TMCnet - World's Largest Communications and Technology Community



August 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 3
High Priorty

No Summertime Slowdown

By Rich Tehrani

August is traditionally a slow news month, but as this sampling of items that appeared on TMCnet shows, the contact center/CRM market continue to forge ahead with new solutions and innovations emerging on a daily basis.

For example, FrontRange Solutions announced the availability of FrontRange IT Service Management Version 6.1. According to the good folks at FrontRange, the new offering is "a next-generation software application" for mid-sized and enterprise IT and customer service organizations, designed to provide business process support and self-service for IT operations.

As TMCnet columnist David Sims explains it in his recent online coverage, (http://www.tmcnet.com/2251.1) the FrontRange solution is full of new improvements. Enhancements include an improved self-service portal user experience, expanded business process support and VoIP communications capabilities such as click-to-call and broadcast.

There's also updated service request management with new tools in configuration management for change management control.

The new version of the product also offers visualization of the Configuration Management Database, including impact analysis, drill-down controls and a dynamic, graphical service map. It has support for the latest Microsoft business automation and presentation technologies, including Microsoft Office 2007, Outlook 2007, .NET 3.0 and Windows Presentation Foundation.

Sims also covers (http://www.tmcnet.com/2252.1) the latest version of Pivotal CRM for TMCnet. According to Sims, Pivotal CRM 6.0 features a redesigned platform giving users out-of-the box, task-based navigation, forms and portals with "the look and feel of Microsoft applications," and "which have the ability to model complex workflow."

The solution integrates with Microsoft Outlook to feature calendaring, task and e-mail capabilities within the platform.

Pivotal 6.0 also embeds SharePoint, which lets users deploy SharePoint Server 2007 with SharePoint Designer 2007, and lets them implement a new feature in Pivotal 6.0 called SmartPortal, a Pivotal portal, which is designed to enable IT professionals to set-up pre-defined portals by functional area.

For example, portals can be created for sales people, customer support representatives and others specific to groups within an organization. End users, including mobile users, can then personalize their own home page by adding new Web parts and modifying existing Web parts.

Senior Contributing Editor Brendan Read, writing from his home base in Canada, offers his thoughts (http://www.tmcnet.com/2253.1) on the pending release of new telemarketing regulations that will go into effect north of the border on September 30, 2008. The new rules, in part based on existing U.S. practices, will include a national Do Not Call (DNC) list.

According to Read, "The measures are intended to better enable the country's 33 million+ consumers to limit unwanted telemarketing calls and to halt annoying practices such as ‘dead air' from abandoned calls that had been made by predictive dialers."

One change is that Canada's CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television Commission) will have fining authority for all telemarketing regulations that it did not have before. Prior to this the CRTC relied on telcos to enforce individual DNC requests by suspending or disconnecting telemarketers. Consumers could then contact the CRTC if the telcos were not able to stop the unwanted calls.

TMCnet's Susan Campbell writes (http://www.tmcnet.com/2254.1) about a recent research study, commissioned by Genesys Communications, that strives to determine which industries are leading the way in terms of customer service offerings and those that are in reality, lagging behind.

A key motivator for the research is the fact that, as Campbell puts it, "…while most companies tout that they put significant emphasis on quality customer service and maintaining customer loyalty, there is often a significant gap between what a companies claims is happening and what the customer perceives is the actual state of service."

In the study, Genesys determined that companies in the communication and financial services sectors are far ahead in terms of leveraging customer service as a strategic differentiator. This leadership is due to their sophisticated and proactive approach to the type and depth of contact center technologies that have been implemented.

To fully identify strengths and weaknesses in contact centers, the study polled 385 contact center managers from communication, financial services, insurance, government, utilities and healthcare organizations. Genesys was also able to effectively determine what business practices and technologies were being deployed or planned for improving the customer experience.

The study also showed that contact centers are strongly considering the move towards IP. According to the report, among contact centers not currently using IP-based solutions, the expectation was that they plan to implement one in the next two to three years. IP installations are being pursued by 66 percent of financial services companies, 45 percent of communications companies, 58 percent of utilities and 83 percent of healthcare organizations.

The results of this study also determined that government organizations have a more clearly defined measurement for contact center performance. This is agreed upon by both contact center managers and executive management.

The study also showed that insurance companies leverage touchtone IVR to a greater extent than other markets as 92 percent of those surveyed use the technology. SMS/text messaging and Web chat is significantly higher in the communication industry.

At the same time, only 23 percent of healthcare contact centers are likely to attempt up- or cross-selling as they often view such practices as not appropriate of because it would involve time-consuming training requirements.

As Campbell sums it up, "The industry in which the contact center is operating appears to have an impact on its technology integration and its approach to operations. Consumers do not have all the same expectations across the board irrespective of the industry, except that they still expect to receive quality service. It is up to the contact centers themselves to determine how best to deliver it."

Even though many industries slow during the summer, the call center and CRM space are bucking the trend based on my conversations with companies in the space. This is good news for those of us working in this market and I can't wait to see what September brings.

And don't forget. The industry is gathering in Los Angeles this September 16–18 for Call Center 2.0 at the LA Convention Center. Call Center 2.0 is shaping up to be a fantastic event — and one you can't afford to miss! I look forward to seeing you there.

– Rich Tehrani is TMC's Group Publisher.

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