CRM, BPO, Teleservices

Forming Holistic Customer Interaction Solutions

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  October 01, 2011

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

Nearly two decades ago Vinton Cerf, who’s considered a founding father of the Internet, drew headlines when he wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the saying: IP on Everything. Apparently he did, er, that happened, as the Internet protocol has seeped into virtually every nook and cranny of communications. Now the same seems to be happening with cloud computing and social networking – and the contact center is no exception to the rule.

Jason Harrington, president of Axia's Dialar Solutions, says that his company has embraced both cloud-based communications and social media to supply customers with complete contact centers. The three-year-old company has an IP technology stack of services including connectivity, including local and long-distance, and PBX, IVR, ACD, dialer, UC and broadcast messaging capabilities. What makes Axia different, he says, is it’s not just an application provider; rather, it delivers end-to-end offerings that can hook into CRM, social media and other databases to create holistic solutions.

Axia to date has had its strongest appeal in the in-bound call center space and has sold its contact centers using a horizontal model. But the company is starting to expand more into the out-bound call center space and is also beginning to focus its efforts to market niches.

RightContact is Axia’s name for its out-bound dialer for contact centers. The Axia rightContact solution is delivered as a software-as-a-service offering via the cloud. The company says it is different from competing offers because it’s built on a single platform to cater to all IP contact center needs.

One of the market niches Axia is now targeting is debt collection. In fact, it appears that the debt collection is a somewhat hot area for contact center solution providers at large, as Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) recently acquired Latitude Software, which is a player in this space.

Social networking has been central to the strategy of Interactive Intelligence, a customer care solutions provider, which sees social media as just another way for companies to communicate with customers and prospects. The company has been working on ways to reformat social interactions, like Facebook (News - Alert) posts or tweets, into e-mails and send them to its call center solutions. Users of Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Center, or CIC, solutions can then use keywords, sentiment scores or user-related information (such as how many followers/friends the user has) to route that e-mail to the most appropriate call center representative, who can then decide how to respond.

Social networking and cloud are also part of the strategy at TeleTech (News - Alert), a company that’s nearly 30 years old and delivers such solutions as VoIP, workforce management, quality management, agent productivity applications and customer management applications on an outsourced basis. Last year TeleTech began to concentrate more keenly on how to help its users manage the end-to-end customer experience and bring together all the pieces of it – including VoIP, mobile, social networking, etc. – in a seamless way for the end users, says Tina Valdez, TeleTech’s vice president of OnDemand Operations. Today, the company has more than a handful of patents in the social and mobile space to enable that, she adds.

TeleTech can walk into a customer’s shop and look across the whole experience, she says. For example, TeleTech has a customer that is bringing a new product in the energy space to market. TeleTech is working with that organization to define its revenue targets for this service and how sticky it can make the service to its customers. The company also offers cloud-based toolsets to help built and support such new services, and address customer needs and concerns around them after they go live.

The company leverages technology from such companies as Cisco and social CRM Lithium to do that. In fact, Valdez says, TeleTech operates a cloud out of data centers around the globe, and there are three CRM players and three different routing vendors as part of that core infrastructure. TeleTech also has its own agent management, a reporting suite of applications, and analytics and quality management solutions in the cloud.

By providing these tools, as well as a social media service that monitors and rates conversations about customers’ companies, TeleTech solutions are able to arm contact center agents with a wealth of knowledge to better meet businesses’ end users needs, she says.

Glance Networks is another company that is taking a SaaS (News - Alert)-based approach to customer interaction solutions. Tom Scontras, vice president of marketing, emphasizes the screen-sharing capability of the Glance offering.

If the interaction between caller and customer service rep “gets stuck,” as Scontras describes it, the rep can quickly and easily launch the screen-sharing capability to more quickly resolve the inquiry. For example, say a call center agent for Apple (News - Alert) that uses Salesforce get a call from someone shopping for an iPhone. That rep might offer to use screen sharing to take over that caller’s desktop to see what features the caller is looking at on the web and asking about, or to see what competing devices the caller is reading about so the rep can offer a comparison.

Delux Corp., Franklin Templeton Investment and Reed Business Services are among the customers of Glance, whose solution is integrated with LivePerson and Salesforce.

“Glance is a technology that’s really built for today’s customer interactions, whether they’re customer or sales interactions,” he says, adding that the technology supports voice, chat and screen sharing and can be accessed anywhere.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi