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Microsoft Cuts Call Times

By Clint Boulton     Feedback

The company uses Web services to help make call centers more efficient.

Microsoft has created a Web services software platform to make call center operations run more efficiently and cost effectively for service providers.

The Customer Care Framework decreases average call times by removing extraneous data requests and delivering more accurate information faster to agents who helm call centers.

With Web services as the core architectural approach, the software will aggregate disparate customer relationship management, operations support and business support applications service providers already have in place.

Web services is a form of application-to-application communication that enables companies to integrate software from different vendors and make them work together. In this case, Microsoft is using Web services to help different applications to be accessed simultaneously from a single interface in the call center network.

The platform works in conjunction with various Microsoft applications, including Microsoft Windows Server, Visual Studio .NET, BizTalk Server and SQL Server, the company said.

The framework is an example of how Microsoft is helping customers deploy service-oriented architecture computing systems to help businesses be more productive.

But the move is also a strategic one, as the company looks to draw from the deep revenue pools of large service providers looking to improve their operations.

For service providers with call centers, shorter calls means more customers can get through to request assistance or procure new services. Satisfying customers directly impacts the bottom line, making products that produce efficiencies valuable.

Microsoft could butt heads with communications gear providers, such as Lucent , Nortel , Cisco and Avaya , all of which offer call center software.

But Vish Thirumurthy, group product manager for Microsoft's communications sector, said the company's foray into the call center market complements offerings from network equipment providers because it integrates various applications but does not take their place.

"[The software] has in fact been sold in concert with NEP and ISV solutions," Thirumurthy said. "Customer Care Framework enables the operator to unlock the data and business processes that reside in multiple heterogeneous applications to provide a unified view to the contact center agent."

Web services are increasingly coming to the fore as a practical solution to integration problems. Avaya today rolled out a new "intelligent communications" strategy that uses Web services to let people connect to one another through video, text or voice.

The release of Microsoft's call center software also comes against the backdrop of the annual Interop communications gear show, which commenced in Las Vegas Sunday. Internet phone calling, or VoIP , is expected to be the hot topic after a significant uptake in interest last year.

While Microsoft said it is initially targeting service providers with the platform, the software will work with just about any enterprise whose call center operations represent a significant part of its operations, Thirumurthy said.

Microsoft expects the platform will be picked up by large financial services and retail businesses.

This article was originally published on May 2, 2005
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