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Netw250 Pbx-Acd Analysis

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This is a set of information comparing IP Contact Call Centers in side-by-side analysis that was created by Faulkner’s FACCTs several years ago. You can see that they do cover information on each company, the features that are in each product, and even some basic pricing information.

You are going to use this as if it is the compiled responses from a real RFP. This information will help you assign vendor scores in your table, and help you decide which vendor to use.

IP Contact Call Centers: Side-by-Side

|The right IP contact call center can make potential new customers go away happy. A conventional “Your call is important to us…” call |
|center—in today’s age of Internet gratification—will likely just make them go away. |
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|Take a conventional call center, put it over an IP-telephony infrastructure, plug in a multimedia server or two and upgrade the agent PC |
|client software, and presto—you’ve got all the makings of an IP contact center. It’s not quite that easy, of course. Contact centers—so |
|called because they add customer-interaction channels beyond just voice—represent considerable added complexity, and cost, over voice-only |
|call centers. |
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|After listening to years of vendor claims about their nouveau contact centers—ROI, ease of use, functional one-upmanship—BCR and Miercom |
|decided to see for themselves. Invitations were issued to all vendors known to us in the contact-center marketplace for a hands-on |
|comparative evaluation. |
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|Six leading vendors quickly responded, welcoming us with open arms: |
|(Note: Nortel has been removed from the table since they no longer are in business, however, references to Nortel within the analysis was |
|left in for completeness.) |
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|Avaya, which showed off its high-end Interaction Center, along with its mid-sized offering, a Microsoft-based package with equally rich |
|multimedia support, the Contact Center Express. |
|Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, which offered its flexible Genesys 7 Suite. |
|Interactive Intelligence, which presented its Customer Interaction Center. |
|Mitel Networks, which offered its 6100 Contact Center Solutions package, a set of contact-center building blocks. |
|Siemens’ subsidiary, Trango Software, which showed its HiPath ProCenter Standard. The “Standard” is in addition to the lower-end “Agile” |
|version, which has smaller agent capacity but otherwise the same architecture and code base. |
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|Table 1 provides a thumbnail, side-by-side comparison of the key aspects of the contact-center packages reviewed. These participating |
|vendors, especially Avaya, dominate the contact-center marketplace today. |
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|TABLE 1. IP Contact Call Centers Reviewed |
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|Avaya |
|Genesys |
|Interactive Intelligence |
|Mitel |
|Siemens |
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| |
|Total contact center seats shipped(all products), per vendor |
|6 to 8 million (25,000 contact centers globally) |
|1.25 million (3,000 contact centers) |
|100,000 (“100’s of contact centers”) |
|500,000 (2,100 contact centers) |
|1 million (shipping 2,000 cont ctrs/mo) |
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|Contact center package, version reviewed |
|Interaction Center 7.0 |
|Contact Center Express 2.1 |
|Genesys 7 Suite |
|Customer Interaction Center v2.3.1 |
|6100 Contact Center Solutions v4.5 |
|HiPath ProCenter Standard v6.5 |
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|Contact center server(s) required |
|Sun Solaris, IBM AIX and/or Windows |
|Windows or XP |
|Windows primarily, also, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, Linux |
|Windows, w/ MS LCS support |
|Windows; integration w/ MS LCS coming |
|Windows |
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|DBMS |
|Oracle or IBM DB2 SQL server; customer-provided |
|MS SQL Server; customer-provided |
|SQL-based RDBMS, MS SQL Server; customer-provided |
|MS SQL Server or Oracle; customer- provided |
|MS SQL Server, for full capability; customer-provided |
|Informix RDBMS; included |
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|Typical/avg no. agents per contact center |
|100-200 |
|50-100 |
|500 seats |
|100 seats |
|50 |
|150 |
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|Max agents per contact center |
|5,200 |
|150 |
|16,000 seats |
|600 per server |
|300 to 350 concurrent agents |
|750 (custom config to 1,250) |
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|Est. percent new systems shipping with 30% multiple media |
|40% |
|15% |
|25% |
|25% |
|5% to 10% |
|10% to 20% (globally); 25% to 30% (U.S.) |
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|PBX infrastructure (over which contact center was reviewed) |
|S8500-based CommMgr 3.0 (on Linux) |
|S8500-based CommMgr3.0 (on Linux) |
|Vendor’s SIP Server v7.0 |
|Vendor’s SIP-based ACD infrastructure |
|Mitel 3300 ICP |
|HiPath 4000 |
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|Other PBX support |
