Government officials in the various provinces of Canada which are highly reliant on the call center industry to keep the economy afloat are no doubt scrambling to try to come up with additional incentives and new strategies to keep U.S. companies from pulling their centers out. A recent report from Datamonitor shows that many U.S. firms are now starting to pack up and relocate their Canada-based call center operations due to the increasing value of the U.S. dollar and the increasingly unfavorable exchange rate. Even call center outsourcing behemoth Convergys recently announced that it will be closing some of its facilities in Canada in the coming months.
Aspect Software yesterday announced its new strategy to bring unified communications capabilities to its contact center solutions. Specifically, the company announced that it will soon be introducing enhanced versions of Aspect Unified IP and PerformanceEdge which are fully interoperable with existing unified communications solutions. This, of course, could have been expected – I mean, after all Aspect is one of the largest providers of contact center solutions, and the adoption of unified communications is starting to pick up steam. Considering that so many enterprises already use their contact center telephony systems for communications across most, if not all of the organization (linking together different divisions, departments, remote offices, etc., that are geographically dispersed), it makes perfect sense for contact center platform makers such as Aspect to endow their products with UC capabilities (and many have already done so – for example, TouchStar just recently introduced its new “Unify” product, a browser-based product that facilitates true seamless UC across the enterprise). With these advanced, all-IP solutions and their amazing call routing capabilities, an enterprise can make its contact center system the “communications center” for the entire organization. The advantage of bringing UC to the contact center is that it ushers in the next iteration of the “informal contact center,” where the walls, or barriers if you will, that separate the contact center from the rest of the organization are dissolved, and other “knowledge workers” within the organization can be used as resources for handling customer complaints and a wide range of other issues. To deliver superior customer service, agents need the ability to quickly and effortlessly “escalate” calls and put the customer in contact with someone else in the organization who has the exact skills or expertise to help that customer quickly.
I know I’m late to the party on this but the recent news about Microsoft’s strategic partnership with Aspect Software to bring unified communications to the contact center is definitely one of the most significant business deals in the contact center space for 2008. You might say this deal represents Microsoft’s grand entry into the contact center space – or at least a very large step in that direction -- however, I wouldn’t lose sight of the fact that many of the other major contact center software makers have already rolled out UC offerings -- and have had customers using them for months. As per the five year strategic alliance, the financial terms of which have not been disclosed, Aspect will design its Aspect Unified IP contact center solution to interoperate with Microsoft’s OCS platform for software-powered voice and unified communications, and will offer it as the leading option to new and existing customers (of course, existing customers can easily upgrade to the UC system). In addition, Microsoft is making an equity investment in Aspect to "accelerate the development and adoption of the new solutions and services." Aspect is one of the largest and best-known providers of contact center solutions for the enterprise: Its solutions are deployed in call and contact centers all around the world. This deal is huge because it gives Microsoft a very large footprint in the contact center space almost instantly. Not to mention the opportunity to significantly accelerate adoption of OCS 2007, which, as you probably already know, can be used to roll out UC across the entire enterprise, and is fully interoperable with most other MS products, making it a very attractive value prop.