples, Cabelas, Nordstrom, Flagstar bank, Alaska Airlines, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, has formed her own firm, SpotOn (News - Alert) Enterprises (www.spotonenterprises.com). SpotOn Enterprises provides consulting and speaking services to the customer service industry. The firm’s mission is to help organizations improve their financial and organizational performance, optimize leadership, drive organizational efficiency and effectiveness, increase employee and customer satisfaction, and motivate and energize their workforces.

• Tellme (News - Alert) (www.tellme.com) thanks to working with its parent, Microsoft, has made its hosted speech solutions even more cost effective and powerful, thereby enabling more end customers to stay longer and complete more interactions with them, before and as opposed to zeroing out to live agents.

Tellme has added VoIP call transport via Global Crossing (News - Alert)’s VoIP service, offering significant cost savings over traditional circuit-switched TDM/PSTN. Enterprises can extend their VoIP strategy to customer service calls and eliminate transfer fees and can do away with toll-free numbers. Tellme has also fine tuned its automated speech applications to increase response accuracy that will minimize zero outs. There are also more natural and faster user interfaces via expanded multi-slot recognition that makes it possible for callers to ask for information in a full sentence or phrase, and a new ‘voice font’ called Zira that has been created with a patented technique designed for voice quality and delivery consistency that delivers a more conversational experience.

• Thomas L. Cardella Associates (www.tlcassociates.com) (TLC&A) has begun operations at its new Marshalltown, Ia. contact center. It joins facilities in Cedar Rapids, Coralville, and Keokuk, and Marshalltown, Iowa, along with a constellation of at-home agents in driving distance of these offices. The firm expects to employ 200 contact center specialists: 185 entry level and 15 managerial by early fall. TLC&A has been focusing on and as a result experiencing strong growth serving the direct marketing needs of Fortune 500 clients in the financial services, insurance, publication, specialty retail, technology, telecom, entertainment, utilities, and travel industries.

• Recognizing the data security is top of mind and is an underlying concern with hosted solutions Varolii Corporation (News - Alert) (www.varolii.com) has raised the security standard for its SaaS-based communication platforms. The firm has become PCI Level 1 and NIST certified, and its data centers are SAS (News - Alert)-70 Type II certified. Varolii works with more than $400 billion in customer accounts and sends more than 1 billion personalized messages annually. Varolii’s security is based on the ISO 27000 Series, which is an internationally recognized standard which outlines best practices for information security management, risks and controls for all enterprise data, rather than just a particular subset governed by specific regulations. An ISO-based security strategy offers broader protection and lower risk than one built to satisfy individual compliance and regulatory requirements.

Do Not Call Violations Snare DIRECTV, Comcast (News - Alert), DISH Network

By Brendan B. Read Senior Contributing Editor

It never pays to be an overly eager telemarketer stretching or could be seen pushing and crossing the limits of the law, even if you are or are representing a popular entertainment/communications service. The net result may be paying fines to settle allegations of violating federal Do Not Call (DNC) and other telemarketing regulations.

That is what has apparently happened to and with DIRECTV, Comcast, and with Dish Network, formerly EchoStar. DIRECTV will pay $2.31 million in response to Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)) charges that it had violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) DNC regulations and had also violated a 2005 court order barring it from such conduct. A DIRECTV telemarketer and its principals are also settling related charges. The FTC alleged that they had made over 1 million illegal prerecorded calls to consumers in 2007 who had previously said they did not want the company calling them.

Meanwhile Comcast has agreed to pay $900,000 to settle the FTC’s claims that it violated the entity-specific DNC provisions of the TSR (News - Alert), i.e. that a company called consumers who had specifically asked it not to call them.

Comcast has written TSR compliance policies and procedures including the rule’s entity-specific DNC provisions. Yet despite them the regulator contends that some of Comcast’s internal and outsourced centers together made more than 900,000 calls to consumers after they had specifically asked that the company stop calling them. It alleged that Comcast failed to implement a program that would have identified problems at the contact centers and promptly corrected them.

The FTC is also pursuing a lawsuit against Dish Network, directly and through its authorized dealers, called numerous consumers whose numbers are on the DNC list. The suit also alleges that the firm had violated the TSR by assisting and supporting its authorized dealers in telemarketing its services to consumers with prerecorded calls.

The federal government is seeking a permanent injunction against Dish Network that prohibits it from violating the TSR either directly or through its authorized dealers and from assisting and facilitating violations and to require it to monitor and enforce dealers’ compliance with the TSR. The government also seeks civil penalties for Dish’s violations. The complaint announced against Dish Network has been being brought jointly with the

Attorneys General of California, Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina as co-plaintiffs. It includes allegations brought solely by them that Dish Network violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and state law – either directly or indirectly as a result of third parties acting on its behalf. Dish and its parties have allegedly called numbers on the DNCR and transmitted prerecorded messages to consumers.

The reaction from the firms has varied. DIRECTV has kept quiet. Comcast released a statement from Sena Fitzmaurice, Senior Director Corporate Communications and Government Affairs, carried by the American Teleservices Association in a regulatory newswire to its members:

“Comcast fully supports all Do-Not-Call regulations and we are committed to preventing unwanted telemarketing calls,” said Fitzmaurice. “The FTC found our compliance with the national Registry to be 99.85 percent and chose not to pursue any claim against Comcast in that area. This settlement is limited to alleged calls made to persons identified on our internal do-not-call list, where our compliance percentage was at 99.74 percent. Both compliance percentages are greater than those reported by the FTC to Congress last year as evidencing ‘highly effective’ performance. Since the period under review, we have further strengthened our policies and procedures to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls.” Dish Network meanwhile is contesting the charges. It had issued this statement:

“We respectfully disagree with the allegations made today by the Federal Trade Commission and certain States that DISH Network has engaged in 'do-not-call' violations and that DISH Network should be held responsible for 'do-not-call' violations by independent retailers. An independent audit demonstrates that DISH Network is in compliance with 'do-not-call' laws, has proper controls in place, and is well within the safe-harbor provisions of the law.

“We also believe that the FTC is equating merely doing business with an independent retailer to 'causing' or 'assisting and facilitating' violations by that retailer, which creates a strict liability standard that does not exist in the law and was not intended by Congress. We look forward to resolving these differences of opinion through the judicial process.”

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