|Siemens, Nortel, Ericsson & Aspect ACD |
|None; requires Avaya Comm Mgr 3.0 PBX |
|Cisco, Nortel, Avaya and 20+ others via their CTI interfaces |
|Any SIP, or via Q.sig or T1 PRI; or TAPI to Cisco |
|None; requires Mitel PBX and phones |
|Can connect, via HiPath 4000 Q.sig gateway, to Cisco or Nortel |
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|In this initial review of these products, not knowing what we would find, we applied a comparative methodology designed to highlight |
|differences and similarities. For each package, we conducted a thorough architectural assessment, reviewed the agent and supervisor |
|interfaces, reporting capabilities, management, and then all other add-ons, connectivities, options and special and unique features. |
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|It was not our aim in this initial round to produce a hard comparative scorecard, which requires rigid testing against a detailed |
|methodology. However, given what we have learned—that these packages share many aspects and features in common—future reviews of this |
|nature may apply a more structured test plan and feature a graded scorecard. |
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|Noted Achievements |
|Even given the nature of this review, several aspects of some of the contact-center packages emerged as clear competitive winners. We note |
|these achievements with the following awards: |
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|“Best Reporting, IP Contact Center,” awarded to Avaya for its Interaction Center. |
|“Most Scalable, Distributed IP Contact Center,” awarded to Genesys for its Genesys 7 Suite. |
|“Best Integrated Multimedia, IP Contact Center,” awarded to Interactive Intelligence for its Customer Interaction Center. |
|“Best Call-Flow Design, IP Contact Center,” awarded to Siemens for its HiPath ProCenter Standard. |
|More details and explanation of these achievements are provided in the individual vendor and contact-center summaries that follow. |
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|Table 2 summarizes the main added media channels supported by these contact-center packages. A checkmark in this table indicates areas that|
|we consider fully addressed in an off-the-shelf manner; otherwise, comments provide some brief elaboration. |
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|TABLE 2. IP Contact Center Multimedia, Application Support |
|Multimedia, other features supported |
|Avaya |
|Genesys |
|Interactive Intelligence |
|Mitel |
|Siemens |
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|Interaction Center |
|Contact Center Express |
|Genesys 7 Suite |
|Customer Interaction Center |
|6100 Contact Center Solutions |
|HiPath Pro-Center Standard |
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|• Email |
|Y |
|Y |
|Y |
|Y |
|Y |
|Y |
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|• IM |
|Internal (agent-agent-supervisor) |
|Y, External (uses MS Messenger), and internal |
|Chat can be used internally; IM is planned |
|Limited; supported via special MS .NET client |
|Avail 4Q05 with MS LCS collaboration services |
|Custom via MS Messenger; private voice calls internally |
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|• Web chat |
|Y |
|Y |
|Y |
|Y |
|Y |
|N |
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|• Voice mail |
|Custom integration |
|Custom integration |
|Custom integration |
|Y, as email attachment |
|Limited, as part of callback |
|Y, as email attachment |
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|• Web collaboration: co-browsing, sharing URL push |
|Y, Browser sharing, URL push |
|URL push |
|Y, Browser sharing, URL push |
|URL push |
|URL push via Chat |
|Planned for next version |
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|• Callback |
|Customer can schedule via Web |
|Scheduled callback is planned |
|Scheduled callback was to ship in July |
|Web form delivered to agent, who calls back |
|Web form delivered to agent, who calls back |
|Customer via Web or agent can schedule |
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|• Softphone |
|Y, IP Agent softphone |
|Y, IP Agent softphone |
|Only PC-based phone control |
|Y, Microsoft SIP based |
|Y, Plus new ACD softphone in 4Q |
|Y |
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|• Presence reporting (SIP-based) |
|Via IP Agent software |
|Via IP Agent software |
|Basic agent avail status |
|Basic presence now; SIP planned |
|With LCS support in 4Q05 |
|Y, including teleworker agents |
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|CRM “out of the box” support (often involves extra-priced integration module, or connector) |
|SAP, Siebel, PeopleSoft, Onyx and Epiphany |
|MS CRM |
|MS CRM, SAP, PeopleSoft, Siebel and vendor’s CRM |
|MS CRM (pre-integrated); Heat, Remedy and others |
|MS CRM, SAP, PeopleSoft, ACT, Remedy, Heat, others |
|MS CRM (included); SAP and Siebel (extra priced) |
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|A few other media channels aren’t reflected in Table 2. There is fax, for example, which is broadly supported by all these packages, |
|although they differ in the degree of fax integration with the other media types. There is even “desktop sharing,” where an agent may aid a|
|customer in completing a form, for example, by sharing mouse and keystrokes. This capability, not now widely implemented, is being eyed by |
|all the vendors, but poses some thorny security issues. |
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|Complex Pricing |
|Contact centers are not cheap, although neither were their voice-only call-center predecessors. Some general comparison of the major cost |
|components is shown in Table 3. Keep in mind that these are “U.S. List” prices, and may not always compare the same features, functions or |
|configurations. In some cases, the incremental “per-agent” charge is based on total defined agent “seats,” while in others it is based on |
|“concurrently logged-in agents,” or “ports.” |
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|TABLE 3. Availability, Pricing Of Key IP Contact Center Components |
|Pricing shown is US List, per-seat or per-concurrent agent (per-port), for software only (unless noted otherwise) |
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|Avaya |
|Genesys |
|Interactive Intelligence |
|Mitel |
|Siemens |
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|Contact center package |
|Interaction Center; & Contact Center Express (CCE) |
|Genesys 7 Suite |
|Customer Interaction Center |
|6100 Contact Center Solutions |
|HiPath ProCenter Standard |
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|Agent seats in contact center (pricing basis) |
|300 (currently logged-in agents) |
|300 (enabled seats) |
|100 |
|100 |
|100 |
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|Base contact center per-agent price (software only, unless noted otherwise) |
|$1,377 to $2,877 for Interaction Center; $425 to $1,800 for CCE(2) |
|From $1,725 (inbound voice) to $2,800 (w/email and full Web)(2) |
|From $2,751 (voice) to $3,662 (all media)(2); includes hardware |
|$805 to $2,200 (full multimedia)(2) |
|$2,477 |
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|Per-seat cost of underlying IP PBX and phones(as tested) |
|$400, plus $250 to $650 for additional PBX-based call-routing options |
|About $150 for vendor’s SIP Server; requires additional equipment |
|$350 to $500, depending on topology |
|$760 |
|$500 to $600; configuration-dependent |
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|Key options, and their additional per agent costs |
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|• IVR / ASR / TTS(1) |
|$1,200(3) |
|$1,800(3) |
|$500 to $1,600(3) |
|Custom development |
|Basic IVR included above; ASR & TTS are custom |
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|• Multimedia recording/quality monitoring |
|Special packages from Witness are offered by Avaya |
|Supports Witness, other third party, via CTI interfaces |
|$380 |
|Third party, mainly ASC Telecom |
|Siemens resells Verint & Witness quality monitoring |
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|• Outbound dial |
|$2,800 |
|$725 to $1,750 |
|$725 (+$3,750 for server software) |
|Custom development |
|Not supported; |
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|• CTI/APIs/SDK |
|$10,000 for software (total) |
|Several SDKs optionally available |
|— |
|— |
|Included in above |
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|• Reporting |
|$95 to $450 |
|Most is included |
|Most is included |
|Included in above |
|Included |
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|(1) IVR=Interactive Voice Response; ASR= automatic speech recognition; TTS=text to speech. |
|(2) Price range based on additional media channels and/or advanced reporting options. |
|(3) Pricing based on concurrent logged-in agents (ports). |
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|What’s not shown in the tables are the usually-considerable additional costs borne by the contact-center customer for the design, |
|configuration, deployment, modification and customization of their contact center. The vendors in our review concede this can amount to a |
|50-percent incremental cost above the price of the contact center. Some call-center managers we talked to say it can effectively double the|
|outlay for the system. |
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|While they vary considerably in some architectural respects, contact centers do employ many of the same components and subsystems |
|regardless of the vendor. The key differences in architecture are discussed in the individual vendor summaries that follow. However, here |
|are some of the key common components that collectively comprise the contact center: |
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|IVR (interactive voice response): All contact centers need a way to issue announcements to callers and walk them through “digit |
|collection,” where callers enter DTMF values. This is done in some cases via cards within the PBX, an inexpensive approach. In other cases |
|a full-blown, separate IVR server system is required. We found that some vendors do a great job integrating the announcement/digit |
|collection process into their call flows. But relatively few have yet fully integrated the more advanced “speech-processing engines,” which|
|deliver “natural-language-like” interfaces, perform speaker-independent, automatic speech recognition (ASR), and text-to-speech (TTS) |
|readout. |
|Multimedia recording and “quality monitoring”: It is not difficult with audio-only call centers to selectively record, compress and then |
|store for playback conversations between agents and customers. But add multimedia to the mix, and the synchronized recording, storage and |
