Hi, I’m Pat and this is my call center blog. It’s all about call and contact center technology and how it makes life better for all of us … or not. At times I might address other topics that are either directly or indirectly related to the call and contact center industry - such as CRM, speech technologies, VoIP, unified communications, wireless technologies, video, workforce management, headsets, call center furniture, etc. - and how these make life better for all of us … or not. I might also occasionally discuss how technology in general makes life better for all of us … or not. So what makes me qualified to write about call and contact center technology, you might ask? Well, for one thing I’m a journalist with about 15 years experience contributing to various publications.
United Kingdom antitrust regulators today cleared Verint Systems’ $950 million purchase of Witness Systems Inc., citing that the deal will not result in a “substantial lessening of competition within a market or markets” within the UK. Verint is a leading maker of call recording and speech/data analytics solutions, while Witness is a purveyor of workforce management, quality monitoring/recording, back office, IP telephony, customer feedback and eLearning solutions. Verint’s acquisition of Witness officially closed on May 29. Together the two companies offer the broadest portfolio of software solutions for the contact center and enterprise performance market. With more than 2,500 employees spread across 18 countries worldwide, the new company will be among the 30 largest software companies in the world. It will boast more than 5,000 customers in 60 different counties, including many Fortune 100 companies. Earlier today, TMCnet had the opportunity to do a brief phone interview with Ryan Hollenbeck, VP of global marketing for Verint’s new division, Witness Actionable Solutions. He discussed some of the details of the merger and where the combined company is heading from here. “So as of last week we are officially closed and one company, so good news there,” Hollenbeck said enthusiastically.
Alliance Data Systems, a provider of marketing, loyalty and transaction services, celebrated the opening of its new call center facility in Ennis, Texas, today with a ribbon cutting ceremony that was attended by company and city officials. The new “best in class” facility, which started operating in March, already has 225 employees and the company reportedly plans to hire an additional 355 over the next three to five years. It has reportedly already handled 40,000 calls since it opened just three months ago. The opening of the new call center was a joint effort between Alliance Data and the city of Ennis. During the ceremony, Mayor Russell Thomas and City Manager Steve Howerton were recognized for their efforts in assisting Alliance with the opening of the new center. A report in the online version of the Waxahachie Daily Light doesn’t mention anything about a tax incentive. Officials from Alliance’s top client, Direct Energy, were reportedly also on hand for the celebration.
I’m in California this week (for the first time in my life) and I’ve been cruising around the Bay area and meeting with execs from some of the many software companies serving the call/contact industry. I have to tell you that I am absolutely amazed at the number of tech companies that are concentrated between Santa Cruz and Oakland. I mean, I always knew they were here - but actually seeing how many there are has really made an impression on me. Anyway, I have a keen interest in speech technologies and one of the companies we met with today was Voxify, which has its headquarters in Alameda. This is a small but very progressive company which has developed some very hot, cutting-edge speech “self-service” applications which are used to improve business performance and reduce call center costs. I don’t want to say that these applications are one day going to replace agents – but in a way, that is what it is coming down to.
We’re staying at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, Calif. this week, going around and making our "pitch" to the various software vendors and other companies in the call/contact center space located throughout the Bay area. The other night, me and my co-worker wanted to get the lowdown on which area restaurants we should go to (oh, yes, ahem, and which ones were “affordable” too), so we asked the girl at the front desk, who in turn said we should ask the concierge, who also has a desk in the main common area, across from guest services. When we asked what the concierge’s hours were, the girl at the front desk said “she works 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” but when we looked at the concierge’s desk and saw no one there, we asked “well … where is she?” “Oh she’s there … she’s a virtual concierge,” the girl said. We looked again, and lo and behold there was the “virtual concierge,” on a large flat panel mounted on the wall right behind the concierge desk (at first we thought it was just a TV). So we went over to meet her. It turns out that the concierge, “Anna,” has worked at the hotel for more than 10 years, but when she recently had to move about 80 miles away, she came up with the idea of “virtualizing” herself through a videoconferencing solution.
