Cover Story

Calabrio's App-Based Performance Solutions

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor  |  July 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

There are new ways of enabling contact centers to provide superior performance through technology. The first is cloud/hosting delivery that offers flexibility and upgrades at low or no capital costs. The second, which is starting to happen, is the app model that is taking its cue from the mobile web. This is an integrated platform that is individual-user-customizable via small-footprint subapplications, or “widgets”, for specific needs.

The app/widget model eschews the loaded, code-heavy, all-things-to-all-users and the expensive, cumbersome-to-install and download traditional software. It also avoids the integration hassles of the traditional modular-by-function approach such as buying one chunk now like call recording, and one chunk later like analytics (but that latter chunk may be on a newer release).

Calabrio has embraced the app/widget model for its performance management/workforce optimization (PM/WFO) contact center solutions. It is also engineering its products for resale by hosting companies from its servers. Both moves have arguably positioned the company well against its competitors.

The Widget-Enabled Calabrio ONE

Calabrio ONE, the firm’s PM/WFO solution added a growing library of apps/widgets in its latest February 2011 release. Users can download the ones they need then position and configure their dashboards. For example a supervisor can download a widget enabling them to monitor quality scores while an agent can install one that would allow them to track their schedule.

Widgets can be installed in minutes, compared to days or even weeks for conventional client-side apps. They are small enough to be installed on mobile devices.

Calabrio’s widgets differ from thin-client applications in that the latter has fixed, inflexible layouts. Moreover, widgets can reside within application components written by others, including multiple vendors. This becomes useful for pulling in third party components that may add value, like social media and dashboard components from CRM/ERP systems within the WFO framework or other third party container.

All widgets within an application set, such as call recording and quality monitoring (QM), come in a standard set. The firm’s vision is for a library of widgets to extend the core set, some of which may be purchased separately.

Calabrio released 20 widgets covering core functionalities including recording, scoring and workforce management (WFM). The firm is working on speech and desktop analytics platform additions and supporting widgets for Fall 2011. It will be releasing other widgets as customers need them.

“While you have all these pieces in WFO – PM/WFM/QM – coming together on a platform or offered modular, not all of them are put together in a comprehensive suite with single-sign-ons and easy user customization and interaction,” points out Tom Goodmanson (News - Alert), president and CEO of Calabrio. “We’ve managed this with our app/widget-utilizing integrated Calabrio ONE solution.”

The App/Widget Drivers

Driving the app/widget integrated platform approach are the needs by contact centers to bolster individual as well as center performance and productivity while reducing costs. Ensuring customer satisfaction by enabling top quality experiences via minimal queues and helpful agents has become increasingly vital for companies. Their reputations – and potentially sales – can be altered in minutes through buyers relating their experiences over social media and increasingly via mobile devices.

Goodmanson sees contact centers wanting tighter connectivity between PM and other WFO applications to ensure agent adherence and seamless links between WFM, QM, call and screen recording and analytics to catch and resolve any issues before they go viral. Yet traditional software is so heavy with data that it slows down supervisors, agents and support staff in toggling through screens. Applications often take a long time to install and navigate, wasting scarce time and reducing service levels.

The benefits of this parcelization of software into widgets include speed, relevance and productivity. A widget app can be designed, written and tested in a week or two and be running side by side with other applications without waiting to modify the full set of application code, which is generally on a six to 12 month release cycle.

The method also avoids extensive software training and the need to reference it. Goodmanson hopes that Calabrio can eventually do away with manuals as Apple (News - Alert) has done.

“While you will continue to have these huge enterprise systems, contact centers will increasingly want to see them rendered into bite-sized chunks whoever the relevant user is, rather than inundating screen with information that may not be important to them,” says Goodmanson. “They are screaming out to reduce complexity, to make software smaller while maintaining application control. Less is indeed more.”

Contact centers are also realizing that they now have to get a grip on turnover. It is hovering around 30 percent, reports Goodmanson, which is already unacceptable; it may climb as the economy rebounds and job opportunities expand. Exacerbating this issue is the newer generation of contact center agents that expect instant information and gratification. Calabrio has researched this new workforce and found that they are demanding feedback, and if necessary, coaching and training ASAP; they will not tolerate traditional monitoring and coaching.

The app/widget/integrated platform approach that Calabrio is taking will help contact centers respond to these issues by enabling them to give agents real-time feedback and training. It also empowers them, within limits, to self-monitor and correct performance and perform self help.

“The new generation’s attitude is this: ‘If you told me I did something wrong yesterday, I discount it and don’t really want to talk about it’,” explains Goodmanson. “‘If you tell me in real-time what I’m up to and where I’m going and how I can correct that and give me that pat on the back and some training’ that gives them real job satisfaction, reducing turnover.”

The Calabrio Difference and Future

Calabrio in Calabrio ONE is increasing the firm’s ability to differentiate itself in the marketplace. The solution is built – unlike most other PM/WFO products – on CTI (News - Alert). CTI provides the data integration between the ACD and Calabrio ONE apps. It also supplies the pop of the CRM/ERP application on the agent desktop, giving Calabrio ONE access to call metadata to use for metrics and measurement like ACD/call data, WFO and incorporating CRM/ERP data. Data integration that must be customized with other WFO systems is therefore built into the core of the Calabrio ONE suite, which speeds access to real time data and saves on installation time – and money.

Calabrio has seen its sales grow by 100 percent from 2009 to 2010. With Calabrio ONE, which debuted in March 2010, the firm expects the growth to continue on the same trajectory. As of February 2011 it has sold and deployed more than 780,000 seats.

“We’re expanding what we’re offering, we’re coming up value stack, we have a significant number of installed seats and continue to have significant growth,” says Goodmanson. “I owe this to our combination of widgets and a more robust product.”

The buzz with Calabrio ONE is there the CEO says from contact centers and partner switch suppliers such as Avaya (News - Alert) and Cisco. Yet it has grown much louder with the widget enablement.

“Before Calabrio ONE and our widgets came alone, when we announced new releases, customer and other vendor reactions were, ‘OK that’s great, now what?’,”  recounts Goodmanson. “When we demo Calabrio ONE and six to 10 widgets pop up they now say ‘wow this changes things!’”

With an eye to potential customers that are increasingly interested in cloud-based solutions, Calabrio is preparing the Calabrio ONE for software-as-a-service/third party hosting. The firm is writing the architecture to enable multitenancy and expects it to be ready later this year; it is already actively talking to hosting companies. Calabrio will host the applications will be repackaged and resold to clients such as contact centers.

Goodmanson sees the demand for a hosted Calabrio ONE coming especially from SMBs that still use spreadsheets and from contact centers seeking high flexibility to meet demand changes and wanting to avoid capital and supporting outlays for licenses that they may not always need. He is confident that the hosting firms will pick up on Calabrio ONE. Many of them he says “take two steps into WFO world and realize would rather rent it upstream than build it themselves.”

“I come from the SaaS (News - Alert) world and love the model because it provides flexibility for users while for vendors like us it minimizes upfront customization that is the bane of premise licenses, though our widget model has reduced that need significantly,” says Goodmanson. “We are confident that our software will work very quickly in a hosted model.”

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi