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Call Center Software Suite Buying Guide

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Posted September 18, 2012 By Drew Robb     Feedback

Buying guide focuses on four of the biggest providers of call center software suites, with products geared toward large enterprises.

There are an awful lot of vendors out there offering call center software suites. The challenge was narrowing it down to a manageable handful. In this case, we focused on Avaya, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) and Interactive Intelligence, four of the biggest vendors offering full-featured enterprise call center software suites.

While there are other worthy candidates – most notably Genesys and Aspect – they will be included in a later guide which will focus more on workforce optimization (WFO).

So what should users look for in call center software? According to Drew Kraus, a call center analyst at Gartner, contact centers are increasingly showing a preference to “purchase much or all of their contact center infrastructure from a single source in the pursuit of easier and enduring integration.”

Avaya

Avaya Aura Contact Center Suite for midsize and large contact centers is optimized for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) environments, while supporting several other protocols. The modules are integrated in an effort to create end-to-end experience management, complemented by reporting, analytics, workforce management and workforce optimization. Conference and work assignment engines sit at the core of the suite to assemble full business context to each session.

Suite elements for the inbound side include:

  • Avaya Aura Call Center Elite 6.2, which enables migration to IP telephony and SIP. Its routing and agent selection capability helps companies meet service levels. Virtual routing finds the best resource and shortest wait time across multiple contact centers.
  • Avaya Aura Contact Center (AACC) 6.2 is a SIP-based, multi-channel contact center solution that can be used with Avaya Aura Communication Manager to provide voice and multi-channel routing.
  • Avaya Interaction Center 7.3 (IC) is a Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) based large enterprise multimedia contact center solution. IC unifies integration and handling of multiple media across multiple sites and locations.
  • Avaya Intelligent Customer Routing orchestrates self service, wait treatment applications and real-time routing information from multiple Automatic Call Distributors (ACDs).
  • Avaya Aura Experience Portal 6.0 coordinates inbound and outbound customer automation.
  • Avaya Aura Workforce Optimization (WFO) 10.1, which helps businesses understand what happened in each interaction, act upon it, establish best practices and set correct expectations before the next interaction.

In addition, there are several outbound-based modules.

More recently, the company added customer experience extensions to improve the customer service benefits of mobility, video and social media. “Customer Connections Mobile enables self and assisted service from a customer’s mobile application integrated into contact center routing and strategies,” said Laura Bassett, director of Marketing, Customer Experience and Emerging Technologies at Avaya. “Social Media Manager 6.2 automates and integrates social media responses into the contact center and to experts across the business." The product includes support for Google, YouTube and RSS, in addition to Facebook and Twitter.

When buying contact center software, Bassett believes companies opt for open and standards-based solutions that help them preserve their existing investments.

“The new software should allow you to have an evolution strategy into the future, not require a forklift migration to get you there,” said Bassett. “Customers should look for an experience that does not lock users into a single way of doing things, but provides flexibility to implement solutions based on business drivers.”

Interactive Intelligence

Interactive Intelligence offers an all-in-one Internet protocol (IP) communications software suite that provides multi-channel contact center automation for mid-size to large organizations. Its flagship product, Customer Interaction Center (CIC) has optional add-ons on the same platform. Among the add-ons:

  • Multi-channel recording and quality monitoring (Interaction Recorder)
  • Outbound and blended dialing and campaign management (Interaction Dialer)
  • Workforce management (Interaction Optimizer)
  • Customer feedback management (Interaction Feedback)
  • Business process automation (Interaction Process Automation)
  • Speech analytics (Interaction Analyzer)
  • Mobile customer service (Interaction Mobilizer)

Tim Passios, senior director of Solutions Marketing at Interactive Intelligence, recommended potential buyers take a good look under the hood to see whether vendor claims of a unified communications platform are justified. Some vendors have grown through acquisition, while others have formed partnerships to gain functionality.

“The result is that they still require a host of servers and hardware to run their ‘unified’ solution,” said Passios. “Be sure to ask about the solution’s architecture: How many servers are required to run all the applications needed? How many are needed in a distributed environment and how many more to provide disaster recovery? What type of integration will be required to run the applications? Will new applications come with forklift upgrades?  By asking these questions, call centers can avoid undue cost and complexity.”

Alcatel-Lucent

The Alcatel-Lucent offering is a little more complicated. It offers three call center suites, though the latter two are now offered through partnerships:

While OTCC SE is aimed at the voice-only market, GCE serves the all-in-one call center market and G8 is described as an integrated point solution.

OTCC SE consists of:

  • CCsupervision for call center supervision and configuration, as well as statistics compilation and reporting
  • CCdistribution, an ACD based on the Alcatel-Lucent OmniPCX Enterprise
  • CCivr for interactive voice response (IVR)
  • G-CTI for CTI and connectors to major CRM applications, as well as a Web-based interface for agents
  • CCagent, a desktop application for agents
  • CCoutbound, a dialer and a campaign manager

Like the other companies, Alcatel-Lucent recommends scalable and open solutions as a means of interacting efficiently with customers. “Don’t look at the contact center as an extra cost,” said Anais Nicolas, communications Solutions Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise. “Retaining a customer cost 10 times less than acquiring a new one.”

Cisco

Meanwhile, Ross Daniels, director of Solutions Marketing for Customer Collaboration at Cisco, urged buyers to consider all collaboration and communications needs when evaluating contact center vendors and not to base buying decision solely on price

He said the Cisco Unified Contact Center Express (CCE) is an all-in-one package providing ACD, IVR, CTI, e-mail, management and reporting capabilities, Integrated with Cisco Unified Communications Manager, it is intended for organizations needing up to 400 concurrent agents. According to the website, it is a scalable, enterprise-wide, multi-channel, distributed IP ACD platform based on a fault-tolerant architecture.

“Unified CCE includes ACD-routing, reporting, agent presence, and built-in CTI capability,” said Daniels.

In addition, Cisco Unified Customer Voice Portal (Unified CVP) provides IP-based self-service and call routing. It combines support for speech with intelligent application development and call control, either as a standalone interactive-voice-response (IVR) system or integrated with a contact center. It is often sold with Unified CCEE.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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