The contact center market is buzzing with talk about cloud-based computing. It began with applications such as CRM from salesforce.com, then came IBM with services based on hardware in the cloud and recently vendors such as Contactual, inContact, and LiveOps have brought nearly complete contact centers into the cloud. As well, vendors such as Interactive Intelligence have announced communications in the cloud. Now I have always considered public communications to be in the cloud: How else does a telecommunications operator route a call from one part of the world to another? Likewise how does the Internet log users into websites, which are based who knows where? What Interactive Intelligence and other such vendors do is add intelligence to call-handling – they make communications smarter. For example, they add smart routing so calls can be delivered based on a predefined set of rules. This is beneficial to companies running “virtual” contact centers because a call can be routed to the location and person best qualified to handle it.
Another company, perhaps not so well known as those mentioned above, is CallTower, which has been providing these kinds of services since it was founded in 2002. At first its services were relatively basic and built on a simple setup. Calltower hosted the Cisco CallManager product, from which calls were routed to the CallTower data center where CallManager could then route the calls onward according to predefined rules such as the least expensive routing. The core of the service has remained pretty much the same, but CallTower has enhanced its services significantly by upgrading to the latest Cisco Unified Communications products. Along the way, it also started to host some Microsoft products and now can provided services using Exchange Server 2010 and LyncServer 2010.
CallTower has integrated all these products along with some in-house developments and integration with services from Sprint, Ploycom and InterCall. As a result it now offers business telephony, unified messaging and e-mail, conferencing, mobility, video and collaboration, becoming a one-stop shop for smart communications services. And it doesn’t stop there. Having integrated products from inContact and Contactual at the data-center level, it can offer a full range of contact center services in the cloud, although customers would have to have contracts with both CallTower and the chosen contact center application provider.
Along with the normal benefits of cloud-based solutions – little capital expenditure, predictable monthly costs based on usage, flexibility and disaster avoidance – CallTower offers all the necessary professional services to get a company up and running, 24-by-7 support, and no obsolescence through a commitment to keep up with the latest releases of all the products that it uses. The service is highly scalable; the average customer size has grown from 24 users at 1.4 locations to 94 users spread over 4.2 locations. New partnerships and developments are set to increase these figures significantly over the next few years.
One of my main research focuses these days is customer experience management (CEM). I see smart communications at the heart of CEM. In fact some of my other research, into agent performance management, showed that companies realize that the person who handles a customer’s call has the biggest impact on the resulting level of customer satisfaction. Getting calls to the most capable person is therefore critical, and so companies need to be smart in managing their communications. CallTower is a vendor that can support these efforts. Is your company run over multiple locations? Do you run a virtual contact center?
Richard Snow – VP & Research Director