The telecommunications powerhouse promises the new release will help businesses improve the overall customer experience -- and cut costs.
Posted Jan 21, 2008
Avaya today announced a slew of new customer service solutions in its Call Center 5.0 suite, looking to provide businesses with a more cost-effective, simplified, and productive way to deliver the experience consumers have come to expect. The telecommunications vendor also believes this release marks yet another step in the transition of its corporate focus from hardware to software.
The 5.0 release -- available in standard and enhanced editions, each of which offers bundled, end-to-end contact center solutions -- became generally available at the beginning of January, according to the company.
Colleen Aguirre, Avaya's director of product management, says the common thread in the new release is Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), an industry standard enabling businesses to take advantage of open environments and multimedia communications. "The main thing for our contact center customers is that we're delivering a true end-to-end SIP environment," she explains, adding that Avaya is hoping to help make the most of the SIP standard. "We have worked extensively with service providers in the United States so we could actually help them and ourselves define what the standard should be for utilizing SIP within a contact center," she adds.
Aguirre notes that the main benefits of SIP revolve around cost and greater flexibility and productivity for contact center agents -- and for consumers as well. "The SIP capabilities can enhance the experience for the end customer," she says. "It can make the overall enterprise much more cost-effective, and for the agent experience it can simplify what the agent is looking at in terms of the new telephone and the new capabilities we provide."
Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics, says SIP can also contribute to interoperability. "SIP makes multisite networking for remote agents, branch offices, and multiple-site call centers easier to support," she explains. "It also allows communications to become embedded in enterprise applications more easily because [SIP] is more standards-based."
The new features in Avaya Call Center 5.0 include:
The new SIP contact center phone does not require the addition of a softphone or other computer-telephony integration (CTI) middleware, further streamlining savings and network management, according to Aguirre. Softphones, she says, can send true SIP messages but would require the customer to install additional CTI servers, which could drive up cost. At a list price of $355, the hardphone not only provides the low-cost environment businesses are looking for, but the security as well. "Our customers like the stability of having the hardphone [in the contact center]," she explains. "They can pick it up; they know it will be there."
McGee-Smith says the Avaya Agent Deskphone is a feature not currently being offered by any other contact center solution provider. "As a leader in the contact center, Avaya is more apt to support that horizontal application first, and they have," she says. "We don't see anybody else with a specific instrument just for the contact center that's SIP-based."
The Avaya Interactive Voice and Video Response enables improved overall customer experiences, according to Aguirre. For customers calling in from a 3G mobile device, video kiosk, or PC, the video self-service solution allows for video-based menus and content -- a feature becoming increasingly essential. "Some companies set up prompts for self-service with too many options, and people tend to forget the initial prompts," Aguirre explains. "With video, I can actually send out to a 3G telephone showing what the prompts were so the end user can easily know which one they should choose."
The final new feature, Avaya Proactive 4.0, is designed for companies seeking a more user-friendly format to conduct calling-list campaigns. "In the past, supervisors actually had to go down into command-line language and set up strings to do some of that work," Aguirre recalls. "Our customers asked us to look at this, and we made it easier for administrators so they can work quickly and adjust to their needs."
As an industry standard, particularly for the contact center, SIP is here to stay. "Over time, what we've done as an industry is improve the standard solution so [SIP] can be deployed widely," McGee-Smith says. "The problem with SIP initially was that it was underfeatured. As SIP has become better featured, it now becomes a more viable solution to deploy."
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- Avaya Agent Deskphone 16CC, a hardphone giving contact center agents essential features while also allowing for presence-based capabilities such as identifying real-time availability of experts;
- Avaya Interactive Voice and Video Response, a self-service solution delivering multimedia, personalized customer experiences through video content; and
- Avaya Proactive Contact 4.0, a customer-outreach solution with "wizards" enabling contact center supervisors to create and edit customer lists by themselves.
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