Think of your customers as an audience in a crowded theater and your job is to entertain them--to make them happy, give them what they came for, let them know what else your company has to offer and make them shout for more. If this is the case, then the actors who perform on the stage are your contact center agents; they are the face of your company.
As the director, you wouldn't send actors out on stage without costumes, props, and lines to say. Similarly, you would not want to put agents in contact with customers unless they first have the right information--pulled from your customer case history, billing systems, knowledge base, and other ERP and CRM applications. This means a long and arduous integration process, right? Not necessarily. By using an Enterprise Commerce Management blueprint, you can eventually avoid much of the pain of integration between front office and back office systems and, more importantly, provide the information that will help contact center agents dazzle your customers with great service.
Enterprise Commerce Management (ECM) is not a type of application but rather a blueprint that helps companies evaluate and implement business processes, software systems and enabling technologies to best serve employees, customers, and suppliers. Up until now, most of the large vendors have designed their systems to operate as the "center of the universe," leaving the hefty job of integration to users, systems integrators and integration vendors, but ECM seeks to change all that.
In the contact center, users generally have to spend a great deal of time and effort mapping process to process between applications that may have had different definitions of what a "customer" is. An ECM blueprint would change all this by putting the user at the center of the universe, demanding that vendors meet rigorous technical criteria, including the use of industry-standard application servers and provisions for application independent integration. Vendors that are ECM-compliant understand that they must fit their applications into the user's plan like pieces in a puzzle.
The base of the ECM blueprint is the system of record, which stores all information, including the customer record. Integration services run between the system of record and the systems of process, which carry out business rules. These systems are integrated to the systems of venture, which allow companies to easily assemble and disassemble new business processes, such as temporary partnerships.
Vendors serving the contact center market fit in to the system of process layer of ECM, which means that they must make their applications easy to integrate with others. Many vendors that sell functionality that brings the right information to contact center agents are already meeting some of the technological criteria of ECM compliance but it is still very early in the game and no vendor has it all just yet. Chordiant uses XML to communicate easily with CRM and ERP systems.
Both Chordiant and Point Information Systems do not necessarily own the customer data--they pull it from the systems of record.
eGain has built its e-mail response product using the J2EE standard, making it scalable and relatively easy to integrate to other systems.
Both E.piphany and Kana Software are also moving towards J2EE compliancy.
Onyx Software Corporation's CRM products are completely web-based, which makes installation less painful and allows anywhere access to the system.
If you want to give agents all the information they need to wow your customers, keep ECM in mind when choosing a contact center vendor. Vendors that make their contact center applications easy to integrate to back office and other CRM systems can put you well on your way to providing great customer service.