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NICE Systems was originally founded by a group of engineers who earned their chops designing systems for the communications intelligence field--spy stuff, in other words. These days, NICE focuses on providing a different kind of intelligence to its clients, one that could translate into a bigger bottom line and happier customers.

NICE hasn't gotten entirely out of the communications intelligence field, by any means. The international Israel-based company still develops and provides voice recording and communication intelligence systems for government agencies. But the company has also expanded its offerings to other industries--as evidenced by its flagship product, NiceLog.

NiceLog is a computer telephony integrated (CTI) digital voice recording system that provides continuous, high-quality recording and archiving of telephone conversations. Used by air-traffic controllers, financial institutions, call centers and others, NiceLog gives contact center managers a tool to follow interactions with the organization's most valuable asset: the customer.

NiceLog provides the foundation for NiceUniverse, a quality management system that helps managers evaluate and improve the effectiveness of the call center. Together, the solutions provide a means to improve the contact center experience. NiceLog and NiceUniverse complement NICE System's Customer Experience Management (CEM) platform. An outgrowth of customer relationship management, CEM allows companies to leverage information gained during customer interactions to improve business practices and develop a competitive edge. Through CEM, organizations get tools to listen and respond to customer needs.

Record and Evaluate

NiceLog meets a contact center's recording needs. The solution offers up to 224 simultaneous recording channels per unit. Users can archive unlimited hours of audio on DAT cassettes, AIT cartridges, MO disks or DVD disks. Features include total and selective recording, recording on demand, and real-time monitoring and recording for an instant, online view of agent and channel work status.

The multiuser, multioperational system offers quick and easy search, retrieval and playback functions. The system stores all call information in a comprehensive database, and can locate calls by date, time, extension or locators such as agent, customer ID or transaction ID. Other system features include sequential playback and concurrent playback of multiple recordings.

NiceUniverse builds on the capabilities of NiceLog to create a quality management system. Features include recording, playback, evaluation and reporting capabilities, as well as system administration and form creation functions. The system's recording technologies capture voice conversations, agent computer screen activity and other call details. Quality reviewers can then retrieve previously recorded calls and screens for evaluation. They can access playback via phone or over a LAN through a PC card. Users can also save voice calls as .wav files and send them to other sources via e-mail attachment.

The system's evaluation features help users measure the effectiveness of agents and call centers--and pinpoint areas for improvement in order to develop training programs. Reviewers can build customized evaluation forms to focus on areas relevant to the specific call center. Online automated evaluation tools offer the ability to strengthen the quality program. Managers can also view online status of agents logged onto the ACD and monitor calls, voice and screen in real-time.

Driving Call Center Improvement

Quality assurance led San Diego, Calif.-based Newgen Results to NICE's doorstep. A third-party call center provider with an extremely busy phone business, Newgen was looking for a way to enhance its interactions with phone customers, as well as its interactions with the businesses it serves.

Newgen's 500 call center agents act as liaisons between roughly 58 car dealers in the United states and Canada and their customers. Newgen's services fall into three main areas, says Brian Ramphal, vice president in Newgen's information technology department. First, Newgen's agents contact car owners to remind them of specific car servicing needs--a 30,000- or 50,000-mile check-up, for instance. Next, agents act as the dealers' schedule managers, and schedule appointments for car owners to take their cars in for maintenance. When the process is completed, Newgen agents then contact the car owners and ask customer satisfaction-related questions.

Newgen's agents are professional and efficient, Ramphal says, but the organization wanted a way to better inform its clients of the agents' performance. "We wanted to be able to give the car dealers a sense that our agents were courteous and were providing the kind of service their customers deserve," he says.

In "the old days"--six months ago, Ramphal jokes--Newgen employed quality assurance personnel who would tap into agents' live calls and monitor progress. But as the call center expanded and the number of agents exploded, Newgen administrators knew the QA staff wouldn't be able to keep up with call volume.

"We needed to be able to provide that same service without adding additional staff in the QA department," Ramphal says, "and that led us to evaluating a quality management type of system."

Newgen selected NiceLog and NiceUniverse specifically for ease of use, as well as data and voice synchronization and automatic scoring capabilities, Ramphal says. Now, Newgen is able to record agents' calls, and QA staff can review the tapes and score the agents' performance in the off hours. The call center operates two shifts, 12-hours each day, and records roughly 3 calls per agent per day, Ramphal says. Recorded calls can be evaluated and scored easily--and the record is right there on tape.

"One of the issues we had in the past was, because the quality department scored agents on live calls, there was no way for us to refer back to those tapes," he says. If disagreements of interpretation developed, there was no way to settle them, he says. With NiceLog, however, all calls are on record.

"One of the better things that came out of this is the agents are able to feel more comfortable with the system," he says. "There's less friction when an agent gets scored for a bad call. They feel very comfortable with our ability to monitor calls and provide feedback for training and also for better quality calls."

The more detailed system has also helped Newgen streamline its training programs, he says, to pinpoint specific areas in need of help. With the system in use since April, Ramphal says he's definitely seen some improvements in call center operations.

"When we went into this, we didn't state a return on investment in a tangible manner," he says. "We wanted to provide better customer service and better training for our agents. We also did not want to build up a very large QA staff for purposes of monitoring live calls. We have been able to reduce our QA staff, but more importantly we're able to provide better training to our agents and better service for our customers."

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