Marching along its path to provide unified communications (UC) to the masses, Chelmsford, Mass.–based UC provider Aspect Software has unveiled six new UC applications for the contact center. The half-dozen offerings are intended to help companies not only streamline productivity but also save approximately 20 percent on maintenance costs, according to Aspect executives.
Serge Hyppolite, the company's director of interaction product management, explains that the new offerings address a broader definition of UC -- the ability to handle multiple forms of interaction across various channels and devices to empower a business process. Aspect, he says, has been applying that approach to UC in the contact center for some time.
Hyppolite admits, however, that the message hasn't always been completely clear. "We realized that there was a gap," he recalls, refering to Aspect's positioning in the marketplace. "We talked about customer service, sales, and marketing for a long time but our focus has always been on broader horizontals. [How Aspect communicated] the connection between customer service and telemarketing with the technology we offer hasn't been crisp."
Consequently, Hyppolite says, Aspect decided to focus on how a given client might operationally handle customer service -- identifying the tools and capabilities necessary for ultimate effectiveness. This, he continues, provided the genesis for the six new UC applications:
- Seamless Customer Service, offering the tools for comprehensive call response, including coordinated self-service, live services, and integrated assistance to improve first-call resolution and the overall customer experience;
- Blended Interaction, providing inbound, outbound, self-service, and workforce optimization capabilities in the hopes of delivering greater visibility, control, and staffing efficiency in a multichannel contact center;
- Streamlined Collections, automating early-stage collections and enabling expert agent engagement, as a means of improving the effectiveness of strategies for targeting delinquent accounts;
- Optimized Collections, melding together performance, workforce, and campaign management to bolster contact and calling strategies to increase right-party contacts, lower staffing costs, and improve collector effectiveness;
- Productive Workforce, leveraging the company's PerformanceEdge capability to unify workforce management, quality management, performance management, and recording capabilities in a single UC application; and
- Productive Workforce for Aspect eWorkforce Management, looking for the same benefit of optimizing agent resources and a continuous improvement culture as in Productive Workforce, but specifically for eWorkforce Management users.
Hyppolite says that, of the half-dozen applications, he believes three will make a great splash immediately: Seamless Customer Service, Productive Workforce, and Productive Workforce for Aspect eWorkforce Management. "We believe those [offerings] will certainly help us gain marketshare," he asserts. "All of the UC applications can help reduce a company's current annual spend by 20 percent against competitor offerings." (The figure, Hyppolite says, comes from an evaluation by independent consulting firms of Aspect versus companies such as Avaya, Cisco Systems, Nice Systems, and Verint Systems.)
The pricing message is key in today's economic climate, Hyppolite says -- but it's not the only factor. "We always start with a broader benefit to the organization and how it can fit within a corporation's UC strategy," he says. "The reality today is that many of our customers are facing tough financial challenges and are looking for ways to lower costs. The message of achieving innovation while reducing costs is a very critical one in these times."
Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics, explains that costs become a factor not in Aspect's overall UC offering, but rather in the seamless relationship of the various applications. "You get savings because you don't have to administer several machines…for portal, [interactive voice response], contact center, and workforce management," she says. "If all of those are in one tool, it will be easier to run."
Expanding on Aspect's six-application announcement, McGee-Smith says the release jibes with the buying patterns the company claims to see in the market. "They match up to customer groups, so if you put everything in one bucket you risk [a prospective customer] coming along and saying, ‘I don't need this piece of functionality or this other capability.' "
Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst at COMMfusion, a Santa Rosa, Calif.–based market-research and consulting firm, believes Aspect has equally addressed financial pressures and business initiatives, and in the process brought to market a strong UC array. "Aspect is demonstrating its understanding of the importance of integrating UC with business processes, and the ability to deliver software and services tailored to a company's requirements," she said, in a statement.
Hyppolite says we can expect to see Aspect further utilize the value of business intelligence and analytics within a broader enterprise strategy. The company's goal, he says, is to have a positive impact on ongoing business processes; to that end, Aspect intends to capitalize on its portfolio of UC applications to develop what Hyppolite calls "solutions around automating communication-enabled business processes."
McGee-Smith says she's struck by the dedication Aspect is showing -- and delivering -- with these separate UC applications. "Vendors sometimes repackage things and then try to create 'editions,' " she says. "The commitment the company is showing here is pretty dramatic…. Aspect is truly changing the way it thinks about the business."
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