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Jerpoint Abbey, Ireland. Land of saints, scholars and call centers. [December 19, 2002]


By Erik Lounsbury

Shopping, Shopping, From A To Z

Its the holiday season and like any good American, its time to do that uniquely American thing and beat the devil by shopping. Unfortunately, I cant get the silly shopping song by Toni Basil I have used as the title of this column out of my head, but will try long enough to present some new items contact center managers would be pleased to see under their trees on Christmas morning.

The benefits of distributed contact centers are many, and as more companies look to move away from the one large central center model, a problem that has cropped up is the management of information across centers, where often (especially in companies that have gone through mergers and acquisitions), there are platforms from a variety of vendors. Aspect Communications has been working on improving the handling of data analysis since it launched its Customer DataMart product five years ago. According to Tom Lockwood, senior product marketing manager at Aspect, DataMart 3.0 can provide reporting on multiple channels and sites and integrates with switches from Avaya and Nortel Networks, so that contact center managers can now obtain information from these platforms in real-time to design multidimensional data models that aid intelligent decision making for business profitability. Lockwood said DataMart 3.0 provides features for reporting against geographically based queries and provides multiple summary periods, allowing managers to more easily perform profitability analysis while protecting their current technology investments. For example, companies can now identify not only which of their service representatives are the most efficient, but also which are the most valuable to the business based on data about transactions they complete. Users can also identify the contacts that are driving sales, the representatives who are best able to meet the expectations of customers and can even help segment customers and prospects according to the value they bring to the business.

The Best Tools Available
For small to medium-sized businesses looking to provide tools for sales, marketing and support automation, Best Software has released SalesLogix 6.0. Tim Fargo, SalesLogix general manager, said that version 6.0 brings breakthrough levels of architectural enhancements to the popular sales automation software through strong advocacy of integration (with applications built using Visual Basic, Visual Studio .NET, or any other development environment that supports industry-standard Microsoft ADO data access), by having moved security and synchronization to the data provider layer, by providing the ability to configure advanced features in the change engine, by providing high levels of productivity for sales managers through reducing the number of clicks needed to do important tasks, through integration of the Web client with Microsoft Outlook and through strong access to support portals. In all, there are more than 200 new feature and architectural enhancements in SalesLogix 6.0. Among the enhancements are: A Sales Client User Interface that allows users to manage multiple addresses within account and contact records; tighter integration with Microsoft Office; mail merge improvements; an AutoSync feature for mobile employees; enhanced Web client functionality; and an improved Support WebTicket that has an integrated knowledge base with keyword highlighting and automatic creation of FAQs, a customer self-service portal with two-way communication, the addition of activities and attachments to tickets by both employees and customers, and employee visibility to defects, RMAs and ticket changes.

With the profusion of messages spurred by e-mail, sales people are finding it to be more and more difficult to cut through the clutter and get their messages across to potential buyers. To combat this situation, Conjoin created Field.First, an application designed to allow sales personnel to quickly create personalized messages and track responses. Bill Kantor, vice president of sales and marketing at Conjoin, led me through a product tour, and Field.First is both easy to use and effective. Consisting of five parts, it allows the building of a personalized Web site and e-mail that can be used to present a more targeted message to potential clients. The Presentation Builder allows users to quickly find and insert the most relevant data to present to clients. The Briefing Center provides Briefing Rooms through which sales personnel can share account-related documents, best practices and account strategy via discussion forums, and evolve proposals and other required deliverables. Using the Customer WebSite Builder, sales personnel can create personalized Web sites for their customers that contain materials specific to the customers needs. The system automatically delivers the URL and passcode to customers and alerts the sales person whenever the customer visits the site. Using the Content Manager, the sales person can sort all available marketing content in accordance with specific parameters. A built-in taxonomy sorts documents and old material is automatically removed and archived through the Content Lifecycle Management feature. My Field.First presents sales personnel with a personalized page that summarizes new content and materials relevant to their business focus.

The One Network
Nortel Networks has unveiled its new enterprise strategy, One Network. World of Choice, which, according to Vicki Marvich, director, customer contact and voice portal solutions at Nortel, is a vision that is about more than just technology, as it is a way of examining business processes as well. Marvich said Nortel starts by defining a model of how the company works by examining the following:

  • What is the companys customer strategy?
  • What is the companys utilization of customer knowledge?
  • Where is the company from a technology standpoint?
  • What is the companys measurement of success?

By defining how the company works, Nortel can then offer solutions that will provide optimum success. Marvich said Nortel also groups companies into categories based on how they deal with their customers. The categories they divide companies into as far as their customer relationships are: Siloed (customer information is isolated), linked (have some customer segmentation), integrated (personalized) and engaged (deliver information to the customer). To provide the best service and operate optimally, companies need to engage their customers, partners and suppliers. According to research by Nortel, 85 percent of companies today are in the siloed and linked categories, which means there is a lot of work to be done by businesses to realize success.

