Talk Among Yourselves

Avaya today released a bundle of call center products designed to help agents gain access to instant expertise and enhance first-call resolution. The applications are part of the Avaya Customer Interaction Suite, and feature advanced Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) capabilities and improved interfaces for third-party companies, among other enhancements.

"This is about a series of updates...allowing customers to save money by leveraging the new capabilities that IP provides with distributed call centers," says Lawrence Byrd, director of communication applications. "It's also about greater integration with contact center agents, their management, and the rest of the business. We consolidated the contact center's infrastructure to make it cheaper and easier to manage."

Using SIP-enabled presence and secure instant messaging allows agents to find experts in any part of the business to speed customer service. They can instant message the person best suited to answer a question by point and click and solve it without having to put the caller on hold. "SIP is an emerging standard for interacting between systems," says Joe Outlaw, principal analyst at Current Analysis. "The power here to increase first-call resolution has real business value in that it improves customer satisfaction, lowers cost because it gets done and it's over with, and improves agent satisfaction because the agent feels better about solving problems without a lot of extra work."

Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics, says this capability is a benefit. "It gives agents the ability to not only talk among themselves but to reach out to an expert," which will especially help companies seeing growth. "But, you need to put the processes in place to enable it," she stresses. "It's not magic that comes with technology. People don't want to measure call centers anymore by average speed of answer." If someone answers the call in 30 seconds, but it takes 30 minutes to solve the problem, "that's a meaningless metric," she says. "But how often did we solve the problem? That's what we all want."

Outlaw also highlights the importance of enhanced interfaces for third-party companies so customers can link tools from Witness Systems or Verint with Avaya's system within the call center. Additionally, the new suite includes some basic Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) capabilities for companies that still haven't made the plunge. "Only 20 percent of companies are using CTI because it's a little scary and it's quite expensive," Outlaw says. "Avaya says there's a lot of low hanging fruit that will check a customer record before popping it onto an agent's desktop."

From a competitive standpoint, Byrd says, "I think our competitors sometimes struggle with scalability, trying to bring high-end technology to thousands of agents, instead of just hundreds now." Outlaw and McGee-Smith agree Avaya beats out vendors like Siemens, Cisco, and Interactive Intelligence--most of which focus on a smaller market compared to Avaya's eye on the enterprise and are significantly more expensive, though some include more robust features. "Avaya's leading in the call center space," McGee-Smith says. "From thought leadership [to] momentum, they're the ones to beat."

Additional reporting by Colin Beasty

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