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RFI Analysis: IP Contact Centers

Of the eight products we examined, our Editor's Choice provided our fictional thermal-management company a comprehensive mix of features as well as integration with legacy systems--all for a price that

Avaya, Concerto Software, CosmoCom, Genesys

Telecommunications Laboratories, Interactive Intelligence, Nuasis, Siemens Communications and Telephony @ Work agreed to participate in our RFI analysis. We also invited BT, a managed IP contact-center provider, to complete the RFI. Because evaluating BT's hosted contact center wouldn't be an apples-to-apples comparison, we discuss it separately (see "BT Offers a Hosted Twist for Contact Centers"). Digisoft Computers and ShoreTel were invited, but their products don't fit our requirements. Mitel Networks agreed to participate but never sent back the RFI. Aspect Communications, Cisco Systems, EADS Telecom (now Aastia Intecom), NEC and Nortel Networks didn't respond to our invitation.

We evaluated the overall contact center and integrated components in four major areas: system design, agents, reporting and price. System design encompasses architecture, business rules and routing, queuing and waiting, and enterprise integration, and it accounted for 60 percent of the score. Business rules and routing are especially key to increasing customer satisfaction in that they can move contacts into appropriate queues. We evaluated the products' ability to prioritize contacts, route callers to skilled agents, create rules and handle multimedia messages. We were glad to see that all the vendors could handle multimedia contacts without requiring completely separate business rules.

Kodiak also would like to move contacts within a queue, change priority for calls within queues and interrupt agents with higher-priority tasks, and it wants to alert customers to their places in line. The setups from Avaya and Interactive Intelligence could respond to e-mail contacts and list estimated wait times automatically, while Siemens' product can announce wait times for Web contacts and integrate speech recognition with IVR (interactive voice response). To match that functionality, the other vendors must integrate their wares with third-party IVRs that offer speech support.

For enterprise integration, we evaluated how well the proposed setups work with Kodiak's existing TDM system, which TDM products they support, and each vendor's recommendation for Kodiak's existing PBX. We also considered integration with multimedia contact points, such as e-mail, fax and Web chats. CosmoCom was the only vendor to specify support for streaming video.

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