I have been writing quite a lot lately about the contact center in the cloud. Now it seems that more vendors are moving in this direction. One of them, inContact has evolved from a telecommunications carrier into a software vendor and now has a suite of products for a contact center in the cloud. It includes many of the necessary communications management capabilities (such as ACD, IVR, CTI and autodial) as well as key workforce optimization applications such as interaction recording, quality monitoring, workforce management and e-learning. Recently inContact announced three new features that add even more capabilities.
The first is Plugin Agent, which allows users to embed what is effectively a tool bar into any application to provide integration between the core communications management capabilities and the application, for example allowing users to make a call without exiting the application they are working in. The tool bar can be embedded in a variety of applications so users can switch between applications while retaining call management capabilities. Integration enables users to extract and pass information from and to multiple applications, so it pops up on screen to the agent and ensures that data entered once is used to update multiple applications. One of the most popular applications on any agent’s desktop is a CRM system, and inContact has developed features to specifically support Microsoft Dynamics and salesforce.com. This includes the capability to automatically complete predefined after-call tasks.
The second enhancement is an upgraded contact center analytics package, Reports 2.0. The company admits that its previous reporting package was undistinguished, and inContact has teamed with QlikView to produce a more comprehensive tool that my colleague assessed. Reports 2.0 collects data in near real time (in this case, within about 15 minutes of the data being created) to produce prepackaged reports and analysis, or users can create their own. The product has point-and-click capabilities to filter the content of reports to fit the user’s exact needs, and it can display the information in a range of visualization methods such as charts, graphs or columns. It includes the capability to drill down from high-level information to uncover the data behind any value, so users can see the root cause of why a metric is what it is. Another feature helps users build a dictionary containing common terms used in reports, so they know exactly how a term is defined and how the metrics in it are calculated. These are all part of establishing an improved contact center analytics that our research has found to be required for improving efficiency and performance.
The last enhancement, called inCloud, facilitates building applications that supplement the core capabilities of the inContact platform. In a manner similar to the AppExchange from salesforce.com, inCloud provides an environment in which users of various technical skills can create applications using the core platform and make them available to other users. The first two instances the company developed in-house: LiveTalk provides a “click to talk” capability, and AutoAttendant provides centralized voice mail and dial-by-name and dial-by-extension directories.
There is no doubt in my mind that the cloud is the future for companies wanting to build first-class contact centers. Of course, not all companies will move all their systems to the cloud. However, I believe many will, especially as vendors such as inContact continue to make more and varied capabilities available at prices affordable to even small companies. Are you keeping track of developments in this space? If you would like to learn more, please leave a comment or email me directly.
Richard Snow – VP & Research Director