Mobility, faster call handling goal of cutting-edge call centers

Gartner study concludes newcomers challenge traditional telephony vendors

Innovations in presence, service-oriented architecture and mobility are what the most aggressive users of IP contact centers are looking for, according to a Gartner report. (Learn more about IP contact centers.)

With these tools, cutting-edge businesses hope to improve routing of calls through their centers so they are handled quickly by the appropriate agents who are equipped with comprehensive knowledge about the caller, Gartner says in its "Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure, Worldwide" report. The goal -- faster call resolution times.

For example, SIP-based call center platforms, which all the major vendors embrace, could tap into presence information to find the most appropriate available call agent and integrate that data with customer relationship management (CRM) applications to provide the agent with comprehensive caller information. The system could use mobility clients as well to tap nontraditional agents such as workers at home or traveling to handle calls that require particular expertise.

Or the CRM data could be used to determine whether callers should be placed in a faster queue or moved to the front of the line based on the level of service they've contracted for and their and calling history.

How to choose a call center vendor

"But SIP-based solutions have yet to fulfill their promise of allowing organizations to use, at low cost, contact center solutions from one vendor within another vendor's SIP-based telephony infrastructure," Gartner cautions. So customers might be constrained from using some of this functionality or forced to use gear made by a single vendor to avoid compatibility issues.

As contact centers move away from plain phones to multimedia installations based in software, traditional telephony vendors such as Nortel, Siemens and NEC may lose their stranglehold on the market to more nimble newcomers, Gartner says.

"Incumbent telephony vendors often form the 'path of least resistance' for companies planning to acquire new or refresh existing contact center infrastructure, particularly in single-site deployments or where there is a consistent telephony provider across multiple sites," the report says.

"However, in many environments, contact center infrastructure decision-makers are finding that alternative providers can offer cost, capability and architectural strengths that their incumbents cannot match."

The main thrust of the Gartner report is to evaluate the top contact center vendors and drop them into four categories, with vendors hoping to be classified as leaders -- companies that are strong on what Gartner labels vision and execution.

From a field of 17, Gartner chose seven for that distinction: Alcatel-Lucent, Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, Genesis, Interactive Intelligence and Nortel.

Alcatel-Lucent has good integration between its OmniTouch contact center products and its OmniPCX phone systems. The downside is they don't work with other vendors' gear, Gartner says.

Gartner evaluates Aspect's products as best of breed and able to integrate with multiple vendors' PBXs in a single deployment. Customers have to balance this against the company's multiple dialers and automatic call distribution platforms, which can cause confusion. And customers should ask to talk to other customers if they plan to use the system primarily for inbound calls.

Avaya has a broad range of call center infrastructure and applications and should especially be considered along with an Avaya VoIP deployment, Gartner says.

Cisco also has a broad portfolio and competent partners, but is not proven to work with third-party infrastructure, Gartner says. And some of its products have fewer features than similar products from more experienced contact center vendors.

Genesys has a broad range of contact center applications that integrate with its call center platform, and the company provide strong customer service, according to Gartner. The gear generally costs more than competitors' and is most cost-effective for the largest corporate deployments.

With a focus on small and midsize businesses, Interactive Intelligence has tightly integrated applications and can be deployed in environments with multiple brands of PBXs or IP PBXs. Some of its competitors offer similar applications that have more features, Gartner says.

Nortel's use of Web services integrates its contact center applications well with business applications but has been slow to offer a common set of development, management and reporting tools that span its own and its partners' products, Gartner says. The company sells mainly to its existing PBX customers.

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