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Considering call centers have existed for more than 30 years you’d think innovation within the call center industry would slow to a trickle. However, call centers are always looking to squeeze just a little more efficiency and productivity out of their agents, which especially in larger call centers can equate to millions of dollars per year. With the advance of IP communications, data collaboration tools and other Internet technologies, the contact center has seen an explosion of innovative products and services over the past few years. This year marks the 8th annual TMC Labs Innovation Awards, which honor products and services that have unique features that their competition often lacks.

This year, TMC Labs considered dozens of applications and selected 19 unique and innovative products (see Chart 1). Product descriptions will be published in two parts in order to accommodate our in-depth write-ups. The second set of product descriptions will be published in the October issue. The first set of detailed write-ups will begin with 8x8 and end with Mitel. Next month, we start with NetSuite and end with Toshiba.

Packet8 Complete Contact Center

The Packet8 Complete Contact Center provides enterprise-class contact center functionality and hosted PBX functionality with just a PC and a broadband connection. It features multimedia queuing for voice, voicemail, chat, email and fax. It leverages Packet8’s Virtual Office hosted PBX calling features and Packet8’s cost efficient business VoIP calling plans. Developed in partnership with Contactual, Inc., developers of on-demand contact center technology solutions, the Packet8 Complete Contact Center lets companies quickly deploy and operate multi-channel contact centers without the time and expense of purchasing, installing and maintaining costly, specialized equipment.

According to Packet8, “Delivered entirely as a hosted service, the Packet8 Complete Contact Center requires no specialized hardware or software, no telecom equipment and no up-front capital expenditures, making it an ideal solution for blending in-house and offsite or multi-site agents. Agents require nothing more than a web browser and a directly addressable voice terminal.”

The Packet8 Complete Contact Center service features skills-based routing, real-time monitoring and reporting, voice recording and logging, IVR, CRM integration and multi-media (voice, email, chat) management. Packet8’s hosted call center solution, which hosts the voice network (IVR, PBX functionality, VoIP), as well as tracks and maintains customer data and interaction history, is the next evolution in hosted contact center solutions.

VoFi Analyzer

Businesses looking to deploy voice over WiFi are looking for easy-to-use tools to provide diagnosis of network issues and ensure voice quality. AirMagnet’s VoFi Analyzer is a wireless LAN voice-over-IP (VoFi) analysis tool that allows IT managers to proactively detect and determine the root cause of problems associated with voice calls on a wireless network. Unlike competing solutions it actually collects data from three sources — the air, phone and wire. This delivers a comprehensive end-to-end analysis, ensuring that VoFi calls meet the high level of call quality and reliability found with traditional phone solutions.

The product features VoFi-specific alarms and real-time statistical analysis integrated into the product, so users can identify and solve with problems as they occur. Additional quality of service features for roaming diagnosis, jitter control and call connection analysis ensure that call quality is kept at the highest levels. AirMagnet claims that VoFi Analyzer is the only product that provides MOS and R-value data for fully encrypted wireless voice traffic.

The latest version can monitor VoWLAN performance and reliability by auditing wireless networks to ensure the proper configuration of quality-of-service settings and identify and resolve traffic problems, such as dropped calls, dead spots and choppy audio. VoFi Analyzer not only samples wireless traffic as it travels through the air, it also integrates with leading phones to directly collect Syslog messages, giving crucial insight into call quality at the device itself. In addition, VoFi Analyzer integrates with leading VoIP servers to provide a “wired” perspective on the connection, letting IT managers easily see the call tear-down details.

VoFi Analyzer also provides comprehensive analysis of call roaming, a common problem-area with VoWLAN deployment. Using VoFi Analyzer, IT managers can track all roaming events and see the history of all roams in a given call to quickly determine if a call is frequently “thrashing” between APs or channels. VoFi Analyzer 3.0 also has a new feature called “Follow Phone” that allows the application to lock onto a particular client phone and track that device through any roaming event, no matter where or how often it roams, to accurately troubleshoot a problematic connection.

OmniTouch My Teamwork 4.1

When Jack Bauer wants to know the exact location of terrorists within a building he simply has Chloe download a real-time satellite infrared map to his PDA, which displays red dots where the bad guys are, superimposed onto the building blueprints. Science fiction, right? Not so fast. Alcatel-Lucent has developed an in-door personnel tracking system that leverages multiple WiFi access points to triangulate the location of personnel or objects. Accurately locating objects and people within multi-floor buildings is an issue in healthcare, transportation/logistics, first-responder, as well as other enterprise verticals. Although GPS systems work well in the outdoors, satellite signals do not typically penetrate building construction materials, and therefore indoor tracking must be solved using other technologies such as WiFi and RFID.

