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I recently wrote how Enghouse Interactive is building a portfolio of products to support contact center in the cloud. The foundation of all its products is the handling of interactions through a comprehensive set of communication channels. My research into the contact center in the cloud shows that after the adoption of CRM in the cloud, companies are most likely to adopt contact centers in the cloud because they support consumers that want to interact through more channels, and because of the increasing need to support distributed contact centers and the diverse location of employees handling interactions.

The most recent release of Enghouse Interactive products to support the enterprise is now available through a variety of channels: on-premises, through a private cloud, through a public cloud, or customers can mix and match by having some systems on-premises and others off. The public cloud leverages Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud infrastructure as a service, which removes the need for companies to purchase any on-premises infrastructure. Moving to the cloud in this way also reduces up-front costs and time to deploy, and reduces the need for skilled deployment and operations staff. The service can be scaled up or down to meet fluctuating business requirements.

Along with these deployment options, Enghouse Interactive also recently announced a new agent desktop, iAgent. The first release of this product addresses a critical issue for contact center managers. My research vr_db_top_five_customer_service_challengesinto the agent desktop shows that agents are now expected to handle interactions arriving through multiple channels and the silos is the top customer service challenge. They therefore need systems on their desktops that let them view and the handle different types of interactions, which makes the agent desktop cluttered and difficult to use. iAgent addresses this in a quite novel way, which, having seen a demonstration, I think will appeal to agents. The most striking feature is what Enghouse Interactive calls the shelf, which look just like a shelf and displays icons that represent the different channels an agent is able to support: phone, email, text, social media, and so forth. By clicking on an icon an agent can immediately see the interactions available in the queue for that channel. By clicking on an interaction the agent can handle that interaction. To assist with handling the interaction, the agent is also presented with key information about the customer and previous interactions, and companies can build preprepared templates to assist in creating the response. Once the interaction is closed, the agent can move on to an interaction in the same or an alternative queue. The system can also be configured to interrupt agents with inbound calls that need to be handled, allow them to complete the call, then go back to the interaction they were handling.

iAgent is a thin-client web application that can be accessed by anyone handling interactions on a device  and browser of their choice. It is easy to set up and maintain, with all users automatically gaining the benefit of new features. It is digitally signed so companies are assured of the security, origin and integrity of the software.

My practical experience when building contact centers and my research into their use show that in many organizations the agent desktop can only be described as a mess. It contains several business applications, systems to access communication channels, message boards and various performance dashboards. This makes agents’ lives frustrating and inefficient, leading to less than optimal customer experiences. As the number of channels grows, the desktop only gets worse. iAgent addresses this critical part of handling interactions, and Enghouse Interactions has plans to make accessing applications even easier. It is therefore a product I recommend companies evaluate as they look to improve agent performance and the customer experience.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

I hadn’t come across Vertical Solutions until a recent briefing, from which I found that the company offers an interesting combination of field service management and CRM. Vertical Solutions has offices around the world, and its target market is companies with between 50 and 2,500+ users in the manufacturing, outsource contact center services, healthcare and residential services markets. It began with a focus on field service and has expanded to include CRM, or, as I would call it, customer experience management. If you track my blog you know I have reservations about labeling products as CRM or CXM, simply because both terms have come to mean different things to different people.

Vertical Solutions has two main products: VServiceManagement and VContactCenter. VServiceManagementincludes a suite of modules that supports end-to-end service lifecycle management – service guidance, field dispatch and scheduling, time and expenses, inventory, depot repair, contract management, warranty management – all underpinned and enabled by business process management, knowledge management, reporting and analytics, and self-help portals. Several of these capabilities can be accessed on smart mobile devices, thus allowing mobile service staff to access the information they need, manage their work and see key reports and analysis while they are out of the office.

The core of VContactCenter is a desktop that allows users to handle customer interactions. Organizations can configure it to include capabilities to access customer information, register a new case or request for information, track previous requests or show the status of a case someone is calling in about. After analyzing the type and context of the interaction, the software displays information to help users handle the interaction or provides suggestions on the next best action. It is underpinned by the same capabilities as VServiceManagement: business process management, knowledge management, reporting and analytics, and self-help portals. They have also announced and integrated with CallCopy for providing call recording to help meet the needs to review calls and interactions with customers.

Both products run on the Vertical Solutions’ software platform, which includes several tools for integration with other systems and applications (for example, connecting using CTI to PBX or ACD), a development tool so users can customize and configure applications to meet their particular needs, and tools to support integration with multiple types of communication channels, include social media, so that users can handle interactions that arrive through different channels. The same tools allow integration with other back-office applications, such as ERP and a customer database, ensuring these applications use the same data as is used across the enterprise, and that they don’t become another, duplicate source of customer, product or financial data. The platform supports multiple modes of delivery; it can be made available on-premises, or through a public or private cloud, or via a combination, thus allowing organizations to select an option that fits their corporate architecture and standards.

Vertical Solutions provides an unusual mix of products that are normally seen as two separate applications. By bringing them together, it has created an ideal solution for organizations that run a technical help desk and/or a team of service engineers. It has created specific solutions to meet the needs of healthcare and residential service companies, both of which need to combine multichannel customer engagement, case management and field service management. Many of the applications’ capabilities are just as applicable to companies running more general-purpose multichannel contact centers, so I recommend companies assess how Vertical Solutions could help their efforts to improve not just contact center performance but the overall customer experience.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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