Archive for the ‘Welcome’ Category

Who will be the first vendor to supply a carrier with a commercial WebRTC solution?

I’m very happy to announce that I’ll be doing a live demonstration of our INtellECT® WebRTC solution, which enables a toll free call to a service number over the browser. It is a WebRTC-enhanced freephone solution, the first of its kind at a major operator worldwide. You can read all about it here.

However if you want to see live how it works, I recommend that you attend the Next Generation Services Platforms conference, which is on June 17-18 in Munich. I will give a demonstration on how our customer, a leading European operator, uses ECT technology with WebRTC. The WebRTC-enhanced Freephone Service is scheduled to go live this summer and as far as I can tell it will be the first commercial service with WebRTC at a major European carrier.
I will also show how contact center agents can process the incoming WebRTC calls and how they can enhance the caller’s user experience by providing multimedia content via WebRTC.
You hear pundits talk a lot about what might happen with WebRTC. But where’s the beef?
One of our many customers, a major European carrier, will commercially launch the WebRTC-enhanced Freephone Service this summer and if you want to see how it works, come and see my demo on June 17.

How to do PCI compliant call recording

How careful are you with your data? When you purchase something over the internet, do you use your credit card? Probably. I guess you also do credit card payments when you buy something over a contact center and process the order together with an agent. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t consider it safe.

To make sure you can keep buying things over the phone securely, PCI-compliant call recording became a legal requirement for contact centers e.g. in the UK but also in other European countries. The point is, payment card details must not be recorded or stored together with the rest of the call.

So contact centers have the choice to record the payment details on a separate device additional to their on-premise contact center gear or they buy the call recording solution as a separate cloud solution. What ever they choose, it would mean additional costs plus the integration.

I have something better. I can offer you a PCI-compliant call recording solution as part of our integrated platform, basically as a part of our contact center product. This means, the call recording will take place on the same platform, so there is no tromboning and no looping to an external device.

What does the contact center have to do to use our PCI-compliant call recording? It’s all done with a mid-call subroutine. The part of the call, where the customer gives his payment card information is separated from the call with the agent.

This mid-call subroutine is assignable per skillgroup. When it comes to taking the payment information, the agent pushes a button in the agent workplace and the call is sent to the subroutine. There, the caller enters the card details, either via DTMF or Automatic Speech Recognition, and after the successful transaction, the call is resumed.

In the workplace, the agent sees the caller’s progress and remains on hold. This means he is not available for other calls. Should the caller hang up while he’s in the mid-call subroutine, the agent will be available again.

Contact centers can configure the subroutine themselves with the effECTive® Visual Callflow Builder, this means they can determine, what is not recorded from the call with the agent. Thus the agent can record parts of the customer data, like name, credit card institute, product purchased and the prize. In the subroutine, the caller only enters the card number, the validation date and the security code. Our system then sends this data together with the data retrieved from the agent over a secure link to a third party pay server.

The call recording is temporarily paused once the caller is in the subroutine, none of the credit card details are recorded, or stored anywhere.

This is how you do PCI-compliant call recording ECT style. It’s part of our contact center product, it’s freely configurable and cost-effective.

Get in touch if you want to learn more.

Skillgroups, Agent Workplace, Resources — All is interconnected

Are contact center agents generally skilled people? I guess so, that’s why you assign them to skill groups. Ideally, agents are multi-skilled so they can handle several skill-groups. The contact center technology they’re using should reflect this. So when an incoming call hits a skill group, the call goes to an available agent who must be signed in to this group. This is the first point: it must be possible for an agent to sign in to several skill groups simultaneously.

Next, these groups have to be aligned, i.e. an agent who is on the phone with a caller to one skill group has to be busy and unavailable to the other groups he’s signed in.
Of course the tasks for each skill group have different demands. The Agent Workplace should reflect this. Only the features the agent needs should be displayed. Is it a skill group for non-voice activities? Then the e-mail client or the social media channels should be open. Is this a skill group where payments are done over the phone? Then the agent should have the button to send the caller to the mid-call subroutine where he/ she can enter the payment card details without the agent listening.
All these properties have to be managed somewhere. Our effECTive® Network-Based Contact Center suite has one central web portal over which gives access to all parts of the contact center depending on user rights.
There the manager assigns agents to skill groups, activates certain features in the Agent Workplace and also manages all the resources like the prompts. Thus, the central web portal is the basis of the contact center at least in terms of user interfaces. Agents use it to sign in to the workplace. To a certain extend you can even use it to administer third party applications like a CRM.
All you need to access this web portal and all the functionalities it offers is a browser and internet access. It’s the right technology that makes the lives of contact center staff easier. If you’d like to see how it works, please feel free to contact me.

We integrate Salesforce with the Agent Workplace

For some time now, we have an integration of our Agent Workplace with Salesforce, the leading cloud-based CRM system.

