Bringing the Customer Aboard the Unified Communications Bandwagon
In an ideal world, contact center agents would have a breadth of resources and information at their fingertips. Finding the right
answer, however, is often more than just "a click away" and sometimes requires the use of external resources. In fact, 10 percent of customer calls each day need to be sent beyond the enterprise, according to research from contact center software provider Aspect Software. Dealing with and transferring each of those calls takes an average of 2.5 additional minutes -- extra time that proves costly for companies.
Aspect hopes to address those issues with a series of product enhancements, including an expansion of the unified communications (UC) capabilities of its existing Unified IP and PerformanceEdge solutions. But Aspect isn't ripping out its roots quite yet, according to company executives -- instead the vendor is applying the concept of UC to its legacy of contact center solutions, one step at a time.
With so much buzz around UC, it makes sense that a communications-heavy company such as Aspect would make the move -- but Aspect's approach adds a customer-centric angle, says Tom Chamberlain, the company's director of business marketing. "We saw that most of the vendors in [the UC] space were focusing on enterprise communications and how employees communicate with one another," Chamberlain says. "One of the perspectives they are leaving out is that of the consumer."
One of the goals for a UC deployment is to increase efficiency among first-call resolution, Chamberlain says. "We found there's a correlation that if a customer had a satisfactory experience with a contact center then [that customer is] four times more likely to do additional product or service business with that company," he says. By adding features such as presence and bridging the gap between channels of communication such as phone, email, IM, and voicemail, Aspect aims to bring more efficiency to the contact center.
Another compelling feature of Aspect's UC strategy is the ability to access "casual agents" -- experts or "knowledge agents" that contact center workers will be able to connect to more readily through presence, as well as improved access to calendars. The contact center agent will be able to find not only who is available, but which "casual agent" is the optimal person to speak with.
Aspect is not the first in the industry to offer UC strategies -- far from it. Vendors such as Nortel Networks and Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories have been doing this for quite some time. However, according to consultant Blair Pleasant, founder of CommFusion and UCStrategies.com, Aspect seems to be going about UC the right way.
"What I liked was that they aren't all [of a] sudden jumping in and saying, 'We are a leader in unified communications,' " she says. "They are taking their expertise and tying that in with UC. They are still [taking] into account how to better serve their customers by keeping it [in] the contact center."
Down the road, Aspect says it plans to release integration with Microsoft Office Communicator and IBM Lotus Sametime, among other UC offerings. Pleasant notes that Aspect's lack of a proprietary Internet Protocol PBX telecommunications system will make sales more challenging compared to the efforts of some of its larger competitors, but the company appears willing to collaborate with other vendors' applications, which Pleasant says is enticing. Companies may not be best-served with a vendor that offers the whole suite of UC capabilities, Pleasant says -- the key is integration and working with what you have.
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