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By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director, Customer Inter@ction Solutions

Sage’s ACT! Turns 20, Larry Ritter Talks About Web 2.0
In a recent interview, Larry Ritter, senior VP of product management at Sage CRM Solutions, discussed ACT!’s 20th birthday and the company’s plans for the product going forward. Ritter leads the Sage CRM Solutions product management teams for the ACT!, SageCRM/SageCRM.com and Sage SalesLogix product lines.

The Greatest CRM Fad You’ll Never Need
Ever notice that most CRM and business books are much more useful for holding up a corner of your desk than putting new business on your desk? How many companies improved profits from studying Ernest Shackleford, a screw-up whose main achievement is that he avoided turning himself and his men into frozen penguin hors d’oeuvres? There’s a man worthy of emulation.

UK Contact Centers Struggling With Training And Customer Service
Customer service provided by contact centers in the UK is strained by a growing training and support gap. As a result, nearly 6,000 contact centers are experiencing a decline in their customer service deliverables. These problems are exacerbated by high attrition rates (nearly 25 percent) and the need to train new employees, according to research figures from knowledge transfer provider Knowledge Solutions. Overall, these challenges are costing the industry GBP2.53 billion in unnecessary time and resources.

British Call Center Agents Inept At Handling Calls From Non-English Speakers
Research was conducted by thebigwordGroup, a global provider of language services, to determine how the contact centers of British banks and insurance companies handle calls from customers with heavy foreign accents. Out of the 180 calls made by researchers, only three resulted in a solution to the language barrier and the caller obtaining the information he or she required.

Australian Contact Centers Failing To Capture Effective Customer Feedback
The contact center is increasingly playing an important role in the organization, operating as the key interaction point between the organization and the customer. To ensure that the contact center is delivering the level of customer service the customer expects, the organization must not only gather customer feedback, but also plug the results back into everyday processes. Verint Witness Actionable Solutions recently published its research findings in “Customer Feedback in Contact Centres: Australia” on behalf of callcentres.net. The research examines and evaluates current methods used by contact centers in Australia and what the future holds to improve the processes.

Convergys, Telecom Egypt Sign Business Process Deal
Convergys Corp. has announced a new agreement to provide consulting services to Telecom Egypt, the largest fixed line provider in the Middle East and Africa serving over 11 million subscribers. As part of the agreement, Convergys will help implement a business process reengineering project to enhance Telecom Egypt’s billing operations, aligning them with Telecom Egypt’s new billing platform.

Contactual Now Interoperable With Sylantro’s Synergy Platform
Contactual’s on-demand contact center software is now compatible with Sylantro’s Synergy platform. The deal means customers of both companies have the option of running Contactual’s flexible, full-featured contact center solutions on the Sylantro Synergy platform, which enables the delivery of rich, hosted IP communication services across fixed, mobile and cable networks. Specifically designed for network operators, the platform can be used to host a wide range of differentiated communications applications and accelerate their delivery to business and consumer markets. In addition, Contactual is now a Silver Level sponsor of the Sylantro Global Summit.



SAS Announces Real-Time Decision Manager For CRM
SAS, a CRM business intelligence vendor, has announced the SAS Real-Time Decision Manager to help marketers “coordinate interactive marketing across multiple channels.” The product, part of SAS’ customer intelligence suite, uses analytically driven decision logic, and is scheduled to ship in December 2007.

Global Telesourcing And Toptel To Combine U.S. Operations
Global Telesourcing, a provider of Spanish and bilingual call center services to companies targeting the U.S. Hispanic market, and Toptel SA de CV, a provider of outsourced contact center services, have entered into an alliance to deliver Spanish and bilingual call center services to the U.S. market. The deal is significant in light of the growing need for bilingual call center services to the U.S. market. Currently, the U.S. is home to more than 45 million Hispanics, 64 percent of whom are of Mexican origin. That means Mexico-based call centers are uniquely qualified for delivering customer service and marketing campaigns to this massive population segment.

Verint Announces Enhancements To Impact 360 Workforce Management
Contact center software provider Verint Systems Inc. recently announced enhancements to its Impact 360 Workforce Management solution, which it acquired when it purchased Witness Systems earlier this year. The company considers Impact 360 Workforce Management “one of the two anchor segments” of its workforce optimization suite. The software simplifies the task of forecasting and scheduling call center agents across multiple locations and helps companies predict when spikes in call volume might occur. As such, it helps companies cut costs by having just the right number of agents available at the right time based on call volume.

West Interactive Receives Two Market Leader Awards
West Interactive won two Market Leader Awards during the 13th Annual SpeechTEK Conference and Exposition held recently in New York. The company won the awards in the Self Service Suite and Professional Services categories. It is the only company to receive Market Leader Awards in two categories.

