Background and Disclosures
While I currently head Focus Research (see my Focus profile and Linkedin Profile) in an official capacity, I spent a number of years in product and marketing roles at a product and services provider for contact centers at Global 2000 companies. Although I don't officially cover contact center products here at Focus, I wanted to provide an overview of contact center products used to set up and manage contact center.
Types of Contact Centers
There are three core types of contact centers. Determining the type of contact center you have will help determine the types of products you need and in some cases specific features you need within those products. Note: Many environments are blended from the below types.
Four Categories of Contact Center Products
Contact centers happen to be one of the most technology intensive business functions within companies. As such, it's important to have an overview of the types of products you may be dealing with in setting up a new contact center or optimizing an existing contact center. I've split contact centers into the four categories detailed below: 1) communication management, 2) transaction management, 3) people management and 4) cross-product reporting and analysis.
Despite the large list of products below, significant market consolidation has led to a number of vendors being able to offer "contact center suites" especially for small and mid-size business. That said, most well run call centers have a variety of best-in-breed products from a variety of vendors.
Communication management products
This category includes technology to manage the means of communicating with a customer via any number of channels (phone, email, chat web site). Products considerations:
Vendor examples include: Alcatel-Lucent, Aspect Software, Avaya, Cisco, Genesys Labs and Nortel
Transaction management applications and systems
This category includes applications and systems to record and support the actual management of the customer interaction. These applications are often part of larger corporate wide systems but may have contact center-specific modules. These systems can include:
Vendor examples include: Amdocs, BMC software, Microsoft Dynamics, Netsuite, Oracle, RightNow and Salesforce.com.
People management applications and systems
This category includes applications and systems to support the management of contact center employees. Especially if you're not outsourcing your entire contact center operation, the contact center is an extremely people-intensive exercise.
Vendor examples include: Aspect software, Autonomy/eTalk, Merced Systems, Nice Systems, SAP, Success Factors and Verint.
Reporting, planning and insight applications
While many contact center applications have their own reporting modules, these applications focus on helping contact center managers analyze and plan across the entire contact center application. Functionality includes reporting and analysis
Vendor examples include: SAP, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Microstrategy
Outsourcing Your Contact Center
While most large companies outsource percentage of their contact seats, many small to medium size businesses may outsource their entire operation. Remember - when you're outsourcing your contact center operation, you're also outsourcing technology support for those agents as well. You'll be using the outsourcer's telephony and people management tools, for example.
Sample outsourcers include: ACS, Convergys, eTelecare, Sitel, Telus, and Telvista
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