By knowing the exact locations of the access points, an RF (radio frequency) processor can use the signal amplitude and other information, such as time-of-arrival, to accurately determine the position of each WiFi client. Typically, a collection of access points is deployed on each floor of a building to provide WiFi coverage. By knowing the locations of these access points, the RF processor can produce an accurate estimate of the X/Y location of each WiFi client, so that, for example, the position of each device can be displayed on a map. The Media Access Control (MAC) address of each WiFi client is also received, and by associating this MAC with the name of device or a person carrying an object, it is therefore possible to know the position of this object or person as a function of time.

The solution can convert the location information into a textual string such as “In Patient Room 123” and then display this information as the presence state on a buddy, or contact, list. For example, fellow doctors, nurses, supervisors and administrators can view a doctor’s presence if they have the property permissions and can immediately know the current physical location of this doctor. Depending on the presence state, you can alter the communications method. For instance, you can establish a multi-party, multimedia communications session to establish a data collaboration session. The multi-party support is enabled via VoIP using the SIP standard and a softphone client. Finally, OmniTouch My Teamwork offers SIP and XML APIs for simplified integration to legacy business systems and processes.

Citrix Online
GoToWebinar 1.0

Citrix GoToWebinar is Citrix’s managed online event service designed to enable large-scale online webinars and targeting the small to medium sized business (SMB) market. GoToWebinar uses proprietary bandwidth-adaptive compression and screen-sharing technology used in other Citrix products to enable event organizers to meet with attendees using a variety of Internet speeds. GoToWebinar is designed to handle up to 1,000 people and features recording, live annotation and mark-up, text chat, an attendees panel, and very good scheduling and invitation functionality.

GoToWebinar helps businesses evaluate the success of their Webinars via built-in reports. Businesses can qualify leads using the GoToWebinar Attendee Profile, which provides a detailed list of Webinar attendees sorted by their level of interest. GoToWebinar reports track Webinar attendance, audience feedback and overall Webinar success. Using the Dashboard, organizers can monitor overall attendee attentiveness displayed as a percentage. Essentially, the host of the Webinar can see whether any attendee has temporarily switched to another application during the Webinar. This helps the moderator determine the Webinar’s overall ability to hold the audience’s attention, which may require better content, shorter duration, or a different speaker. In addition you can also measure and record attendees’ feedback and satisfaction with the session. Webinars can be recorded — both the screen and the audio and can be distributed as standard Windows Media files. Finally, Citrix offer this service under a single flat fee, allowing you to create unlimited Webinars of any length without paying additional charges, which is common among other online event products.

Consona, Inc.

KNOVA provides Intelligent Customer Experience solutions that maximize the value of every interaction throughout the customer lifecycle. The company’s suite of self-service, contact center and peer support applications automate the most critical part of customer service — actually resolving the case, not just tracking it. Knova’s service resolution management applications optimize the resolution process across multiple service channels, including contact centers, self-service Web sites, help desk, email and chat.

KNOVA provides intelligent customer experience applications, delivered as a cohesive, integrated Service Resolution Management solution that reduces service costs, increases revenue, and improves customer satisfaction. KNOVA leverages a series of patents to build their next-generation search and knowledge management platform. It offers powerful adaptive and guided search and a Resolution Flow engine for process optimization. Importantly, it has collaborative resolution for agents and built-in forums.

EchoSystem version 2.0

What if you could combine VoIP, CTI call routing, CRM, IVR/ACD, workforce management and multi-channel voice/chat/email/fax customer interactions all in a single on-demand and highly-available solution? The hosted Echopass EchoSystem does all that and more. This customizable, fully multi-tenant and on-demand service integration platform integrates Echopass’ advanced multi-channel VoIP contact center software and services with best-of-breed partner technologies and services. The EchoSystem is an end-to-end comprehensive hosted contact center solution with guaranteed service level agreements for the entire service across multi-site contact centers. Echopass helps ensure that incoming communications, whether via voice, email, Web-chat or fax, are routed to the best available agent. It also features recording and monitoring, as well as agent performance analytics.

EchoPass claims it is the first and only company to develop a unique multi-tenant version of Genesys’ popular call routing functionality. They also claim to be the first to integrate this on-demand multi-tenant call routing capability with on-demand CRM, workforce management applications, a wide array of voice/data network technologies and other enterprise-class applications. This highly reliable solution is protected through Echopass’ “always on” guarantee Service Level Agreement. This SLA offers 99.9% reliability and includes delivery/management of telco and other partner company’s hosted applications which do not provide Echopass with that high a level of SLA. Echopass is SAS70 certified for its security and operations. Without upfront capital expenditures, contact centers can quickly ramp up their business with the ability to add agents and manage multiple contact center sites, all on-the-fly.

Exony Virtualized Interaction Manager v6.1

Contact center managers and supervisors s increasingly have to manage agents in multiple locations, including branch office agents, teleworkers and third party outsourced agents. This makes it a challenge to quickly and easily measure and manage agent performance. Exony VIM solves this problem by combining virtual contact center reporting and analytics with virtual contact center resource management in a single, integrated application. The latest version, Exony VIM v6.1, includes a number of updates to the core VIM capabilities (e.g., enhanced and upgraded ‘Report Builder’ tool), plus two new modules: VIM Connect and VIM Service Management. The Exony Virtualized Interaction Manager leverages key technology components from Microsoft including .Net, SQL Server, Reporting Services, Office Web Components, etc.