Contactual has launched a new reseller program to help it attract new domestic and international partners who in turn will be able to quickly and easily distribute its innovative hosted contact center solutions to their customers all over the world. The company has already formed tight partnerships with leading IVR and CRM providers (including NetSuite and Salesforce) for product integration, joint marketing and contact center product licensing; as well as with service providers (including NEC Business Solutions, Australia, and Qwest) to develop joint-marketing and product solutions that create value-added solution enhancements for existing XSP products, as well as new revenue streams for XSP businesses. It has also forged important partnerships with major companies in Japan and Australia which are hosting its comprehensive on-demand contact center solution and selling it on their own. Now, Contactual has launched a new Authorized Reseller Program to further expand its global reach. One of the first companies to join Contactual’s new reseller program is BayanTrade, a leading knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) company in the APAC region. According to BayanTrade’s president and CEO, Dante Briones, joining the new program has enabled the company to “deliver the benefits of high impact, customer interaction management solutions to our customers and clients.” In a recent interview with TMCnet, Mansour Salame, CEO of Contactual, said BayanTrade is one of about 10 companies which have already signed up for the new partner program. “There’s a bunch of other ones that we’ve signed up so far – and we’re closing three more by the end of June,” Salame said. “So we’re signing up about two to three distributors a month – and lot of them are international companies. It’s a really good play for us because we can leverage our infrastructure internationally, without having people to worry about – you know the old model of ‘hey, how many licenses and hardware do I need from you to resell in the Philippines?’” “The thing with BayanTrade is, they’re leveraging the Internet, they’re leveraging our servers here, and they’re leveraging our software, so it’s a very efficient model – much more efficient than the traditional on-premise call center technology model,” Salame added.
In 2005, VEGAS.com, one of the largest city destination travel websites in the world, installed Interactive Intelligence’s Customer Interaction Center (CIC) software in its customer service center. Two years later the company won Contact Center World’s “Best Technology Innovation Award,” which was presented during the “Best of the Best in Americas” conference held earlier this month in Orlando, Fla. VEGAS.com won the award after undergoing two rounds of judging by industry peers. It was reportedly one of 200 entrants vying for the award. In order to win, entrants had to present “findings,” presumably showing how their contact center software helped them gain efficiencies, cut costs, improve agent performance and boost customer retention. As a winner, the company can now enter into Contact Center World’s “Best of the Best in the World” award competition, to be held at an upcoming conference later this year. During the awards ceremony held during the “Best of the Best in Americas” conference, VEGAS.com’s director of customer contact Rob Cate said the company saw a “dramatic return on investment” after it started using Interactive Intelligence’s contact center software. “Before we deployed the Interactive Intelligence software we had 128 agents who handled about 37,000 calls per month,” he said. “With CIC’s ability to consolidate multiple systems and interfaces, we now employ 48 agents who handle about 90,000 interactions per month. That’s a 57 percent reduction in agents, and a 117 percent increase in interaction handling.” Cate said the software also reduced agent errors by 90 percent, sped-up service and reduced the number of abandoned calls. VEGAS.com uses the full Interactive Intelligence unified communications suite, including its CIC software, as well as add-on modules for multimedia recording, quality monitoring, e-mail response management, Web self-service and workforce automation. Interactive Intelligence founder and CEO, Dr. Donald E. Brown said in a press release that VEGAS.com’s experience with the software “is an incredible illustration of the benefits a company can realize by migrating from a traditional phone-only call center, to an ‘intelligent’ multi-channel contact center using open, standards-based architecture.” “Now unrestrained by technology limitations, VEGAS.com is fully realizing its commitment to the customer experience – from its ability to timely respond to customers regardless of the communications channel used, to automated quality monitoring for superior customer service,” he said. For more information, visit www.inin.com and www.vegas.com.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation that would make it illegal for someone to "spoof" their phone's outgoing Caller ID information. This is a common practice among scamsters looking to defraud people out of their personal information, such as their Social Security numbers and bank acounts. Basically it means the number that shows up on your caller ID is faked to make it look like it is coming from your bank, a legitimate business, or some other organization - or perhaps even a friend or family member. It is also sometimes used for the pupose of misleading money transfer services such as Western Union into believing that the person making the transfer is the credit card holder, when a credit card is used.