Voxify Adds Greater Flexibility To Self-Service Speech Apps Through “Consolization”
Voxify has “consolized” its speech-enabled self-service solutions: the company’s “automated agents” are now fully configurable via a Web-based console, helping empower contact center managers and supervisors to make changes to speech applications in real time without having to go back to Voxify to make changes. By putting these “Web consoles” in the hands of contact center managers, companies can now react more quickly to changing market conditions and immediately modify their self-service solutions.

Promero Launches “Hosted Hybrid” Model For Oracle’s Contact Center Anywhere Solution
Call center and CRM software reseller Promero is now offering a “Hosted Hybrid” hosted call center solution featuring Oracle’s Contact Center Anywhere solution. This managed contact center service offers to medium-to-large call centers (100-plus seats) the financial benefits of leasing the Oracle software while hosting the application at a data center operated by a third-party provider such as Promero. The company claims that this model is different than a pure hosted solution because it offers the benefits of lease-purchase and experienced management services.

Avaya Leads North America in Unified Messaging According to InfoTech
Avaya has been recognized as the North American market leader for unified messaging in InfoTech’s InfoTrack for Converged Applications Messaging Report, 2006. Avaya is also recognized in this report as the leader in total messaging revenues. According to the report, Avaya led in both revenues and shipments of unified messaging applications with 37.1 percent and 28.7 percent market share respectively in each measurement.

Enkata Collaborates with DMG Consulting to Develop Call Center “First Call Resolution” Guide
On-demand performance and talent management solutions provider Enkata announced that it has collaborated with Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC, to develop the “Call Center First Resolution Guide.” The white paper offers in-depth research and analysis, best practices and case study examples and will be positioned as the essential guide for call center executives seeking to build actionable first-call resolution (FCR) programs.

Gartner Adds Interactive Intelligence To Magic Quadrant For Contact Center Infrastructure
Interactive Intelligence has been named to the leaders’ quadrant in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure, North America, 2007 report. The report provides an analysis of vendors in the market based on their ability to execute their strategies and their completeness of vision.

Envision Telephony Announces Envision Analytics
Envision Telephony, Inc., a provider of software solutions for the contact center and the enterprise, has announced the availability of Envision Analytics, a Web-based platform-agnostic dashboard designed to consolidate, analyze and share market, customer, contact center and enterprise data to deliver a contextual view of enterprise performance.

Paraxip Launches NetBorder To Facilitate SIP-Based Solutions
Paraxip Technologies, a developer of connectivity products to empower the deployment of IP telephony, has launched its NetBorder Software Suite. The new suite is designed to facilitate deployment of SIP-based solutions in the contact center and the enterprise. The NetBorder Software Suite is a VoIP session and media controller that combines the features of media gateways, session controllers and media servers with scripting engines to simplify and accelerate the deployment of SIP-based applications.

Cincom Partners With CallCopy
CallCopy Inc., a provider of quality management and call recording solutions for contact centers, and Cincom Systems have signed a partnership agreement that enables integration between Cincom’s Synchrony contact center solutions and CallCopy’s cc: Discover call recording and quality management suite. The agreement allows for Cincom to resell CallCopy’s recording and quality monitoring technology under the Cincom brand.

Intelecom Launches OSS Platform To Manage Automated Customer Functions
InteleCom Inc. has announced the development of its Operation Support System (OSS) to monitor, control, analyze and manage all customer data. This OSS Platform was created to seamlessly manage all automated customer functions, including online order processing, account provisioning, worldwide fulfillment and global shipping, customer care and e-mail communications, billing and collections. The system was also designed to provide instant remote retail phone activation anywhere in the world through a Web portal.

Sitel Gets Top Rankings in ‘The Black Book of Outsourcing’
BPO firm Sitel has been rated “the most trusted contact center outsourcing provider” in the 2007 edition of “The Black Book of Outsourcing,” an industry guide compiled annually by outsourcing gurus Doug Brown and Scott Wilson. The publication ranks the “Top 50 Best Managed Global Outsourcing Vendors” based on 26 measures of leadership excellence, including client satisfaction with senior management direction, leadership impact on outsourcing results, business transformation practices, client relations management, and indicators of C-level officer commitment.

Genesys Adds Voxify’s Automated Agents To Its Hosted And Managed Offerings
Contact center software provider Genesys has teamed up with Voxify, a provider of speech-enabled self-service solutions, to deliver Voxify’s Automated Agents self-service speech applications on the Genesys Voice Platform. The service will be delivered alongside Genesys’ hosted and managed services solutions. The deal means Genesys, an Alcatel-Lucent company, is now a premiere reseller of Voxify’s Automated Agents solutions. Genesys will subcontract the application development and maintenance of Voxify applications and support them under its Professional Services application support model.


