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Westcon Group, Inc., a leading specialty distributor in networking, security, mobility and convergence, is now distributing the call recording software from Verint Systems’ Witness Actionable Solutions business line on a multi-national basis, the companies reported last week. The deal enables Westcon Group to expand its portfolio with robust call recording software designed for small businesses and mid-sized organizations. It also extends worldwide presence and availability of the Verint Witness Actionable Solutions, which are now available through Westcon’s global VAR network of resellers and customers. The deal is a natural progression of the already-established relationship between the two companies, as Verint Witness Actionable Solutions is a member of Westcon’s Affinity Partner Program. Verint Witness Actionable Solutions mid-market call recording software helps companies address compliance, liability, dispute resolution and quality management within contact centers. In addition to its application in contact centers, the software is also leveraged in the command and control, and public safety markets. Nancy Treaster, senior vice president and general manager of Verint Witness Actionable Solutions, pointed out that in today’s highly competitive business world, “enterprises of all sizes are seeking actionable intelligence to enhance the performance of their customer-focused operations, and we are expanding our channels to address this need.” “We’ve seen a shift in organizations recording calls not just for regulatory and compliance reasons, but because they want the opportunity to positively impact the quality and accuracy of transactions, as well as the ability to improve workforce performance,” Treaster said in a press release. “Westcon Group, through its solutions programs and convergence expertise, is positioned to help us further extend the reach of our mid-market offering, making it even more widely available to a highly-focused customer base.” “Call centers are becoming much more important as the primary touch point for customers – and not just in ‘service oriented’ segments,” added Anthony Daley, executive vice president and general manager, Westcon Group. “According to Datamonitor, over $200 million will be spent by call centers with less than 100 agents in 2007.
Here’s yet more proof that you can buy all the fancy technology you want, but your agents are what really make the difference in your call center: BPO provider Affiliated Computer Services Inc. announced on Monday that is Cary, North Carolina, call center - which handles millions of telephone, e-mail, and live online customer interactions every year - has been recognized for customer satisfaction excellence under the rigorous J.D. Power and Associates Call Center Certification Program. According to ACS officials, agents working in the in the Cary call center scored “well above average” and “were rated at or near the outstanding range across all measurable attributes, indicating and resulting in exceptional customer satisfaction and reflecting the company's courtesy and concern for its customers.” To achieve certification, ACS had to pass a detailed audit of its recruiting, training, employee incentive, management roles, management responsibilities, and quality assurance capabilities. To measure its level of success and determine it worthiness for the recognition, J.D. Power and Associates conducted a random survey of ACS customers who had recent contact with the call center. To be certified, a call center must perform within the top 20 percent of customer service, based on J.D. Power and Associates’ cross-industry customer satisfaction research. ACS is a global FORTUNE 500 company with 58,000 people supporting client operations reaching more than 100 countries.
Hawaiian Airlines might be the latest company to discover that outsourcing your call center operations to overseas isn’t always the greatest move. According to an article in the Honolulu Advertiser and reprinted in USA Today, Hawaiian Airlines’ customers are facing average hold times of 30 to 45 minutes when they call the airline’s call center in the Philippines – and apparently many of them are quite irate. Although a representative from the airline claimed in the article that the delays were due to a spike in call volume, and would have occurred even if the call center was based in the U.S., he did admit that some of the agents in the call center are new trainees and that this was contributing to the long hold times. According to the article, the airline’s call center operator, Citel, is hiring 40 additional workers to handle the increased volume. In addition, it is providing additional training to the agents to help them handle calls more expeditiously. We’ve seen this happen before – where an airline farms out its call center operations to the Philippines or India and the level of customer service plummets. As the article points out, the airlines are more financially challenged than ever – with fuel prices and labor costs now rising – so it’s no wonder that they’re looking to cut costs whatever way they can. At the same, though, it can be argued that they are causing more damage to their business than they are helping it. The call center is your customer touch-point – the front line between your organization and your customers – and if you make people wait on hold for 45 minutes and then give them lousy service on top of it, you’re going to lose customers.
Contact center solutions provider Amcat has reportedly developed new enterprise IP contact center software -- Amcat Interactions -- that, according to the company, “enables contact center managers to overcome the architectural restrictions they face with current systems.” This comprehensive suite, which is based on open standards, offers ACD, IVR, inbound call handling, predictive dialing, email, SMS and other software bundled on a single platform. This powerful IP-based solution provides voice and data communication for the entire enterprise. From this news it sounds like the company has developed its first fully “virtualized” contact center offering where all end-points on the network are in effect “equal,” thus breaking down the boundaries that have, until recently, kept call centers “centered.” These new SIP-based offerings are what finally enable call centers to make effective use of remote agents. With these new “virtualized” call center environments, all an agent needs in order to get on the network is a PC, a broadband connection, a headset, some SIP-based telephony software and his/her log on. That’s why they are so ideal for facilitating the remote agent model. This type of solution is also ideal for facilitating the “informal contact center” model, where other knowledge workers across the enterprise are connected to the system and can help out with specific customer problems as they arise. In this sense, the solution provides a true enterprise communications platform. Because it is centrally managed, the solution is also ideal for managing multiple call centers in different locations.
Interactive Intelligence -- a pioneer in computer telephony integration and unified messaging, as well as one of the leading makers of contact center software and phone systems -- is gearing up to launch a nifty little application that alerts users of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging that they have received a new voice mail message via an indicator light on their office phones. The new standalone app, called Interaction Message Indicator, is just one more way that Interactive Intelligence’s advanced software solutions can be integrated with Exchange Server 2007. The app works with existing third-party phone systems, including the Interactive Intelligence IP PBX, and monitors Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging mailboxes so that users are alerted to new voicemail messages as they arrive via the indicator light. In other words, if you are at your desk but your PC or mobile computing device isn’t turned on, you can still be alerted when a new message arrives on Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging via a light on your desktop phone. The application offers a Web-based interface for easy set-up, administration, monitoring and reporting. In a press release, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Joseph A. Staples said Interactive Intelligence developed the Interaction Message Indicator “as a direct result of customer requests.” “This move underlines our commitment to offer Microsoft customers critical functionality backed by more than a decade of experience developing applications for the Microsoft platform,” he said. Staples said Interactive Intelligence plans to roll out more complementary applications for Exchange Server 2007 UM based customer demand, such as personal notification features, in the near future. Interactive Intelligence is demonstrating its Interaction Message Indicator at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, being held this week at the Denver Convention Center. The app will be available in Q3 2007 through Interactive Intelligence’s global channel of more than 250 value-added resellers. For more information, visit http://www.inin.com/Products/imi.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.