Avaya Introduces Speech Rec Tools
As you read in our article about speech recognition tools in our October issue, Avaya (Basking Ridge, NJ) now offers a speech recognition system, Avaya Voice Portal, in addition to its interactive voice response (IVR) system. To enable call centers to deploy speech recognition applications on either system, Avaya has introduced Avaya Dialog Designer.
Avaya Voice Portal is a flexible system that lets you share licenses and workloads among multiple servers, so your speech recognition system can keep running even if any one of the servers goes down. What’s more, Avaya Voice Portal accommodates both circuit-switched telephony networks and Internet protocol networks, as well as protocols such as H.323 and the session initiation protocol (SIP). In terms of operating systems, Avaya Voice Portal runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0.
Wait. Stop. Hammer Time!
Empirix (Bedford, MA), which develops testing suites for call centers and Web sites, has introduced the latest incarnation of Hammer CallMaster, version 5.0. One of the reasons that call centers use testing suites is to verify that they can handle a large number of calls at the same time. They also use testing suites to make sure that processes related to routing calls — like gathering information callers enter from touchtone interactive voice response (IVR) systems, and displaying screen pops on agents’ computers — all go well.
But as telephony systems continue to become more complex, performing these types of tests only over a circuit-switched network isn’t enough to demonstrate that your call center’s routing and IVR systems function at their best.
That’s why Hammer CallMaster 5.0 accommodates both circuit- switched and packet-switched telephony networks in call centers. And, besides confirming that touchtone IVR systems are able to retrieve information, such as account numbers, that customers key in, Hammer CallMaster 5.0 indicates whether speech recognition systems understand what customers say.
In addition, Hammer CallMaster 5.0 enables you to test routing scenarios and applications of speech recognition before and after they go live. Plus, the system lets you and your colleagues work together simultaneously to set up multiple tests using one CallMaster system.
Can't Touch This Schedule? Now You Can
IEX (Richardson, TX), a developer of workforce management software, offers call center agents more of a say about their schedules with the debut of version 3.9 of TotalView.
Agents have on-line access to their schedules from Web browsers with the help of TotalView WebStation Plus. With TotalView version 3.9, agents can use TotalView WebStation Plus, not only to view their schedules — which the standard edition of WebStation allows — but also to request time off and view the status of their requests.
What’s more, with TotalView WebStation Plus, agents indicate their preferences for when they work and when their breaks occur. Depending on how often your call center assigns schedules to agents, TotalView lets you establish open enrollment periods when agents can change their preferences.
Like most workforce management tools, TotalView enables you to characterize the type of work an agent does during a given timeframe, whether it’s answering calls, responding to e-mail or anything else, within the agent’s overall schedule.
And, if you employ agents who work from their homes or from somewhere other than your company’s primary call center sites, TotalView gives you the option of enabling agents to view their schedules on-line without having to log in to your call routing system.
A Recap of Right Now's Summer of CRM
This past summer was a busy one for RightNow Technologies (Bozeman, MT). During that time, the company debuted several products, including the latest release of its customer relationship management (CRM) suite.
Among RightNow Technologies’ new products is RightNow Telesales, which provides you with a graphical tool to indicate which groups of customers you call during a campaign and which sales representatives you assign to the campaign. This module is available either standalone or as an addition to RightNow CRM 7.5, RightNow’s newest CRM suite. RightNow can also host this module, as well as other modules of RightNow CRM.
RightNow CRM 7.5 lets you launch campaigns — by phone and by e-mail — in response to a variety of circumstances, such as when customers register for a free trial of a new service, when they sign up for a frequent shopper program or after they buy a new product through your Web site.
With e-mail campaigns, RightNow CRM allows you to generate e-mail messages so that customers receive links that direct them to portions of your Web site that are exclusively for customers who sign up, say, for a one-time promotion or for a frequent shopper program. In addition, the links can trigger text chat sessions between customers and agents at your call center.
RightNow CRM produces reports that let you track the results of campaigns. As you conduct email campaigns, for instance, you can verify that your e-mail messages reached customers and then find out which Web pages customers visited after they clicked on links within the e-mail messages you sent them. In conjunction with RightNow Telesales, you can similarly confirm whether or not you reached the group of customers you’ve targeted for a campaign, and keep tabs on how effectively sales representatives communicate with customers.
Because RightNow’s campaign design tool works with a variety of modules within RightNow’s CRM suite, including those geared to customer service and customer support operations, you can use information about the status of incoming calls from customers to identify which customers might be most open to sales campaigns, and to automatically create campaigns targeted to these customers.