Aspect Software Redefines Optimization
By: Rich Tehrani, Group Publisher, Group Editor-in-Chief, Technology Marketing Corporation

For many companies with thousands of call center agents, the concept of optimizing contact center performance is akin to optimizing the U.S. government. In either case, you must ask yourself how you know when you are truly optimized and the job is done.

If you pressed me, I would admit that optimizing a government is the more difficult task, so that’s where we’ll direct the focus.

In many call centers, there are silos of automation with manual processes between them. These manual processes, consisting of hand-assembled MS Word or Excel Documents, slow things down and are akin to Bondo on a race car. Sure, from the outside the car looks great, but if you look below the surface, the car is far from perfect.

You can imagine how happy I was to learn that Aspect Software (www.aspect.com) is committing tremendous resources to tackling the performance optimization problem, and the company has just launched a major initiative called PerformanceEdge which has the potential to truly revolutionize the contact center space.

Aspect Software is actually a melting pot of best-of-breed technologies such as inbound, outbound, customer service, workforce optimization and more. The number of acquisitions the company has executed in the past years is staggering, and Aspect has further distinguished itself by holding onto virtually all of its top management over the course of these many years.

Coincidentally, after I wrote the first draft of this article while at the Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO in Los Angeles, I happened to pick up a copy of the LA Times, and on the front page of the business section was an article detailing the invention of the ACD, which was accomplished by Rockwell International. As many readers will know, the call center division of this company became part of Aspect Software through acquisition.

Aspect has been analyzing contact centers quite closely as of late and they’ve noticed as transaction volumes increase, there tends to be a severe lack of forecasting and planning ability. In addition, they were seeing an increased occurrence of reporting lags due to disparate systems that were never designed to work seamlessly as a cohesive whole. Multiple call centers make the problem incrementally worse at best and exponentially worse depending on what systems reside in said centers.

The above problems are perhaps summed up best by saying today’s large contact centers are not able to fully support business processes. Because of this inability, top management in most organizations do not really understand or appreciate how important call centers are to their companies. In my opinion, real productivity begins when contact centers evolve to truly allow businesses to harness their full potential. Many contact centers are viewed as necessary costs. However, if they can live up to their full potential, they can be used more granularly and intelligently as they become strategic assets.

To achieve this lofty ambition, Aspect’s PerformanceEdge synchronizes the complete breadth of customer service, collections, sales and telemarketing business processes with centralized management and reporting across various applications and sites. The software subsequently delivers unified administration, reporting and workflows, providing application navigation, simplified agent administration, single user log on, unified historical and real-time reporting and synchronized intraday operation and data sharing.

The goal, of course, is to make it easy for contact center managers to consider everything and act immediately, resulting in better operational efficiencies and agent effectiveness. This, in turn, allows companies to control costs, enhance service levels and align performance to support strategic goals.

Some of the capabilities of the PerformanceEdge suite are as follows:

• Workforce management: enables organizations to plan and manage the performance of inbound, blended and outbound staffing resources;

• Performance management: measures, analyzes and communicates performance results to continuously improve business processes and ensure they are aligned with business goals;
• Quality management: records, evaluates and analyzes agent interactions and captures real-time customer feedback to deliver insights into business issues and agent performance;

• Campaign management: optimizes outbound and blended campaign strategies and increases productive contacts by pinpointing best time-to-call;

• Coaching and e-learning: provides needs-based coaching capabilities as well as e-learning management and content authoring tools; and

• Speech analytics: automatically scrutinizes and reports on content, context, purpose and outcome of every recorded customer interaction.

PerformanceEdge is being rolled out by Aspect as a separate entity under the Aspect umbrella. Why? There are two reasons, in my opinion. The first is the solution works with a number of other companies’ solutions, so the potential to partner with these other companies becomes greater if they aren’t partnering with their direct competitor: Aspect. The second reason is a performance optimization solution will likely command a good premium as a separate publicly traded company or acquisition target if this is the route Aspect chooses to take in the future.

Obviously, this product rollout is a significant undertaking and is some of the biggest news in the contact center market at the moment. For the first time in a number of years, we are witnessing a true breakthrough in contact center technology.

Getting back to my initial question: Your contact center is optimized when it is able to rapidly respond to organizational needs and can be seamlessly integrated into business processes. Perhaps optimizing a call center is easier than I originally thought, so in my next article on the topic, I will explore how to do the same for our government.

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