To further companies in their completion of this goal, Nortel also released three new products: CallPilot Release 2.0, Succession CSE 1000 Release 2.0 and BayStack 460-24-PWR Power over Ethernet Switch. Call Pilot, a unified messaging platform, now provides more than 40 new features and capabilities, among them Symposium Call Center Server integration, a new mobility bundle, and fully functional Web browser interfaces. Succession CSE 1000 is a fully distributed IP-PBX solution designed to allow customers to maximize their WAN and LAN environments by converging voice and data while optimizing business-critical applications and features. BayStack 460-24T-PWR is a resilient, secure, stackable switch that provides power over Ethernet capabilities to IEEE P802.3af-compliant devices such as IP phones, wireless access points and net cameras.

To aid companies in providing more effective speech applications, speechvantage has released its OLIVE (On-line Interactive Voice Exchange) Suite. According to Chetan Patel, CEO of speechvantage, speechvantage was formed to provide solutions for and in cooperation with GMACs Mortgage Hub, so it is natural that they are launching vertical-specific, packaged solutions for financial services. Other verticals they will target include retail, pharmaceuticals, health care and clinical trials.

Included in the OLIVE Suite are: The OLIVE Voice-Activated Outlook & Lotus Notes, which reads and replies to e-mail messages over any phone and adds unified messaging to desktops so that voice messages can be sent as e-mail notifications; the OLIVE Speech-Enabled Auto Attendant, which acts as an automated receptionist that can answer calls 24/7/365; the OLIVE Voice-Activated Emergency Contact List, which eliminates the need to search for telephone numbers and update critical contact lists; the OLIVE Passworks Speech-Enabled Password Reset System, which is a speech security solution that enables individuals to automatically unlock or reset passwords on WinNT/2000 log on accounts by utilizing voice biometric verification technologies; and The OLIVE Voice-Activated Dialing System, which eliminates the need for users to create and update extension lists.

Tracking Online Shoppers
Since it is the holiday season, and I try to avoid the mall by shopping online, one tool I wish would be found on more Web sites is S.L.I. Systems Learning Search. According to Shaun Ryan, S.L.I Systems CEO, Learning Search is a search service that keeps track of what people search for, how often they search, and measures relevance on the site. It also measures behavior, the time people are on a site and how they search the results returned by the search engine. This is not only a helpful tool for consumer sites, but could prove a boon to help desk/customer support providers as well. Learning Search logs every search and click on search results visitors make to a Web site that uses Learning Search. This data is then processed (on a daily basis) to improve search results. Learning Search is a
meta searcher, so it is able to search many different sources simultaneously and combine the results from the sources. It also has the ability to include pictures in the search results and other graphics and links, such as a buy button beside products. As Learning Search was initially developed for NBCi, Learning Search is extremely scalable. For example, at NBCi it processed more than one million search requests daily. Each search request searched through an index of more than two million sites.

For small to mid-market companies looking to find a multimedia contact center solution, New Zealand-based Zeacom is moving into the U.S. market with its Q-Master product. Zeacom was founded in 1994 and, according to Zeacoms president and CEO Miles Valentine, the company built the call control component of Q-Master first, then the routing component before moving on to the other modules of Q-Master. Zeacom first licensed its technology to NEC in Australia in 1996, and has alliances with Cisco, Avaya and NEC, among others. Valentine said Zeacoms market is second-tier financial services companies, health care providers and help desk applications, and that Zeacom is focused on selling installations of 100 seats and below.

Q-Master provides multimedia skills-based routing and handling capabilities for e-mail, fax, Web chat and callback, using the same engine as the telephony component. The various components of Q-Master include: Q-Control, which provides skills-based routing, reporting, administration and multimedia queuing; Q-Announce, which handles calls in queue, announcements and has an auto-attendant; Q-Desktop, which provides CTI capabilities, contact database and real-time call statistics; Q-Callback, an option for providing callbacks to callers on hold; Q-Outdial, which provides dedicated outbound or blended inbound/outbound calling campaign management; Q-Web Callback, which allows Internet users to request a callback from a Web site; Q-Email, which queues e-mail requests using skills-based routing to deliver the e-mail to the most appropriate agent; Q-Web Chat, which provides text chat capabilities; and Q-IVR, which allows companies to design customized interactive voice response applications. Zeacom also provides Chorus, a product Valentine described as voice mail on steroids, which integrates with Outlook and Lotus calendars and provides user profiles, caller profiles and desktop call control.

I hope you get all of your shopping done in time, have a happy holiday and find something under your tree that will help relieve your contact center headaches.

The author may be contacted at elounsbury@tmcnet.com.

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