|playback of multimedia interactions becomes quite a challenge. While a couple of the vendors we reviewed offer their own capabilities, most|
|have partnered with third-party vendors who specialize in such systems, whose marketplace leaders include Witness and Verint. |
|Outbound Dial: An essential ingredient for outbound, telemarketing campaigns. Neither Nortel nor Siemens currently offers this capability. |
|And as the tables show, it can be an expensive option from those that do support it. |
|CTI/APIs/SDK (Computer-Telephony Integration, Application Program Interfaces and Software Development Kits): The availability of key |
|software modules that let third parties gain high-level programming access to the contact center (and often also the underlying PBX) is |
|handled differently by every contact-center vendor. Some vendors, like Nortel, offer a standalone “CTI Engine” that does it all for |
|$10,000. With some, however, API accessibility is not productized and is still very much under the covers. |
|CRM and WFM: Two classes of applications are specific to contact centers—customer relationship management (CRM), and workforce management |
|(WFM). CRM typically provides a lookup of customer records and a “pop-up” to agents concurrent with delivery of a phone call. A couple of |
|contact-center vendors offer an inexpensive pop-up capability on their own, but all support “connectors”—software linkage modules—to |
|leading CRM packages (Microsoft CRM, SAP, PeopleSoft, Siebel, and others). At the bottom of Table 2 is a row that highlights the |
|contact-centers’ off-the-shelf “CRM integration” support. |
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|The following profiles summarize the products reviewed, alphabetically by vendor, including highlights and shortcomings of each. |
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|Avaya Interaction Center and Contact Center Express |
|Awarded: “Best Reporting, IP Contact Center,” 2005 IP Contact Center Review |
|The 800-pound gorilla of call and contact centers, Avaya estimates it has shipped well over 6 million contact-center seats over the last |
|dozen years, equating to some 25,000 active contact centers around the world. And it is also clear that the competition is gunning |
|specifically for Avaya, touting their packages as doing things better, cheaper, faster, easier, better managed or with more integrated |
|features than Avaya. |
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|Avaya’s competition has their work cut out for them. We reviewed Avaya’s current high-end offering—Interaction Center 7.0—and Contact |
|Center Express 2.1, oriented at the mid-size marketplace and handling up to 150 agents (see Table 1 for comparative details). |
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|As our focus was enterprise-class, IP orientation and multimedia capabilities, which both of the above packages deliver in spades, we did |
|not review Avaya’s voice-only Call Center 3.0. Nor did we spend time with the vendor’s low-end Compact Contact Center v5, which runs on an |
|Avaya IP Office PBX and handles a maximum of 50 agents. |
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|Avaya has implemented much of its contact-center call handling and routing right within its Linux-based, PBX operating software, called |
|Communication Manager, or CM. Some very basic call-routing capabilities applicable to contact centers are available to Avaya PBX customers |
|at no extra price. But most features require contact-center customers to take out additional licenses for increasing levels of call routing|
|and handling sophistication. These PBX software options—called Elite, Advocate, Advanced Segmentation and Virtual Routing—can add $250 to |
|$650 per concurrent agent, based on a Contact Center with 300 concurrently active agents. |
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|The mid-size call-center package, Contact Center Express, can only run over an Avaya CM-based PBX with Avaya phones, which underscores the |
|tight call-handling relationship between the contact center server and the underlying PBX. |
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|Technically, the high-end Interaction Center package doesn’t have to run over an Avaya CM-based PBX, but well over 90 percent of them do, |
|the vendor said. Avaya offers special integration options that let you connect the Interaction Center server to the CTI interface of |
|specific Nortel, Siemens or Ericsson PBX models, and you can then run your Avaya contact center over these other vendors’ systems. |
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|Of the dozen or so comparative aspects of IP contact centers we applied in the review, we especially laud Avaya’s Interaction Center for |
|offering the best reporting capabilities—enabling contact-center supervisors to easily track call, queue and agent activity, in real-time |
|as well as historical, to whatever level of detail they desire. |
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|All the products we reviewed offer generally very good, and in a few cases excellent, reporting. But two aspects of Interaction Center’s |
|reporting distinguish it from the competition: |
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|There are several reporting packages and options, which offer layers of reporting capabilities. |