As a fully cloud-based customer relationship management service, Salesforce fits our network-based contact center suite perfectly. It runs in any leading browser, so both products are well positioned to match each other. On top of that, Salesforce is a powerful CRM module with all its features and I’m not surprised that it became such a huge success.
For the integration, we’re using their API, which allows us to pull up a separate tab, which is presented in the same browser session as the workplace. So when an incoming call reaches the platform, after the IVR service logic, the call eventually hits the skill group. When that happens, our system sends a variable e.g. the caller’s CLI to Salesforce via the API. Salesforce returns with a page in the browser showing the respective customer information in case the person was found. If the caller was not found, the agent gets to see a page that allows him to create an account for that particular number.
Joining two powerful products in this way entails an easy to use, feature rich, quick to market solution for managing a contact center solution completely in the cloud.
The good news for our customers: this CRM plug-in is a standard connector, so we can offer the integration to all our customers who are offering the NBCC product.

Contact Center Resources

In a contact center you need lots of things predefined and ready if you want to do a change in a routing tree. You need prompts, origin lists, suffix lists, SMS templates, SOAP requests and so on. We call them Resources.

In the effECTive® Web Portal we have one central location where you can manage all your contact center resources. Obviously you’ll find them under the tab “Resources”. The idea of a central location was to make the resources available for all your routings. Say you need to change a TTS prompt, then you enter the new text in the web portal under the proper resource. You save it and the change in the prompt becomes active in all routings you’re using this prompt.

You create or change a VoiceXML the very same way. We have a VoiceXML editor in the web portal, when you change code in an existing VXML icon, it will be valid for the icon regardless in which routing you’re using it. You may wonder where the calls end up that your agents record. Guess what, you find them in the resources. And since they are part of the web portal you can change and manage your resources from wherever you want. All you need is a browser and internet access.

So does your contact center have resources?

Why a single-sign on for agents enhances the customer experience

A couple of weeks ago I attended a very nice webinar from the Call Centre Helper. It was dealing, among other things, with the question, how many applications a contact center agent needs to handle a customer’s enquiry. The whole idea that an agent might need several applications on his workplace struck me. How inconvenient; no wonder so many customers are unhappy with service over the phone and contact center agents describe their work as often frustrating.

The more I think of it, the more I like the single-sign on for our effECTive® Web Portal over which you access the agent workplace with just one mouse click. Over the same web portal you do not only access the workplace but all other contact center functionalities.

In the Agent Workplace you have all the modules like e-mail, phonebook, chat function, social media and CRM. That’s why we also call it “Unified Agent Workplace”. The advantage is obvious: the agent has all functionalities he needs available and does not have to open various windows and multiple applications, each with a different log-in. For the agent it’s easier to do his work and customer enquiries can be answered much faster and more efficiently. Also, the interaction with other agents is much easier when you have the chatbox and e.g. the CRM on the same screen. Of course contact centers also save money when they manage to reduce the time an agent needs for answering an enquiry.

There are two reasons why you have these shortcomings on many agent desktops. First: Applications come from multiple vendors. You may have a social media module from one company, the e-mail client from another one and the CRM is of course a third-party application as well. There are other companies who do nothing else than developing software for workforce management. Bottom line: agents end up with a plethora of different applications and log-ins on their desktops.

The second reason has to do with integration. Many desktops are just not open enough to integrate third party applications very deep. It works both ways – many applications are just not open enough to be integrated into an agent desktop, plus, vendors don’t want their products to be integrated into another application so they are no longer distinguishable.

Here at ECT, we have all these various types of applications, including those from third parties, on our platform and then integrated into our agent workplace. This means they are easier to integrate and easier to access for the agent. From a security standpoint there is another advantage: all applications and all the databases are secured on the carrier-side. This means they are easy to access but you cannot hack the system.

Of course, we at ECT are partnering with other companies to improve our products continuously. We’re also doing our homework: our agent and manager workplace is designed to be so open that you can integrate all kinds of third party applications. Contact me if you wish to find out more!

What Social CRM Should Be Like

For a moment let’s suspend the notion that we’re all nerdy telco people and give in to the idea that we’re also customers that request service every now and then. When we do so, we generally appreciate when the organization we interact with doesn’t only respond quick but may be familiar with us and the type of enquiry we may have.

As you all know, that’s what CRM systems are for. Some say a good Customer Relationship Management tool is at the heart of every contact center. There is certainly more than a grain of truth in this, depending on what kind of data is stored in the CRM and how it’s updated. Typical entries would be name, billing details, address, interaction history as well as products/ services bought.

These types of information help to judge how quickly a customer enquiry is dealt with, so they should interface with the ACD. I think one of the most important parameters for the CRM is the interaction history and especially with regards to social media.

