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Siebel And Telephony@Work Partner To Deliver Contact OnDemand


In June of this year, Siebel Systems announced that it had licensed and incorporated Telephony@Work’s CallCenterAnywhere multichannel contact center technology into Siebel CRM OnDemand service, the hosted sales, service and marketing solution from Siebel Systems. Siebel’s integrated and affordable hosted solution encompasses CRM, analytics and now built-in contact center and service capabilities powered by Telephony@Work technology. Branded as Contact OnDemand, the service is available pre-built into the Siebel CRM OnDemand service or as a standalone contact center solution. We recently visited with Mike Betzer, Vice President of Contact Center and Service at Siebel, and Eli Borodow, CEO of Telephony@Work, to discuss how this partnership introduces differentiated value into the marketplace and what the future holds for the contact center market.

CIS: Why did Siebel decide to start offering a hosted contact center product in addition to hosted CRM?

MB: Siebel has always been a customer-driven company with more than 3.7 million users worldwide. As we rolled out Siebel CRM OnDemand, many of our customers told us they also wanted to escape the burden of having to buy, integrate, implement and manage their own contact center and quality assurance technologies. It was logical for us to offer a complete solution that doesn’t require hosted customers deploy and, more importantly, integrate diverse premise-based systems to gain access to all of the communications technologies they need.

Our partnership with Telephony@ Work empowered us to extend our CRM OnDemand solution to include those voice, e-mail and Web technologies, with capabilities such as skills-based routing of phone and Web transactions and comprehensive quality monitoring and recording capabilities. Our pre-built, tight integration with Telephony@Work’s contact center technology on the back end provides our customers with a complete end-to-end hosted solution that’s fast-to-deploy and easy-to-use. It also further differentiates our OnDemand value proposition from anything else that’s out there.

CIS: How did Siebel choose Telephony@Work as its core technology partner for Contact OnDemand?

MB: When Siebel made the decision to offer multimedia communications technology on a hosted basis, which we call “Contact OnDemand,” we looked at pretty much every vendor in the industry. After a comprehensive review of the technology options that were out there in the marketplace, we narrowed our review to a short list of candidates that were evaluated extensively in our labs. At the end of that process, it was clear that Telephony@Work’s technology was well differentiated from all other alternatives in a variety of key respects, including scalability, reliability, network security, their approach to multitenancy and manageability at scale. We also looked closely at Telephony@Work’s corporate culture and their ability to support a large-scale technology provider like Siebel, including their impressive track record in supporting other large-scale providers around the world. That expertise saved us a lot of time and provided us with a clear integration path. By leveraging Telephony@Work’s pre-built Web services, we were able to tightly integrate their capabilities into Siebel’s back-end offerings and seamlessly embed them into our user interfaces in record time. Telephony@Work’s ability to easily implement real-time change across communications technologies was a great fit with our view of where the market needs to go. That capability will ultimately also enhance the value of analytics as an engine for real-time change. We were also attracted by Telephony@Work’s product vision and their ability to leverage their unique “integration-by-design” approach to continually create unique value and drive increases in both productivity and customer satisfaction. For those reasons, we strongly believe that this partnership will enhance our ability to enjoy sustainable long-term market leadership.

CIS: Eli, tell us a bit about Telephony@Work and how your company is positioned in the contact center market.

EB: Telephony@Work was founded in 1998 with the mission of enabling service providers to offer hosted contact center services at scale to their business customers by eliminating the costs, risks and delays of traditional technology deployment paradigms while empowering companies to deliver world-class service on the phone, fax and Internet. Our multimedia IP Contact Center solution was designed from the ground up to empower large service providers and multisite enterprises to share technology resources across locations and support diverse business units on common infrastructure — without sacrificing data privacy or local autonomy for individual business units. This approach has become known as “multitenant” technology and we’re the dominant player in multitenant contact center technology, with service provider deployments at companies such as Siebel, MCI, TELUS in Canada, TELSTRA in Australia and a diversity of others. While we lead in the multitenant service provider arena, we also sell our solution directly to those single and multisite enterprises that prefer to own their own technology solutions and run them out of their own data centers. While designed to support large-scale enterprises and service providers, our technology can also scale down very cost-effectively to address contact center needs across the spectrum of opportunities.

CIS: How did Telephony@Work’s value-add complement Siebel’s technology vision?

MB: Beyond our near-term goals, another reason we chose Telephony@Work is that their solution is uniquely designed to eliminate the traditional barriers to contact center optimization for our customers. Here’s the problem: “traditional” contact centers have generally had to integrate a diversity of different technology point solutions on a custom basis in order to create their customer service communications infrastructures. This has made premise-based contact center technology expensive to buy, own and maintain. It has also made it notoriously rigid because enormous amounts of time and money are generally required to implement changes — and by the time you’ve implemented those changes, your needs may have changed, as well. As a result, companies — especially small and medium-sized businesses with limited IT budgets — typically shy away from implementing expensive changes to their software investments and instead often postpone resolving many problems until the lifecycles of their current investments are fully depreciated. The consequence is that technology efficiency tends to decline steadily over the lifecycle of traditional technology investments.

Siebel CRM OnDemand changed that from a CRM perspective a while back by empowering companies to quickly and easily change their own CRM business practices. Contact OnDemand changes that again for the broad range of communications and quality assurance technologies that contact centers rely on. Companies can now make changes to their own technology-driven contact center business rules across all technologies in real-time in response to changing business conditions. Telephony@Work’s multichannel contact center technology, which is embedded in Contact OnDemand, leverages the same needs-analysis questions that define a professional services engagement for contact center technology customization; but it actually allows individual company managers to define or redefine their answers via browser menus in real-time and at no cost. This real-time adaptability helps managers maximize productivity in the contact center and effectively address changing business conditions. Now, with the combined CRM OnDemand and

Contact OnDemand product, the lifecycle problem of decreasing efficiency disappears because companies can make changes to their technology-driven business processes on demand.

While the ability to manually input business process changes in real-time has obvious benefits today, we believe this capability has even greater — potentially landscape-changing — benefits from the perspective of analytics. We believe that the science of analytics must ultimately extend beyond merely analyzing historical data and suggesting proactive changes to business logic. While proactive insight obviously has tremendous value, many operational bottlenecks might not be foreseeable by human or machine — and these unpredictable bottlenecks inevitably take their toll on revenue production because they can’t currently be addressed in real-time. By linking analytics to contact center technology that can be modified in real-time without IT intervention, analytics engines will soon be capable of supplementing their commonly understood role as advisor with the capability of actually overseeing business processes as a real-time “auto-pilot.” These industry-specific auto-pilots will actually control the technology and react to changing circumstances directly by implementing required business process changes to any contact center technology, in real-time. The speed and depth of analysis driving such decisions, enriched by integration with both the CRM and communications technologies, will enable us to more accurately identify root causes of business challenges. The emerging paradigm of the “self-optimizing” contact center promises to dramatically change how contact center technologies are implemented and managed. Telephony@Work’s innovations in “Dynamic Customer Satisfaction Management” will also add another important layer of value for automated contact center optimization.

CIS: What is “dynamic customer satisfaction management”?

EB: Dynamic Customer Satisfaction Management refers to the discipline of implementing real-time business process changes to contact center technologies on an automated basis in response to customer feedback and analytics data. With our version 8 release, we’ve focused on integrating Dynamic Customer Satisfaction Management as a pre-built part of our solution. Dynamic Customer Satisfaction Management as an approach begins by effectively addressing the problem of how to accurately measure customer satisfaction. Traditional solutions don’t provide reliable data on customer satisfaction because they rely on metrics such as “how long you waited in queue” instead of whether you were actually satisfied with the overall quality of service you received. Dynamic Customer Satisfaction Management technology is designed to solve that problem by actually asking customers how they were treated. It measures customer satisfaction directly with end-of-transaction surveys which supplement traditional service-level data analysis.

The key difference between this and traditional surveying is that Dynamic Customer Satisfaction Management technology doesn’t just measure satisfaction levels, it acts on them. For example, customer satisfaction feedback is leveraged by Telephony@Work’s CallCenterAnywhere ACD to dynamically adjust routing rules, enabling companies to route their most important customers to qualified agents that other customers recommend. With Dynamic Customer Satisfaction Management, formerly good agents who are no longer giving high quality service are identified quickly and treated differently for routing purposes. Similarly, formerly mediocre agents who have improved are also identified and their statuses can be automatically upgraded within the ACD.

This end-of-transaction survey information can also be leveraged to automatically alert supervisors to “relationship emergencies.” Supervisors can then listen to buffered call recordings, call the customer back with special offers, or discipline the agent within minutes of the offending behavior. Of course, as part of this post-call survey, customers can also choose to speak to a supervisor; in which case, those callers can be transferred with skills-based routing discipline to a dedicated workgroup that specializes in repairing damaged customer relationships. Another key benefit: Since call centers are typically shorthanded in reviewing call recordings, now customers themselves can actually flag calls in need of review. This empowers contact center managers to avoid analyzing calls that customers have already indicated went well.

CIS: Is this intended to replace traditional quality assurance approaches?