|Some basic reporting comes with the package, but most are extra-priced. |
|Basic Call Management Reporting views data that’s pulled out of the PBX, via the unadorned Avaya Site Administration interface. Adding |
|about $400 to the per-agent cost is CMS, or Call Management System, which runs on a separate Sun Solaris server and is tightly coupled to |
|the CM switch. CMS provides clean, flexible and delightfully legible views of call and contact-center activity, primarily real-time. |
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|The top of the line in Avaya’s contact-center reporting is the Operational Analyst, which includes slick reporting software from Cognos, |
|Inc. This combination provides excellent, graphically rich client-based historical data analysis. A unique offering is three-dimensional |
|real-time activity graphing, with the ability to find and view just selected data high points via a “water plane” mechanism, which neatly |
|slices the graph to focus on just the data points of interest. |
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|The richness of Avaya’s many modular offerings for its contact-center packages may also be seen as a shortcoming. Having evolved along |
|diverse paths over the years, the many pieces—IVR/Speech Processing, Recording, Out-dialing, and so on—now run on many different server |
|platforms, and feature very different administrative interfaces. For the purposes of graphically creating contact-center flows, we note |
|that the Avaya offerings entail at least four quite different “design” tools and interfaces. |
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|Avaya notes that it prefers to design, build, tailor and deploy each customer’s contact center, and that the additional cost for this level|
|of customization can, as mentioned above, easily hit 50 percent over the actual cost of the contact-center package. |
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|Genesys 7 Suite |
|Awarded: “Most Scalable, Distributed IP Contact Center,” 2005 IP Contact Center Review |
|Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories has reportedly shipped more than 1 million agent seats in 3,000 contact centers around the world. |
|That’s quite an achievement for a company that does not make PBXs, as do most of the other players in this review. Technically, Alcatel now|
|owns Genesys, but that relationship is subdued, given the Genesys package’s PBX transparency. |
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|Genesys’ market focus is unique: It offers an advanced, IP-oriented, multimedia contact-center package that scales to support many |
|thousands of agents, and runs over almost any existing telephony infrastructure, which can even be a mix of different PBXs in multiple, |
|distributed locations. Add to this the ability to run any of the package’s software modules on the same server, or separate and distribute |
|them over multiple, distributed servers. And finally, versions of the package run on all the leading server platforms. It all adds up to |
|the “most scalable, distributed IP contact center” of the ones we reviewed. |
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|All the Genesys software runs on Windows 2000, and much of it also can run on Windows 2003, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, HP-UX or Linux. This, |
|too, accentuates the deployment flexibility of the Genesys contact center. |
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|Genesys’ installations are among the largest. According to the company, its U.S. contact centers support between 1,000 and 1,500 agent |
|seats, while its European contact centers tend to be smaller, typically 200–300 agent seats (Table 1 reflects an average of 500 agent |
|seats). |
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|The ability to run over 35 different TDM switches and 23 IP and hybrid PBXs reflects Genesys’ considerable development and expertise with |
|CTI interfaces. The company developed a set of modules, called T-server connections, in which each PBX’s proprietary CTI interface is |
|mapped to a common set of about 50 Genesys API primitives. These let the Genesys contact center control the underlying PBX and phone |
|functions in a consistent manner (such as “turn on this phone’s message waiting light”). |
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|Yet another component of the Genesys package is the SIP Server, a SIP-based call-control engine, which can provide a full call-control |
|infrastructure for the contact center, in lieu of a PBX. Or the SIP Server can connect with and augment any SIP-based PBX, as well as a |
|broad range of SIP-based IP-PSTN gateways, SIP phones and softphones. |
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|Genesys also offers a set of standard software “connectors” to leading CRM applications, like SAP, Microsoft CRM or Siebel. And it offers |
|customers a choice between its own WorkForce Management (WFM) application, or pre-integration support for many other WFMs, such as the |
|popular Blue Pumpkin. |
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|Genesys’ package integrates with all the popular add-on subsystems that customers may want in their contact center. Off-the-shelf |
|integration is offered for a dozen different IVR systems, as well as Genesys’ own GVP (Genesys Voice Platform), featuring Nuance or |