Lastly, RightNow has expanded its ability to automate certain aspects of assisting customers, such as by providing information within a knowledge base. If your knowledge base, or a portion of it, is available to customers on your Web site, RightNow’s suite lets you automatically generate a set of questions to narrow down what information customers are searching for. This capability, which RightNow calls RightNow SmartGuide, can help customers find answers to questions about highly technical or complex products.
SmartGuide is especially useful because it lends itself to making your knowledge base accessible not only from your Web site, but also through a speech recognition system. RightNow, which itself offers a speech recognition system, lets you employ SmartGuide in creating a sequence of questions that callers answer over the phone. The aim of SmartGuide, whether customers are on the phone or on-line, is the same: to help customers find information through your knowledge base instead or in advance of speaking with call center agents.
In addition, RightNow’s suite lets you tailor the information you present to customers from your knowledge base so that the information is relevant, for instance, to customers in a certain area of the U.S. or pertains to specific products that customers have purchased.
GN Netcom Announces Heavy Duty Headsets
GN Netcom’s (Nashua, NH) new GN 2000 Series of corded headsets feature rubber-plastic composite, allmetal boom pivots and impactresistant headbands. They come with a frequency response from 150 Hz to 6800 Hz.
The GN 2000 Series is available in monaural and binaural styles and offers two microphone/boom combinations. The flex boom model is paired with a noise-canceling microphone to filter out background sounds in noisy environments, while GN 2000 ST models feature a standard microphone, together with the Sound- Tube, which allows users to position the boom for the best possible voice pickup. Additionally, extra-thick, pivoting ear cushions maintain user comfort and focus, while PeakStop technology protects, they say, against sound spikes by cutting off sudden, loud noises above 118 dB SPL.
“The GN 2000 Series is the most durable line of contact center headsets we’ve ever built and it truly delivers in every category,” says Hans Henrik Lund, president and CEO of GN Netcom. Although he’s probably biased.
Full Circle Acquires Siebel
Siebel Systems (San Mateo, CA), a 12-year-old developer of CRM software founded by a former Oracle executive, Tom Siebel, will become part of Oracle, most likely at the beginning of next year.
Oracle’s announcement of its agreement to acquire Siebel Systems comes less than a year after the company purchased another competitor, PeopleSoft.
Like PeopleSoft, Siebel was able to introduce a CRM suite as the result of an acquisition of a developer of customer support software in the late 1990s. What initially distinguished customer support software from CRM software was that CRM software enabled customer support, customer service and sales reps to view information about customers in a variety of contexts. Customer support software, by contrast, only allowed a specific group of call center agents, namely support reps, to view customers’ support requests.
CRM software expanded access to customers’ support requests to service and sales reps, so that they, too, would be aware of any issues customers had encountered. By being able to consult this information in advance of communicating with customers, support, service and sales operations would all be able to gauge whether they could effectively up or cross-sell customers on other products and services, including those that would minimize customers’ need for support.
In the past eight years, though, CRM software has become embedded within tools that call center agents use to communicate with customers. What that means is that the idea of CRM as a standalone product category is now much less meaningful to call centers than it was in the late 1990s. Rather than focusing on the consolidation of information they possess about customers, today’s call centers seek to understand and improve customers’ perceptions of the companies they represent.
InStranet Develops Software For Salesforce.com's AppExchange
InStranet (Chicago, IL) has made its eponymous tool available for the salesforce.com’s Appforce on-demand platform, the company says. InStranet for AppExchange is available immediately for preview. The company says it seamlessly integrates with Salesforce to provide executives knowledge on-demand, such as sales and servicing information, to increase productivity across all customer touch points, such as contact centers and Web self help.
InStranet for AppExchange is one of 70 launch applications that are available through AppExchange, salesforce.com’s new on-demand application sharing service.
InStranet for AppExchange uses customer profile information located in Salesforce applications as a filter to provide immediate on-demand access for agents to appropriate knowledge, virtually eliminating the need for multiple searches. This saves agents time and increases first call resolution and customer satisfaction.
“How you manage knowledge for call center agents, retail outlets, or Web self help, has a critical impact on customer service quality, costs, and revenues,” said Bonnie Crater, VP and General Manager, Salesforce Service & Support. “InStranet for AppExchange automates the delivery of on-demand profile-based content and knowledge to every customer channel.”
Using AppExchange, companies can easily add new apps to their existing Salesforce deployments, extending their success and making the full power and creativity of the salesforce.com customer and partner community available with just a click.
“By offering an on-demand CRM and knowledge management solution, InStranet and salesforce.com can provide organizations the means to provide a truly exceptional customer service experience,” said Alex Dayon, InStranet CEO. “InStranet for AppExchange offers rapid time-tomarket for our customers.”
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