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Bringing the Customer Aboard the Unified Communications Bandwagon
Contact center solutions vendor Aspect Software has a new UC strategy -- and the company says it starts with the customer.
Posted Mar 12, 2008
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In an ideal world, contact center agents would have a breadth of resources and information at their fingertips. Finding the right answer, however, is often more than just "a click away" and sometimes requires the use of external resources. In fact, 10 percent of customer calls each day need to be sent beyond the enterprise, according to research from contact center software provider Aspect Software. Dealing with and transferring each of those calls takes an average of 2.5 additional minutes -- extra time that proves costly for companies. Aspect hopes to address those issues with a series of product enhancements, including an expansion of the unified communications (UC) capabilities of its existing Unified IP and PerformanceEdge solutions. But Aspect isn't ripping out its roots quite yet, according to company executives -- instead the vendor is applying the concept of UC to its legacy of contact center solutions, one step at a time. With so much buzz around UC, it makes sense that a communications-heavy company such as Aspect would make the move -- but Aspect's approach adds a customer-centric angle, says Tom Chamberlain, the company's director of business marketing. "We saw that most of the vendors in [the UC] space were focusing on enterprise communications and how employees communicate with one another," Chamberlain says. "One of the perspectives they are leaving out is that of the consumer." One of the goals for a UC deployment is to increase efficiency among first-call resolution, Chamberlain says. "We found there's a correlation that if a customer had a satisfactory experience with a contact center then [that customer is] four times more likely to do additional product or service business with that company," he says. By adding features such as presence and bridging the gap between channels of communication such as phone, email, IM, and voicemail, Aspect aims to bring more efficiency to the contact center. Another compelling feature of Aspect's UC strategy is the ability to access "casual agents" -- experts or "knowledge agents" that contact center workers will be able to connect to more readily through presence, as well as improved access to calendars. The contact center agent will be able to find not only who is available, but which "casual agent" is the optimal person to speak with.
Aspect is not the first in the industry to offer UC strategies -- far from it. Vendors such as Nortel Networks and Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories have been doing this for quite some time. However, according to consultant Blair Pleasant, founder of CommFusion and UCStrategies.com, Aspect seems to be going about UC the right way. "What I liked was that they aren't all [of a] sudden jumping in and saying, 'We are a leader in unified communications,' " she says. "They are taking their expertise and tying that in with UC. They are still [taking] into account how to better serve their customers by keeping it [in] the contact center." Down the road, Aspect says it plans to release integration with Microsoft Office Communicator and IBM Lotus Sametime, among other UC offerings. Pleasant notes that Aspect's lack of a proprietary Internet Protocol PBX telecommunications system will make sales more challenging compared to the efforts of some of its larger competitors, but the company appears willing to collaborate with other vendors' applications, which Pleasant says is enticing. Companies may not be best-served with a vendor that offers the whole suite of UC capabilities, Pleasant says -- the key is integration and working with what you have.

Related articles: Aspect Offers More Localization and Capabilities for '08 The latest version of Aspect Unified IP 6.5.1 expands language capabilities, and adds unified command and real-time reporting. Aspect and Witness Up the WFM Ante Aspect's latest upgrade focuses on support for outbound and blended contact center environments, while Witness Impact 360 Version 7.7 targets recording and optimization. Unified Communication: Connected Anywhere, Anytime In an increasingly global economy, unified communications should be on the top of the to-do list for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), according to a new report. Aspect's Workforce Optimization Puzzle: The Final Piece The acquisition of quality management provider SophistiCom Technologies signals that the game is on against other workforce optimization companies. Aspect's Facelift Concerto Software's $1 billion acquisition of Aspect Communications in September (creating Aspect Software) marks the contact center industry's largest consolidation move in 2005. Fewer Vendors Sit Atop Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications Alcatel-Lucent, Microsoft, and Nortel retain their positions as leaders, but Cisco Systems and Siemens fall out of the top quadrant; Interactive Intelligence moves up a notch. Avaya Launches Unified Communications ''Editions'' A suite approach to offerings and the acquisition of a mobile unified communications solutions company will strengthen Avaya's presence in the UC marketplace. Microsoft and Nortel Deliver Unified Communications The partnership includes joint R&D, sales and marketing, and systems integration efforts, but the joint rollout won't hit the market until 2007. Microsoft Serves Unified Communications Speech Server 2007 will be part of the broader Office Communications Server 2007; Windows Vista will have speech recognition in eight languages, a Windows first. NEC's Buy o'Sphere Expands the Ecosystem The Japanese-based vendor's purchase of Sphere Communications is a move to bolster its unified communications portfolio, according to one industry pundit. Viewpoint: Got a Unified Communications Strategy? If not, you've got a lot of room to improve collaboration efficiency. Gartner Restores a Leader to Its Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure Interactive Intelligence moves back into the top quadrant, joining Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, and Nortel. Gartner Eyes IVR and EVP Vendors Magic Quadrant findings ping Avaya, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Intervoice, and Nortel as leading the sector; reduced complexity and tight integration are hallmarks of advancement.
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