|ScanSoft-based ASR or TTS handling. The industry-leading Witness system is supported for multimedia recording and interaction-quality |
|monitoring. |
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|Genesys’ email, Web chat and co-browsing integration are well done, all via a lightweight Web-based agent interface. Other laudable aspects|
|include the “attached data” file that accompanies all interactions This is a data record that’s created when a call comes in, and then |
|accompanies the call as it moves around, displaying pertinent information about the caller and call to each agent along the way, such as |
|data collected by the IVR—like bank account info, address, name, etc. This mechanism isn’t unique to Genesys, but they’ve done it very |
|well—legible, effective. Genesys also has a fairly complete “callback” system, so customers can arrange timely callbacks, rather than wait |
|in queue. |
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|On the downside, just a few notable nits turned up in our review. For one, there’s no special handling of customer voice mail, as some of |
|the PBX vendors do well via their unified messaging applications. Also, some popular contact-center supervisor features, like “barge-in” |
|and “call monitor,” are not now supported. And the vendor’s “call-flow design” tool and interface are currently undergoing needed overhaul.|
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|Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Center |
|Awarded: “Best Integrated Multimedia, IP Contact Center,” 2005 IP Contact Center Review |
|Unlike some competitors, who had to evolve their contact centers from voice-only call centers, Interactive Intelligence started from |
|scratch with IP and multimedia in mind. And in Miercom’s opinion, they have done a better job of integrating classical voice call handling |
|with new media channels, including Web chat and email. |
| |
|There are several aspects of the Customer Interaction Center, or CIC, that contribute to this clean multimedia integration: |
| |
|Single point of administration (Interaction Administrator) for all multimedia, workgroup and agent definition, and for call-flow handling |
|and design, including voice, email, chat and IVR processing. The vendor’s call-flow design interface (Interaction Designer) even lets you |
|define sophisticated speech-recognition actions as part of any call flow. |
|Integral IVR functionality (called Interaction Attendant) for prompts, recordings and collection of customer responses. It is not a |
|third-party add-on package. Speech recognition and text-to-speech processing, featuring ScanSoft and Nuance speech-processing engines, add |
|from $500 to $1,600 per-concurrent-use-port to the system cost, but all the IVR functionality is well integrated. |
|Interaction Recorder, another well-integrated subsystem, handles the synchronized recording of all multimedia activity, including voice |
|calls, chat, fax and emails. Voice recording can use TrueVoice compression, which provides good audio recording quality down to 1 |
|kilobyte/second (that’s one-eighth the bandwidth and storage requirement of uncompressed voice). Multimedia recordings can be performed on |
|a per-agent basis, with all media activity for that agent recorded in order, or with all selected multimedia events in the recording |
|detail. |
|Well-done Web-based “self-service” facilities, collectively called eFaq. This is primarily email interaction, where the system provides |
|automated responses appropriate to customers’ queries, or else aids agents in providing email responses. |
|A complete SIP-based, full-PBX-function infrastructure is offered, and is also well integrated as part of the contact center. Still, CIC |
|can alternately work with any other SIP-based telephony system. SIP is inherently adept at managing multiple real-time streams of multiple |
|media types. The vendor says its SIP PBX also supports SIP trunking with VOIP carriers. |
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|The vendor’s CIC package needs to provide the ACD (automatic call distribution) routing in any PBX environment, even when running over the |
|vendor’s own SIP infrastructure. But CIC can run “behind” many other vendors’ PBXs, typically via Q.sig or PRI signaling. Interworking with|
|Cisco CallManager environments is accomplished via the higher-level TAPI interface. |
| |
|Despite the multimedia richness of Interactive’s call-flow design interface, it is not intuitive to use, and requires someone with |
|programming experience, in our opinion. According to the vendor, about 20 percent of its CIC customers train their own staff to handle |
|call-flow changes via the interface. The rest either hire Interactive or one of its resellers to design and modify “call handlers.” |
| |
|At the time we reviewed CIC, the same Windows client software was used for both agents and supervisors; they are just configured |
|differently. However, we also previewed an early version of the vendor’s forthcoming Web-based client interface, which was scheduled to |
|ship by June. But some notable functions are not supported. For example, there is no softphone capability with the Web interface, and an |
|associated external hard phone is required. (The fat Windows client supports softphone operation). |
| |
|The vendor also offers integration plug-ins that add basic contact-center functions to an MS Outlook client, which can be used in lieu of a|