Not only because it enables you to review the interaction history a customer had with you via Facebook or Twitter you would also store in your CRM how influential your customers are on the social web. Here CRM and ACD intertwine because a more influential customer, even if he’s not a frequent buyer or may be late with his payments may be treated with priority.

A good social CRM should therefore, on top of other data, archive company-related social media activity and the customer’s influence. At the same time, his influence should be updated dynamically. Does his network increase or shrink are there other influencers that he competes with? On which topics is this person influential?

These are pretty relevant questions when it comes to answering an enquiry or handling a complaint and that’s why they ought to be included in a modern Customer Relationship Management tool.

How not to Deploy a Contact Center

Truism alert: companies need interaction with their customers. They need to deal with questions, complaints and they need to sell. Customer contact is like scoring goals in soccer: you can’t win if you don’t do it. In soccer, you have a skilled striker and hopefully a tactic that helps you to score goals whilst with customer contact you have the right technology as well as a strategy on how to deploy and use the contact center without ruining your business case. Thanks to the cloud, this is something you as a carrier can help your corporate customers with.

A while back, deploying a contact center was a costly business. You hired a consultant to find out which solution would suit you best, then you bought hardware and software. This would amount to a considerable sum of money and that was only the beginning. The hardware had to be assembled and configured, software had to be installed and also configured. The integrator who did that for you would certainly not do it for free.

Then, of course, there are professional services. You’d be stuck with the same integrator who charges you for service and maintenance. Do you have multiple locations? Well, have fun, because the integrator can charge you for each site and you also need maintenance for each location. Another fun scenario is when you have multiple locations with equipment from various vendors, which you need to harmonize for your Number Translation Services or to do follow-the-sun. You end up paying a fortune even before you get your first call or make your first customer happy. In addition, the number of agent seats is limited.

Since I have a smart readership on this blog, I can easily anticipate your question: why is a network-based solution better? It’s better because it makes all the above mentioned cost-factors obsolete. You get a network-based contact center from your carrier. You choose the number of agent seats that you need, maybe some additional features in the Agent and Manager Workplace and that’s it. It’s pretty much like Software-as-a-Service. You rent the virtual equipment that you need and you don’t have to worry about setup, maintenance, on-premise equipment, ect.

You also don’t have contact center equipment on your books that you have to depreciate. Instead you have predictable monthly costs. This is especially valuable when it comes to upgrades. Depending on the type of upgrade and additional features, your monthly fee might increase but you don’t need an integrator to install the new features. Also, you can get additional agent seats on-demand and your agents can work from any location.

So, if you can tell me a good reason why premise-based contact centers are still preferable, please do. I’m really curious.

Televoting and what else?

Carriers that host a televoting solution in their network tend to face one dilemma. They have a very powerful platform that is able to handle several thousands of call attempts per second (CAPS) but very often the platform is only active and earning money when there is a televoting event going on. These are the times you have a sudden peak in calls and a lot of traffic on the platform, using its full capacity.

Most of the time the platform is probably idle. For an extremely robust system this is a pity. So if you want it to earn money in times when there is no televoting event going on, you should consider running another service on the platform. Thanks to ECT technology, this is easy because we enable multiple services on the same platform. If you’re smart you offer a service that you need anyway for the televoting like IVR. Televoters use it to participate in shows, so why not use it for other premium rate services? This is a good way to get traffic on the platform which would otherwise stay idle. The additional investment to upgrade the IVR is small but the profit you as a carrier can generate is high.

Can corporate customers who use the IVR on the televoting platform also have the service when there is a televoting event going on? Sure, why not. The platform is designed to stomach many thousand of CAPS, so a few more IVR callers during the peak wouldn’t make a difference. Of course, you would use the same service creation environment for both services. With the televoting you also get our effECTive® Visual Call Flow Builder and a special set of icons. These additional icons plus the IVR give you a really good business case to market both services separately.

Another way to leverage the platform capacity is with Outbound. You can make seasonal Software-as-a-Service offerings, for example, during the current holiday season. For a selected time period, your customers can opt to get a dialer from you including IVR, hosted on the televoting platform. It could be for a fundraising campaign that’s only going on for a few weeks or to market special holiday offers, your customers take advantage of the Outbound solution which they can rent with all the features they need.

Since the platform is multi-service you can easily host other applications like network-based contact centers or ring back tones on it. Thanks to the televoting, you have a really robust infrastructure that ensures a very stable service. Do you have any other ideas how to take advantage of a powerful televoting platform during idle times? Let’s discuss.

Cloud-based Contact Centers

See below an expert comment from our VP for Contact Center Solutions Reinier Meuwissen, which appeared in the German tier 1 telco publication funkschau in their issue from December 2nd 2011. From Reinier’s view carriers have the potential to drive providers of enterprise equipment out of the market with cloud-based solutions because they can offer more flexibility at a better price.