The 2005 Service Excellence Award

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Not all service technology companies fit into CRM magazine's Service Leaders categories. That's why we present our inaugural Service Excellence award to a company with diverse productsthat's making bold, promising moves in the customer service field. For this award we consider criteria, like company growth, customer wins, company direction, mergers and acquisitions, and product line upgrades. Concerto Software, CRM
magazine's Service Excellence award winner for 2005, initially made its name in outbound calling solutions as Davox Corp. That changed in 2002, when the company merged with contact center suite vendor CELLIT, and relaunched as Concerto Software, a full-service contact center developer. Since then the company has aggressively built a stockpile of technology and expertise, and is well positioned to be a major player in CRM communications for a long time to come. "We want to be the number one provider of contact center solutions to the marketplace," says Ralph Breslauer, executive vice president of sales and marketing. "We have tried to make sure we have all of the functionality [customers] need to solve business problems." In support of those efforts Concerto was taken private by two venture capital firms in early 2004, which pumped enough capital into the company to make four major technology acquisitions, from CenterForce, Melita, Positive Software, and Rockwell FirstPoint. Concerto has grown in size and in depth, expanding its capability and reach in both inbound and outbound calling, as well as strengthening workforce management and analytics for call center managers. The purchase of Rockwell's FirstPoint Contact product was the move that convinced many that Concerto would have staying power. "It was the most crucial of all [the acquisitions]...it was about getting us to the next level in the inbound marketplace," Breslauer says. Indeed, FirstPoint was considered synonymous with the birth of the modern inbound call center by some industry watchers, having been designed for the airline industry to improve customer service in the 1970s. "They definitely have a strategy for the acquisitions. I have liked the moves they've made," says Drew Kraus, Gartner principal analyst. Kraus feels the acquisitions were a reasonable strategy for rapidly expanding beyond the outbound calling space. "They had made some progress, but not nearly as fast as they wanted in the inbound market, and getting the Rockwell base of technology was an instant boost for them, and a kickstart they definitely needed." Adding the resources of FirstPoint Contact gave Concerto many more feet on the street, as the product came with 75 global hardware-support employees. "We are driving to get support as close as possible to the customers. In North America we have coverage in 46 cities, and in four cities in India we are at most two hours away from the customer," says Eyal Ben-Chanoch, senior vice president of global customer support. The company appears to have managed its growing pains. "The mergers and acquisitions provides us with a lot more customers, obviously, and with different products, and that was challenging," Ben-Chanoch says. His team of roughly 350 service-and-support engineers assists some 3,000 client systems of various sizes, shapes, and brands. "But it also provided us more discipline." The demands of the professional buying public have fueled a number of Concerto's recent moves. The company has focused on multitenancy support to allow outsourcers to expand their client bases rapidly, and delivering hosted capabilities to support virtual call center efforts. Beyond that the company faces the same pressures as its clients in the support business--provide higher quality of service, faster than ever. "Customer needs are evolving to require quick resolution. Our customers are getting more educated on the products in their IT and communications departments, so when they call us, they really need us," Ben-Chanoch says. However, Concerto isn't singing a unified tune just yet. The company's call center suite offering, EnsemblePro, is still largely based on CELLIT technology, while most of the newly acquired solutions are provided as best-of-breed products. The next generation of Concerto's unified offering is expected to tie together the best technologies in ACD, dialing, workforce management, and optimization from the deep technology library at the company. "The integration hasn't happened yet, but in some of the integration work they've done that they have let Gartner in on, I have been impressed with the amount of forethought that has gone on," Kraus says. "They did a good job of defining their vision for bringing all this together, so this is the hard work of pulling together the offerings and selling them." PRODUCTS SNAPSHOT Product: EnsemblePro Capabilities: A contact center suite including ACD, predictive dialing, IVR, email, Web chat and collaboration, universal queuing, recording and reporting Business benefits: Recapture customers abandoned in queue; prioritize and route premium customers accordingly; initiate outbound voice and email campaigns for lead-generation; increase online browse-to-buy ratio by using advanced Web tools Product: LYRICall Capabilities: Acts as the agent front-end for Concerto Ensemble and Unison. Allows complex agent scripting and user interfaces to be built by business designers on any Java-capable Web browser. Business benefits: Save on agent desktop costs by developing to common Internet standards; quickly make changes to contact center operations through scripting Product: Ensemble Capabilities: The contact center platform supports both inbound and outbound campaigns, along with campaign development tools for business users and unified voice and data transferring. The platform allows multiple-contact center sites to be managed from a single location. Business benefits: Virtual call center capabilities allow for high-ROI tactical growth of the contact center as needed; inbound and outbound blending capabilities optimize agent on-hook time and productivity Product: Unison Capabilities: An outbound calling solution that includes integration with click-to-call Web buttons, telemarketing, and collections campaigns, which can be scheduled in a blended mode allowing agents to take inbound calls as needed. Business benefits: Maximize agent productivity with both predictive and preview dialing; rescheduling capabilities help prevent deals from being overlooked; reporting tools allow managers to monitor campaign progress Product: Conversations Capabilities: A voice management product that adapts the pacing of call queue handling according to the observed turnaround time of active agents, and works to minimize dead air and queues by shifting calls to available agents. Business benefits: Avoid compliance and satisfaction headaches caused by phantom outbound calls; improve agent productivity and workflow
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