|full-client agent. In addition, a new Microsoft .NET client was due out by the end of May, designed to work off Microsoft’s LCS (Live |
|Communications Server). The .NET client, designed for mobile agents, provides instant messaging and voice-call and fax viewers, but it does|
|not currently support other media types—including email or chat. |
| |
|In summary, Interactive’s contact-center client interfaces are proliferating, and are currently in transition. More options is usually a |
|good thing, but this assortment may confuse some customers. |
| |
|Mitel 6100 Contact Center Solutions |
|Mitel’s contact center package consists of a series of discrete pieces that fit and work together. The vendor’s naming for these dozen or |
|so pieces isn’t particularly descriptive: One of these, Intelligent Queue, for example, provides mainly IVR front end-type announcements |
|and digit collection. And it’s hard for a prospective customer to sort it all out. But all the pieces necessary to build a full-function, |
|multimedia contact center are available. |
| |
|Notable aspects of the Mitel contact center package: |
| |
|There is rich support for integration with Microsoft environments. All contact-center software runs on Microsoft server platforms. A very |
|effective agent interface is offered based on the Microsoft Outlook client. In addition, Microsoft’s CRM application is supported across |
|all media types. Also, client integration with Microsoft’s Windows 2005 and Live Communications Server, providing strong SIP-based |
|presence, instant messaging and video conferencing support, is planned for October delivery. |
|The Mitel package runs only over Mitel’s own PBXs, which it requires for call processing and handling. We reviewed the contact center over |
|the vendor’s 3300 Integrated Communications Processor (ICP); it can also run over Mitel SX-series PBXs. ACD processing (including |
|skills-based routing) is embedded within the Mitel PBX, and is separately license-enabled for contact-center customers. |
|The Mitel contact center is a lower-end offering. The average system supports 50 agents, Mitel said, and a maximum of 100 agents is |
|supported per 3300 PBX. This can be nudged up to 300 total agents over multiple 3300s. |
|As a contact-center response mechanism, “callback” is particularly well done in Mitel’s product. Voice callers can be prompted to leave a |
|callback number and a short .WAV file, which are passed into a separate queue and then sent to available agents. Alternately, customers can|
|complete a callback Web form. These, too, are processed as voice calls; the caller’s name is “read out” to agents via text-to-speech |
|processing. |
|It is more likely that third party subsystems and custom integration services will be needed in the Mitel contact-center environment than |
|with some of the other vendors’ contact centers. Mitel does not offer or resell a recording or quality-monitoring subsystem, for example, |
|though it supports integration of recording systems specifically from ASC Telecom. Also, out-dial and speech-recognition/response |
|subsystems are not standard offerings; Mitel offers these to its contact-center customers only on a custom-development basis. |
| |
|Mitel does not now offer a consolidated graphical call-flow development tool, or “designer,” as do several competitors. Rather, a plethora |
|of interfaces will need to be employed in many cases. We reviewed set-up of contact-center queues and ACD flows via the 3300’s native |
|interface, and other call-flow processes via the Intelligent-Queue interface. And several management applications and administrative |
|interfaces are employed for defining agents, workgroups and multimedia processing. |
| |
|In addition, Mitel is preparing several new contact-center applications for release this fall and next year, which will add to the medley |
|of management interfaces. These include: Visual Queue, for real-time monitoring of calls in queue; Visual Architect, for managing call |
|flows across multiple sites and systems; and Call Center Simulator, for “what if” performance analyses. |
| |
|Mitel offers its own agent WorkForce Management (WFM) software in two complementary applications: Contact Center Scheduling and Real-time |
|Schedule Adherence. These can provide Mitel customers with adequate WFM capabilities at lower cost than other commercial packages. |
| |
|We would like to see more consolidation and consistency of management and administrative interfaces across Mitel’s broad repertoire of |
|contact-center components. Notwithstanding, and as already noted, the Mitel package offers several notable strengths and advantages. |
| |
| |
| |
|Siemens HiPath ProCenter Standard |
|Awarded: “Best Call-Flow Design, IP Contact Center,” 2005 IP Contact Center Review |
|All but one of the contact-center packages we reviewed offer customers one or more interfaces for designing call, or interaction, flows. |
|These essentially offer a way to assemble custom end-to-end program subroutines, to automate the proper handling and routing of calls and |
|multimedia messages and streams in a busy contact center. |
| |
|Avaya employs several such interfaces—each quite different—across its various subsystems. Nortel’s is consolidated, but is complex and |
