The ideal contact center agent has a robust knowledge of every product or service her company offers, thereby being able to answer any and all customer inquiries. Since many companies offer myriad products and agent attrition constantly has new customer service representatives in the seats, it is increasingly important to connect a consumer to an expert within the organization who may have the answer to an inquiry not easily found by an agent. Furthering its push to provide unified communications (UC) to the enterprise market, Chelmsford, Mass.-based contact center applications provider Aspect Software has unveiled Unified IP 6.6 with a new Ask-an-Expert feature.
With Aspect's new release, knowledge experts can be tracked and scheduled just like agents and build rules around the best way those workers can be contacted as well as how often to ping them for help. "This gives [CSRs] a capability they didn't necessarily have before," says Michael Kropidlowski, product marketing manager for Aspect. "They knew these employees were in the enterprise, but not if they were available or the best method of contact."
According to Kropidlowski, the Ask-an-Expert feature utilizes the instant messaging and presence technology that is available in Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007-not surprising considering its UC alliance with the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant. "We're very excited because this tight integration with OCS allows contact centers to improve first call resolution rates by being able to see in real time other folks within the enterprise ... able to assist and help out with calls or contacts," he says.
According to Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst at Putnam Valley, N.Y.-based industry consulting firm McGee-Smith Analytics, this release shows Aspect's continued progress with its UC strategy. "The first step was a marketing campaign, then there was the announcement of a partnership with Microsoft," she recalls. "This is the first product deliverable against the message and alliance."
McGee-Smith explains that this progression allows the company to get back onto a more level playing field with other UC providers, including Avaya, Cisco Systems, and Nortel Networks. A potential advantage for Aspect, she says, is the fact that those three competitors all have UC with their own respective infrastructures. "From that perspective, Aspect is coming out of the gate with something that doesn't lock anyone in, if you think of Microsoft of being able to scale across multiple platforms," she says.
Other new features in Aspect Unified IP 6.6 include:
- Advanced List Management 3.0, an outbound campaign management application that improves proactive contact, collections, and telemarketing strategies;
- security enhancements including log masking;
- licensing control for hosted multitenancy environments; and
- localization in Traditional Chinese, French, Thai, and Greek.
McGee-Smith says that Advanced List Management 3.0, while entirely unrelated to UC, is taking its outbound functionality to another level. "If you look at Aspect's customer base, it is very outbound [focused]," she says. "It makes sense for the company as they come out with UC capabilities to also be meeting the needs of the existing client base."
Kropidlowski stresses that his company's current expertise in the contact center space is very important, but that it is clear Aspect wants to push ahead and make a name for itself in the burgeoning UC space. "It's certainly part of our larger roadmap," he says. "We really feel that we want to get in and extend beyond the functionality we already offer."
To McGee-Smith, Aspect is progressing with its UC message at the rate it claimed it would. "The company is taking the right steps to be more able to support a UC-centric kind of approach," she says. "This is a step-by-step process, and I don't think it's anything less or more than I expected."
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