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Tracey E.Schelmetic[August 11, 2004]

News From the ICCM Floor

BY TRACEY SCHELMETIC, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, CUSTOMER INTER@CTION SOLUTIONS


I've always liked the way that Lake Michigan glows green when the sun is out in Chicago, and seems to turn very pale, almost white, when it's overcast.

Here at this year's ICCM show (the International Call Center Management event), the water has been alternating between green and pale all afternoon.

(If you're waiting for a brilliant analogy between the lake water and the technologies on display at the show, don't hold your breath. It's not coming.)

Shows have moods, I've found over the years. They also carry themes. If this year's ICCM were a person, it would be in a mellow mood, perhaps sipping a bit of chardonnay and listening to some lite modern jazz. I have, however, noticed a few trends this year.

1. A lesser amount of new releases. Shows are usually a natural forum for exciting new releases. Thus far, I'm not seeing many. Many companies have told me they'll be making announcements in the coming weeks, but can't share them now. If they did, they'd have to kill me.

2) A lot of the contact center software companies are continuing to beef up their reporting capabilities. If there's a link between ROI and the sheer number of reports a solution generates, some of the solutions here should pay for themselves by Tuesday. Seriously, though, I am seeing an emphasis on real, meaningful reporting rather than the deluge of largely useless data that was so common to some solutions in the past.

3) There are a few new players in the International Outsourcing Pavilion, proving that despite its lumps and blemishes, offshore outsourcing is growing at a healthy rate, and therefore here to stay. Some new (or new to me, anyway) players include Berlin, Germany; Brazil; Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa. Familiar faces are here as well: Barbados, Costa Rica and the Province of Ontario.

4) I'm seeing a burgeoning initiative to offer solutions via thin-client, which will ostensibly save call centers time and money by allowing them to operate with smaller IT staffs. When software can be maintained centrally and delivered to agents' desktops via browser, it can be more efficiently administered and eliminate the need for the constantly roving, harassed IT employee. (And we all know how unpleasant life gets when our IT staff members are harassed.)

5) I'm also seeing a welcome lessening of the amount of CRM (news - alert - define - tutorial) hype/hysteria. While CRM is a critical component of any successful company, it's not a cure-all, and many people don't even completely understand the concept. (Such as the vendor that years ago tried to pitch me a CRM-enabled headset.) Saying the words, "CRM, CRM, CRM" won't improve your customers' experience. In other words, do it...don't just talk about it.

6) Among teleservices agencies, I'm seeing an interesting trend to have both U.S. based operations and foreign operations, allowing them to blend the best of both worlds and provide customers with high-quality service, cheaper prices and round-the-clock service.

7) Finally, the growing importance of speech technologies (news - alert - tutorial) is evident by both the presence of many of the major players -- Vocent (news - alert), Dictaphone (news - alert), Syntellect (news - alert) and VoiceGenie (news - alert) -- and the fact that many contact center solutions providers have recently begun integrating speech capabilities into their existing solutions.

So as Lake Michigan once again turns dark green, I'm back to the show floor, to ferret out more trends while quietly dreaming about comfortable shoes.

Tracey Schelmetic may be reached for comment at tschelmetic@tmcnet.com.

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