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Cisco and Interactive Intelligence: The Value of a Combined Solution for Enterprise IP Telephony and Customer Care

Over the last few years a growing number of businesses have standardized on Cisco Unified Communications (News - Alert) Manager (CUCM) for IP telephony. For good reason. Cisco Systems is a trusted name, and CUCM is a flexible and effective voice solution for the enterprise. Yet many of these same businesses are at a solution cross-roads for their contact center operations and customer care — and face a key decision. “Do we expand our investment in Cisco (News - Alert) to the contact center? Or do we look for an alternative contact center solution that can integrate with CUCM and, at the same time, simplify our IT infrastructure and better meet the needs of our business as a whole?”

The issue can be a balancing act among the business itself, contact center management and IT. Each entity not only has different solution perspectives and experiences, they have differing priorities. The business, for instance, wants a solution that’s more cost-effective. The contact center wants to simultaneously enhance the customer experience and simplify operations. And IT has to find ways to handle these new demands alongside the countless other responsibilities already on their plate. More importantly for IT is being able to leverage — and protect — the business’s existing investments in CUCM and other Cisco collaboration applications.

For companies that have a Cisco infrastructure and CUCM in place, implementing the Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) Customer Interaction Center® (CIC) suite in the contact center is a practical alternative to enhance customer care operations. By way of straightforward SIP integration, CIC supplements CUCM with an all-in-one architecture that improves performance for the business as well as for customer care, that simplifies maintenance and administration for IT, and that keeps costs under control throughout.

Simplifying IT infrastructure and operations

At the infrastructure level, IT and the contact center both want fewer moving pieces that inherently work together and utilize common administration and management tools — i.e., a unified, tightly integrated solution. Unfortunately, many contact center vendors sell “simplicity” through the integration of acquired technologies and products that actually result in multiple boxes, multiple points of administration and still more integrations. Other contact center vendors such as Interactive Intelligence, however, deliver simplicity with a suite of products developed to work together from the ground up. These kinds of unified solutions are proving to be a convincing answer for simplification, as was the recent case for a Fortune 500 insurance company that maintains call center operations of 1,100 agents across 27 sites in the U.S. and the UK.

Leveraging its Cisco infrastructure and SIP to implement a combined CUCM-CIC solution, the insurance company retained CUCM as its standard IP telephony platform for the enterprise, with IT and business teams collectively choosing CIC to create an integrated contact center platform capable of supporting additional channels and applications for customer care. Simplification came primarily via CIC’s multimedia routing and contact management functionality, which further leveraged the insurer’s existing investment in CUCM. Moreover, CIC afforded the company a single unified platform and application suite to replace disparate systems at various call center locations — ACD, IVR, reporting and quality monitoring — as well as existing best-of-breed tools for call recording and workforce management.

Containing costs while offering scale and agility

The goal of price performance often translates to IT wanting less infrastructure to manage, and the contact center wanting the ability to add channels and functions via licensable, cost-effective applications. For both parties, they want routine tasks such as MACs and upgrades to be simple events that don’t require excessive additional cost or disrupt their operations. The CIC solution’s smaller footprint satisfies each criteria while leveraging the existing investment in CUCM. In documented case studies, companies integrating CIC to their CUCM architecture explained that 10 servers did the work of anywhere from 60-80 servers for competitive contact center products — and still delivered the same or greater functionality for customer care. In addition to lower upfront expenditures and ongoing maintenance costs, CIC’s application licensing model allowed these companies to also reduce costs by using only the applications their contact center required. And with CIC’s license-based ability to scale capacity or add features on-demand as needed, the business could focus on its people and process changes without concern for what it would take to get the technology ready.

Business is the driver… technology is the enabler

Though IT and the business have different priorities, most IT departments recognize that the business is their “customer.” That is, IT provisions the voice and data infrastructure, but the business ultimately defines the requirements for applications that leverage the infrastructure. In between, the contact center holds a position of importance as the central interface to customers, and requires applications to deliver:

Robust functionality that covers the gamut of routing, reporting, IVR, CTI (News - Alert) and performance tools across all media (voice, email, web chat, etc.) and multiple sites (including home agents and remote offices).

Ease of administration and management across applications, ideally with a common set of tools and user-friendly interfaces to make it simple and quick to make changes — add agents, reassign call types, change routing paths, etc. — and to manage their resources.

IT must support both of these objectives within the context of protecting the enterprise technology strategy and architectural integrity. They also must offer a choice in mission critical applications that leverage the core infrastructure, without applications being treated as non-differentiated or commoditized. To enable the contact center to succeed, the technology infrastructure, as well as the knowledge and processes for managing it, are a starting point for delivering applications. A proven, highly invested enterprise platform such as CUCM is valuable and should be fully utilized, and the contact center platform should be capable of leveraging CUCM as a foundation for meeting the complex needs of the business.

All-in-one architecture vs. multi-point

All-in-one architectures such as CIC are built in a manner in which each functional component is developed on the same platform, using the same tools and interfaces that inherently fuse the components together. Licenses are turned on rather than adding servers to the mix.

While the all-in-one approach delivers the same functionality, or more, as multi-point solutions, the methods for implementing, managing and maintaining systems are very different. With no help from IT, system administrators and contact center managers can usually license new features, add agents, configure lines, structure interaction routing and skills, perform moves/adds/changes, and change other elements such as IVR menus. The ease of management becomes evident as end users quickly gain comfort and proficiency with such administrative tasks.

Moreover, as a natural by-product of the all-in-one approach, CIC can be implemented as a cloud-based solution. This way, IT is freed-up to focus on the enterprise-side strengths of CUCM, and the customer care side of the business can easily manage their needs through the cloud.

United in solution

Who says IT and the contact center can’t see eye to eye? Professionals on both sides see the possibilities and advantages in solutions that address a common vision, such as the CUCM-CIC solution. For businesses standardized on the Cisco infrastructure, it’s a combined solution that can provide value to the business as a whole.

Download the complete whitepaper to learn more:

Cisco and Interactive IntelligenceThe Value of a Combined Solution for Enterprise IP Telephony and Customer Care

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi