With the economy pushing many companies to rethink technology investment strategies, the idea of hosted solutions-whether on-demand or software-as-a-service (SaaS)-stand to make large gains because capital budgets aren't necessary unless it's an on-premises investment. Looking to deliver customer service in a hosted fashion to the masses, San Carlos, Calif.-based contact center software provider Contactual has unveiled OnDemand Contact Center Version 6 for general availability.
"We started working on this product a couple of years ago," says Mansour Salame, chief executive officer and chairman of Contactual. "We've taken customer feedback but also worked with our [clientele] in defining the requirements and how we implement them. It's something that has been market-driven as well as what we believe to be our vision [for this industry]."
Salame explains there are four dimensions to this release with "fundamental changes and improvements":
- user interface (UI);
- scalability; and
- application programming interface (API).
According to Salame, the bolstered UI makes it easier for agents to handle multiple mediums, including email, chat, SMS, phone, and desktop sharing. The UI can work within a browser so it doesn't require a special interface, enabling agents and supervisors to have a higher level of productivity. "An agent can be handling an email and put it on hold-not unlike a phone call-and take that higher priority phone call then get back to the email," he says.
For an on-demand provider like Contactual, security is of the utmost importance. According to Salame, customers have been asking him for a level of security and procedure to be on the same level as that of on-premises solutions. "There are a number of challenges there," he says. "We had to deploy a Fortune 500-level of security and leverage the Internet as conduit to the users and home agents. That hard work is paying off now."
Speaking specifically to scalability, Salame says that his company is now getting into larger contact centers. "Slowly but surely, we're going up the food chain there," he says. "Part of it is having the technology to scale, and another is having an enterprise package, set of features, and slightly modified UI in a few places so it is easier for supervisors to manage larger groups."
The reporting aspect is something Ashwin Iyer, contact center program director for Plano, Texas-based research firm Frost & Sullivan, believes to be another differentiating feature for Contactual. "A lot of the value definitely comes from reporting features the application provides for all business users, which includes supervisors and contact center managers," he says. "For Contactual, the reporting capability is improved and is definitely something customers are going to like."
Iyer goes on to explain many contact centers find themselves in a quandary due to the economic recession. They must lower costs yet still maintain a high level of customer service. "Due to that, this year we definitely expect robust growth in the adoption of hosted contact centers," he says.
Consequently, Contactual is well positioned to deepen or even expand its competitive footprint for two reasons: business model and experience. Iyer notes many Contactual customers started small with the vendor and have scaled up throughout the years. The upward movement in its install base proves the company has experience dealing with hosted contact center clientele, Iyer says.
Experience aside, it is the lean and efficient business model Iyer says Contactual possesses that could help the vendor rise above other hosted counterparts with similarly competitive price points. "The company can sell and service customers much more efficiently than newer providers who have less experience selling into the market," he says. "There are a lot of [companies] that offer hosted contact center solutions that are competitive on price, but there are few that have a more efficient business model, compete more effectively, and make margins without losing money. Contactual is one of those [vendors], and it is a competitive advantage for the company."
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