|requires a full-blown programmer to really use it. The flow-design tools and interfaces offered by Genesys and Interactive Intelligence |
|consolidate multimedia call and message handling quite well, and are highly graphical, but in our opinion still need someone with a |
|programming background to use them effectively. |
| |
|The best and most advanced such tool we found is Siemens’ “Design Center,” truly the leading edge in allowing laymen to build complex voice|
|and multimedia flows. It is one of the gems of the Siemens contact-center package. In our opinion, you don’t have to be a programmer to |
|construct flows with the Design Center. Siemens offers a 3-day course, and we believe that ought to be enough in most cases. |
| |
|Siemens’ design interface lets you graphically implement, step-by-step, any processing that you would want applied to a flow, including |
|anything the vendor’s IVR system, called Call Director, can perform. You can also input steps for otherwise complex program functions, like|
|querying an external database. (The tool does not, however, currently support voice-recognition or text-to-speech processing. These are |
|handled in Siemens’ contact centers via a separate, not-yet-fully-integrated subsystem called Prompt Response, a third-party package that |
|Siemens resells.) |
| |
|Besides being nearly intuitive to use, Design Center incorporates superb logic-checking safeguards. If you are building a complex flow and |
|introduce an error (say, you specify three possible customer responses but only define two), all parts of the flow affected by the error |
|show up in red and italics. This makes debugging extremely simple and graphical. |
| |
|Several other aspects of Siemens ProCenter Standard package are noteworthy: |
| |
|As with Mitel, the Siemens contact center requires the vendor’s own PBX. A Siemens HiPath 4000 PBX infrastructure was used in our review. |
|Siemens offers a special package it calls “IPortal” that enables connectivity with Cisco CallManager, and Rockwell ACD systems, but this is|
|a relatively unsophisticated Q.sig connection (as opposed to a CTI interface), and it requires a customized HiPath 4000 PBX to serve as the|
|Q.sig gateway. |
|Perhaps uniquely, Siemens has worked on extending the reach of the contact center to mobile and expert resources via wireless. A |
|supervisor, for example, can retrieve contact-center statistics via a cell phone, or by using a browser interface on a Pocket PC via |
|802.11b/g. Similarly, a full agent or supervisor interface can be run on a PDA via a Citrix connection. |
|Callback is well done and effective. Via an optional Callback Server, agents can assign closed calls into scheduled-callback queues, and |
|customers can likewise schedule callbacks via Web forms. |
|Web chat and collaboration were not supported in the contact-center version we reviewed. Siemens says these have been implemented in |
|previous contact-center versions, and will be re-instituted in an upcoming version. |
|An abbreviated version of the agent interface—called the Associate agent—offers an interesting alternative to the full agent interface, and|
|costs about half as much. Siemens offers various flavors of Associate, including one for executives. It is also ideal for part-time or |
|overflow agents. |
| |
|A final note: the Siemens contact center is a well-integrated package. There is not as much reliance on CTI or program interfaces to |
|connect to third-party subsystems. |
| |
|For example, the core relational database that drives the contact center is an Informix RDBMS, which is integral and included with the |
|Siemens software. (All the other packages require the user to acquire and separately implement an RDBMS, typically SQL based.) Siemens’ |
|softphones are well integrated with their clients. Even Microsoft’s CRM is pre-integrated, meaning all the hooks are built in, at no extra |
|price. |
| |
|Conclusion |
|Contact centers are evolving quickly from their voice-only ancestry. This first comparative review of the leading “multimedia” packages |
|provides enterprises who are shopping for an advanced contact center with several conclusions: |
| |
|In the multimedia space, all the packages reviewed support email—integrated to varying degrees with their agent client, management and |
|reporting interfaces. Most have also effectively implemented Web chat, along with the ability to push and pull Web URLs. Implementation of |
|instant messaging and more intense Web collaboration—screen and mouse sharing, for example—is more limited. |
|Except for Genesys, and to some extent Avaya, all the other contact centers reviewed are tightly entwined with their manufacturers’ own |
|underlying PBXs. And almost all of them provide full multimedia functionality over TDM or IP-telephony infrastructures. |
|Most of the vendors agree that their typical or average contact-center installation supports from about 50 to 150 agent seats or |
|concurrently logged-in agents. The packages’ ability to scale depends heavily on the software architecture of the contact center. |
|There is broad diversity among the products in the degree to which five key contact-center subsystems—interactive voice response (IVR), |
|customer relationship management (CRM), workforce management (WFM), recording/quality monitoring and outbound dialing—are integrated. This |
|affects price, complexity of deployment and management. |
| |

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