EB: Dynamic Customer Satisfaction Management is a supplement to traditional quality assurance management, not a replacement for it. It simply offers companies another tool for ensuring that their customer satisfaction objectives are met. In fact, our CallCenterAnywhere solution includes “traditional” recording, monitoring and coaching capabilities. These tools help supervisors to ensure real-time quality in every transaction, regardless of whether their agents are in the same building or across the world. Supervisors can actually see what each agent is doing and how long he or she has been doing it. They can also identify agents who might be in trouble by defining “out-of-norm” situations which create alerts on the supervisor’s desktop. Once an agent in need of help has been identified, the supervisor can decide to listen to the agent’s call and “whisper coach” the agent if appropriate. That means that the agent can hear the supervisor but the customer can’t. The supervisor can also coach the agent silently with chat, or chose to join the call. And, if the agent is behaving inappropriately, the supervisor can record the call on-the-fly or simply take over the agent’s call while locking the agent out of the system. Scheduled recording is also built in.

CIS: While the hosted services market is growing quickly and is expected to represent a third of the overall market in the next few years, I think you’d agree that most companies today will still be comparing Siebel’s Contact OnDemand solution to the traditional premise-based contact center solutions with which they’re more familiar. What differentiated value does Siebel’s hosted Contact OnDemand service offer to businesses as compared to traditional premise-based solutions?

MB: Siebel is really proud of the high customer value that we deliver with both our CRM OnDemand and our Contact OnDemand solutions. Since your question was about Contact OnDemand, I’ll focus on those differentiators and compare them to traditional premise-based alternatives.

One important driver for many companies today is the elimination of up-front capital expenses as well as the avoidance of traditional integration, development and testing costs. Eliminating these obstacles makes it possible for every company, regardless of size, to deliver world-class customer service to their customers. Cost matters. Because Siebel has tremendous economies of scale, we can drive down technology costs for our customers. In a recent study, Yankee Group estimated that companies can save as much as 59 percent over three years by selecting a hosted CRM solution with integrated contact center capabilities. Add to that the efficiency gains arising from real-time adaptability to changing needs, particularly from the perspective of ongoing technology lifecycle renewal, and the reasons for selecting Contact OnDemand become even more compelling.

Other hosted vendors claim to offer hosted contact center and service products, but what they’re really offering is a toolkit to build a contact center. Most customers I talk to don’t have the resources or time to build computer-telephony integration into their CRM system.

Another core differentiator is that Contact OnDemand eliminates the traditional technology maintenance skills-bar. You don’t need to hire specialized staff to keep it running. Everything is maintained in the network by Siebel. Of course, eliminating the high cost of maintaining traditional solutions is another obvious benefit. Predictability is another important benefit that our customers point to. They obviously like knowing exactly what their expenses will be. They also love the fact that they can completely eliminate traditional multivendor finger-pointing by dealing with a single supplier that takes comprehensive responsibility for the provisioning, delivery and ongoing maintenance of their entire solution. Many of our customers tell us that the elimination of risk is another key consideration for them, since traditional premise-based contact center deployments often fail to deliver on expectations.

The elimination of technology obsolescence risks is another benefit, since our customers never have to buy anything.

Speed and ease of deployment is another important benefit offered by Contact OnDemand. We’ve taken the hard infrastructure effort out of the equation because everything is pre-installed in our data centers and designed for rapid roll-out. The elimination of traditional time-to-market barriers allows our customers to nimbly respond to new market opportunities and support demands. The ability to quickly and cost-effectively add capacity to address unanticipated demand also adds a lot of value by enabling our business customers to effectively meet unexpected or seasonal shifts in capacity requirements.

Siebel also offers our customers another important benefit: the fact that we really know contact centers and have world-class expertise in customer satisfaction delivery. Our business customers can leverage our advice on best practices on an ongoing basis and maximize the value of the technology we deliver.

All of these factors helped Siebel win Gartner’s award for Best Execution of a Midmarket IT Solution by attendees at this year’s Gartner Enterprise Summit. Contact OnDemand was a key differentiator in the award selection process. The fact that this recognition was awarded by the attendees of the Midsize Enterprise Summit speaks to the fact that business customers are recognizing the value of our differentiated value proposition.

CIS: What can Contact OnDemand do for the 3.7 million seats that currently rely on Siebel’s premise-based CRM solutions?

MB: With the launch of Siebel CRM OnDemand Release 9 in September, we now give Siebel on premise users the ability to use our hosted contact center infrastructure for instant CTI. This eliminates the need for on premise computer-telephony middleware or capital infrastructure like ACD switches. This is perfect for customers needing to extend their Siebel deployment to remote offices, new divisions or even work-at-home agents. Regardless of size, we have a solution that meets the customer’s business needs. CIS

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