Technology Calling

Within the contact center space, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) “has been hyped a long time,” says Gary Barnett, the Chicago-based chief technology officer of Aspect Software, a provider of contact center software. Perhaps the greatest benefit of VoIP is that it allows company to reduce phone company charges, as the calls are transmitted over the Internet. While many contact centers are likely to move to VoIP, however, they will make the change in phases, to ensure that all the kinks have been worked out before entrusting their entire contact center operations to the new technology.

Another shift within contact centers is the growing preference for tools that allow customer service representatives to see all of a customer’s transactions at once. “Companies increasingly are looking at CRM portals where they can view all transactions with a client in one window,” says Brent Davis, director of call center services with Ronks, PA-based logistics management firm Jay Group. CSRs can immediately see what, when, and how customers have ordered and gain a read on the customer’s value to the company.

Contact center managers also want comprehensive solutions from a single vendor, Barnett says. And the speed at which companies want solutions in place continues to shorten: “It’s no longer two years. Now they need 90 days or less.” Many contact center managers have discovered that the greatest potential for risk, delays, and added expense comes from the need to integrate disparate systems.

Because today’s systems are based on software, rather than hardware, all-in-one systems have become increasingly affordable, notes Barnett. Aspect Software, for instance, offers an integrated package that includes, among other functions, an inbound telephone system, an interactive voice response system, and a workforce management application. Costs vary with the size of the contact center and the number of applications implemented.

Another area of growing concern is business process management, says Anand Subramaniam, head of marketing with eGain Communications Corp., a Mountain View, CA-based supplier of customer service and contact center software. Contact center managers want a workflow system that allows them to ensure that tasks are completed. That way, they can be sure that all customer questions or complaints are ultimately resolved, even if it takes more than one interaction between the contact center and the customer,

EGain’s Service Management Platform enables businesses to intelligently and securely route e-mails, faxes, and phone calls based on business rules. EGain also offers other contact center applications. Typical enterprise-class deployments start at about $100,000, while medium-size deployments start at $30,000.

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