First Coffee for 28 April: Key VoIP Considerations for SMBs, Alcatel Results, CoreTrac's CRM, SFA Service Center, Contactual Funding

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David Sims
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First Coffee for 28 April: Key VoIP Considerations for SMBs, Alcatel Results, CoreTrac's CRM, SFA Service Center, Contactual Funding

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Frank Zappa’s “Joe’s Garage:”

CoreTrac, vendor of ResourceOne, a CRM/Sales Force Automation product for community financial institutions, has announced the release of their latest product enhancement, Service Center. It’s being marketed at as a tool for banks and credit unions to manage call centers and capture business generated through inbound calls.

This added functionality could be beneficial to institutions that want to capitalize on opportunities created from customer service issues: “By storing and tracking customer service issues in the same CRM/Sales Force Automation system as your sales efforts, your calling officers can better understand the relationship of your clients and build rapport that leads to long term and satisfied clients,” company officials say.

Service Center is built with the ability to gather real-time statistics displayed to give the agent or manager a snapshot of the call center traffic, as well as to match cases directly to a client, existing accounts, or even prospective business with ResourceOne’s existing client data including accounts from the core.

It can also provide agents with all of the information in front of them when viewing and managing a case, and attach a comprehensive log to every case – all communication, notes, and status changes.

Users also have the ability to create a case list report that shows all the case data by user, branch or organization. This can make it easy to print a list of cases to evaluate the agent’s load or tasks.

Alcatel’s Board of Directors has reviewed and approved first quarter 2006 results, announcing that revenues were up by 17.6 percent at Euro 3.067 billion compared with Euro 2.607 billion (up 14.9 percent at constant Euro/$ exchange rate) in the same period last year.

The gross margin was 34.9 percent. Operating profit amounted to Euro 198 million, a 6.5 percent operating margin. Net income (group share) for the quarter was registered at Euro 104 million or a diluted EPS of Euro 0.08 per share (US$ 0.10 per ADS), which included capital gains of Euro 0.02 per share.

Diluted EPS in first quarter 2005 was Euro 0.09, which included capital gains of Euro 0.05 per share.

Company officials point to a combination of factors in the company’s success, including their IP DSLAM product family which “continued to gain traction with now more than 90 customers worldwide.”

The IP service router activity also “positively impacted first quarter growth,” registering a 10-fold year-over-year increase. Industry analysts Synergy confirm that Alcatel now has a confirmed #2 worldwide market position in IP edge aggregation, and shares the #1 position in Western Europe.

A new service router was added to the IP product family during the quarter (Alcatel 7710 SR), expanding Alcatel’s addressable market, particularly in wireless IP networks and emerging markets. The 7710 SR is optimized for smaller points of presence and secured a first contract win in New Zealand for a global network.

In addition to the strong momentum in IP service router, company officials say the MSWAN product offering continued to hold up well during the quarter, with sustained demand for ATM-based DSL aggregation for large incumbent customers and for 3G RAN (Radio Access Network) aggregation, particularly in North America.

Contactual has announced that it has closed its first institutional investment round with $9 million in Series A funding to “support ongoing development of Contactual OnDemand Contact Center,” the company’s hosted product for deploying and operating enterprise class multi-channel contact centers, according to Contactual officials.

The lead investor in the round is Leapfrog Ventures, a Menlo Park, California-based venture capital firm that specializes in early investments in technology companies.

Other investors are private venture capitalists including Don L. Lucas, who backed companies such as Oracle Corporation and Macromedia when they were start-ups and was the first chairman of the Oracle board of directors; B.J. Cassin, an early investor in Cadence Design Systems and currently chairman of the board of medical device manufacturer Cerus Corporation; and Ad Nederlof, former president and CEO of contact center software provider Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories.

Proceeds from the round will be used to finance continuing enhancements to the Contactual platform, now in its fifth generation with over 500 tenants provisioned at the Contactual data center and additional customers hosted separately by channel partners such as NEC in Australia and Vitstage in Japan. The funds will also be used to expand the company’s sales, marketing and channel initiatives.

Contactual officials say end users benefit by reducing operating costs through outsourcing of the contact center infrastructure. Contactual claims to be able to provide a complete system in as little as four hours, operate with any kind of phone infrastructure from PBX to VoIP, and provide integrated e-mail and chat functionality.

Here’s how the decision to go with VoIP for a small family-owned business looks from the ground up, concentrating on what’s important to that crucial SMB market:

A family owned business launched in 1938, Pacific Lumber is one of the four companies owned by the Morse family. The family has eight locations including lumber yards, truss plants, door and mill work manufacturing and sales offices. Their 300 employees cater to large and small home builders in Oregon and Washington.

About three years ago, after opening a new lumber yard in Bend, Oregon, the costs to operate and maintain their legacy phone system soon escalated beyond what they could tolerate. Though the telephone equipment was all paid for and worked as advertised, even small changes were complex, expensive and time consuming.

Alan Churchill, Director of MIS at Pacific Lumber, began looking at possible system replacements. He hoped that moving to an IP (Internet Protocol) telephony product could save money. Key to the project was the need to connect all locations on a single IP network. “We wanted one person answering the phone for all yards at Pacific,” said Churchill. “Plus we needed a system that was cost-effective and easy to manage. We were looking for a phone system that we could simply plug into our existing WAN.”

Churchill contacted several major VoIP product vendors, as well as Zultys Technologies, in search of a system that was low cost, simple to administer and easy to use. “We almost didn’t pursue Zultys, mainly because it was half the cost of the others. It just seemed to good to be true,” he said. “But when we contacted other users and tested it in our own lab, we discovered that it really did outshine the others.”

Pacific Lumber installed an MX250 IP PBX systems from Zultys and their ZIP 4x4 IP business phones. The implementation took a total of two days. “We especially liked the way we could administer the entire system remotely from a web site. Our old phone systems required a ‘truck roll’ for every single little issue,” Churchill said.

The Zultys end user client interface (MXIE) one button conferencing, a key consideration for Pacific Lumber. “MXIE ensures that our customers can reach us at all times, since calls can automatically be routed to our cell phones. Plus, any employee can reach another employee at any location simply by using their four-digit extension,” Churchill says.

One major consideration was that Zultys integrated into their existing IT infrastructure: “Every other vendor wanted us to change our switches and routers.”

Overall, it’s “a system that was simple to implement, easy to use, worked with our existing switches and routers and cost less than we were paying.”

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