Targeting large enterprises, service providers, telecoms operators/carriers it features hierarchical partitioning, roles-based security, “intelligent interaction” data gathering and interpretation, and resource management/provisioning technologies that enable the effective and efficient operation of hosted, outsourced and enterprise virtual customer contact operations. Using VIM you can measure and manage the performance of any end-user in the virtualized organization. Importantly, you can easily identify and focus on priorities for customer interaction experience, efficiency and effectiveness, through self-service reporting and analytics drill-down. By offering a centralized reporting dashboard, you can monitor up-to-the-minute performance and quality of third party service providers.

Another innovation for Exony is that their comprehensive Reporting and Analytics solution works with the popular Cisco IPCC platform. In fact, Exony VIM Resource Management has been OEM’d by Cisco as per its Contact Center Management Portal, and comes bundled with Cisco’s Unified Contact Center from V7.1.

Glance Networks
Glance 2.2

Glance’s hosted meeting solution has a distinct advantage over competing solutions, including WebEx and GoToMeeting, in that it runs not only on PCs but Macs as well. The Mac market has long been neglected for some time, so Glance enables Mac environments to leverage screen-sharing capabilities to enhance productivity through online interactions.

The new Mac version of Glance is the industry’s first one-button screen sharing tool that lets Mac users instantly show their live computer screens to anyone online. Guests simply use their browser, from nearly any PC, Mac or Linux computer. Once connected, guests see everything the host sees, in full color. Sign-up and installation takes under two minutes and users get to pick their own personal URLs.

Glance Networks told us, “The Mac version of Glance brings the first global cross-platform screen sharing service to Mac and PC users. Recognizing the diversification of operating system use in the business world, Glance worked diligently to create an inclusive product that appeals to all computer users and industries. Mac-oriented fields, such as creative design, marketing and education, were long neglected by the web conferencing industry. This year’s release of Glance for the Mac market makes its service the only one-button and fully-cross platform screen sharing product on the market today.”

Unlike Apple’s upcoming screen sharing tool, which is Mac-only, Leopard-only, inside-firewalls-only, and one-viewer only, Glance works on all Mac 0S 10.3.9+ computers as well as PC (Win98/XP/2k/Vista) and Linux computers, passes transparently through most firewalls and scales to up to 100 guests at a time. With one click, users can demonstrate live Web demos, sales presentations, or creative work right from their desktops.

Customer Interaction Solutions

Mitel’s Customer Interaction Solutions portfolio scales from 10 to thousands of agent seats and consists of two-tiers. The first tier is comprised of Mitel Contact Center Enterprise Edition — for highly sophisticated large-scale contact centers — and the second is Mitel Contact Center Business Edition — for individual contact centers that have 25 or fewer agents. One innovative and important feature is that it enables seamless business continuity during a network upgrade or in the event of a network outage. Customers can maintain contact center data flow at distributed locations via the PSTN.

Using Primary Rate Interface (PRI) and the switched networking feature, Mitel has the ability to launch a PSTN call automatically to reconnect the data linkage. According to the company, “This feature, enabled by the proprietary Digital XNet, is unique to Mitel, and along with the integration of Microsoft’s clustering services provides customers with unsurpassed availability for their contact center operations. Using the PSTN to create a data channel is not new, however, having a PBX automatically do it when it senses that the data network has failed, is. In this way we can say that Mitel’s Customer Interaction Solutions availability is innovative within the industry.”

Using PRI and the Mitel switched networking remote LAN feature, Mitel has the ability to launch a PSTN call automatically that will reconnect Voice over IP (VoIP) and data traffic should the WAN connection fail. As an example, if the WAN connection is being used for VoIP traffic and the WAN connection fails, the VoIP calls on the Mitel 3300 IP Communications Platform (ICP) can be routed over the PRI PSTN automatically and routed to the disaster recovery site. In conjunction with this, data traffic can be routed with a network side PRI connection. This PRI link would be connected to the 3300 ICP server allowing data traffic to be routed to the disaster recovery site over the PSTN network.

These PRI channels are 64K/s each and by simply leveraging channel bonding via the router you can provide 23 channels x 64k or 1472K/s bandwidth. This back up feature, in conjunction with the high availability server option, is unique to Mitel and provides continuous VoIP and data should the WAN be out of service.

Another important high availability feature is its support for Microsoft clustering. Mitel Customer Interaction Solutions leverages Microsoft clustering services for Mitel Contact Center Management, Mitel Interactive Contact Center and Mitel Intelligent Queue. High availability offers a disaster recovery safety net to ensure failover to a secondary server. It also allows for continuous uptime while upgrading or performing maintenance on servers without affecting customers or agent productivity.

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