It's a good time to work in call centers. There's never been a time when the tools at your disposal are so well-constructed, so feature-rich, so bent on performing useful functions. That's our take, anyway, after surveying the year's products for our annual Products of the Year.
We've been impressed by the emergence -- not only of new companies (with some fresh ideas), but whole new technology sectors. Performance Management and Analytics software make a strong appearance among our award winners this year, as does the critical but often overlooked pre-hire assessment realm.
Another theme you may discern among our choices: the growth of hosting as a way to put the most powerful tools into the hands of smaller businesses with less formal call centers.
We picked 18 products and services based on criteria like usability and innovativeness. We also looked for tools that represent good ideas to transform how you run your call center, such as by introducing some fantastic new efficiency or benefit, or by leading you (we hope) to a "light bulb" moment. That's the point at which you realize that the old ways of doing things aren't working for you anymore, and you flash on some unique insight that leads you in a new direction.
Read on to learn about this year's best call center products. And congratulations to the winners!
AIM TECHNOLOGY'S AIMCALL VERSION 6.0
AIM Technology's AIMCall version 6.0 helps managers, executives and agents identify areas of improvement in your call center's performance. The software lets you correlate efficiency metrics (like handle time) with business value metrics (like up-selling and revenue).
The software features management dashboards and reports to get information from various systems, such as workforce management, quality monitoring, interactive voice response (IVR) and multimedia routing systems.
With its ability to link measures of efficiency, productivity, profitability and quality, AIMCall is among the tools that call centers will need to bring their operations into the forefront of the businesses they represent. 415-233-4190, www.aimtechnology.com
ASPECT SOFTWARE'S ENSEMBLEPRO 6.0
Aspect Software's EnsemblePro is a suite of applications for handling inbound calls, outbound calls, on-line messages and faxes.
EnsemblePro 6.0, the latest release of the suite, represents the fruits of Aspect's merger with Concerto last year, bringing along with it a high-end set of features for inbound and outbound call centers. The suite integrates routing, predictive dialing, IVR, recording, reporting and administration in one package. And it allows your call center to use the applications as part of a hosted system.
One of the nice things about EnsemblePro is that it lets you blend inbound calls, outbound calls, e-mail messages and Web chats, among other types of communication, all from the same workstation. The suite allows you to dynamically prioritize and route communication, like calls and e-mail messages, into a single queue and to the appropriate agent. EnsemblePro also enables you to make changes to provisioning and routing rules without requiring agents to log in and out of different campaigns or routing systems.
As you would expect, EnsemblePro contains IP-equipped components that are necessary to set up turnkey call centers, like multimedia routing, IVR, recording and Web collaboration software, as well as tools to accommodate speech recognition. Now that Aspect's EnsemblePro can run as a hosted system, you can gain access to the kinds of tools that were once available only to a large call center, even if you don't run such a center yourself. 408-325-2200, www.aspect.com
For years, technologists promised that speech rec applications would become cheaper and easier to use, but few were able to foresee that the biggest changes would come about through pre-packaged, offsite managed services.
BeVocal provides such services, saving you the costs of developing and maintaining IVR and speech rec applications on your own. These types of applications are among the hardest to maintain, and they evolve rapidly. BeVocal can help, as it offers custom development of IVR and speech rec applications over a carrier-grade network.
BeVocal's service, VoCare, lets you introduce applications where, for example, callers say their names and addresses to update or verify information that's in your customer database. The suite also enables you to offer speech rec to let customers automatically provision new phone services, change their account details or pay their bills.
With more than two dozen separate modules, VoCare is easy to use and administer; the service gives you carrier-class applications at small call center prices. 650-210-8600, www.bevocal.com