Thursday, July 28, 2005

Call Center Phone Surveys... people really answer them? I took a quick informal poll of some colleagues and it seemed like the prevailing answer was "no". Other responses included:

- When I am really upset or extremely happy
- If I have time
- If I admire the company

Many call centers employ these interactive surveys in order to gather user data and gain some information about their own services and products. I searched the web for "call center survey software" and found the following company URLS

- VOXCO - The world-class specialist in survey software and ...

- Survey software, online survey software - Confirmit

- EasyIVR Automated Phone Survey Applications using IVR Survey ...

- Automated Phone Survey Software and IVR Survey Systems and Service

These software companies have not been reviewed and are not endorsed, but come up high in a relevancy search.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Call Center MergerMania Runnin' Wild

Consolidation in the Call Center Software Market

Company mergers, workforce optimization, interoperability and other trends might seem to be reducing the options for buyers of call center products.

By Tracey Schelmetic
Editorial Director, CUSTOMER INTER@CTION Solutions

Unless you’ve been too distracted lately in your breathless anticipation of the next Harry Potter book, you’ll have noticed that the call center software market appears to be shrinking faster than Karl Rove’s career opportunities. What we’re seeing is analogous to a hundred drops of mercury slowly but surely merging into a few large blobs. The Concerto/Aspect merger eclipsed the not-so-long ago Witness/Blue Pumpkin merger (not to be confused with the acquisition of Eyretel by Witness.) Then, there’s the still-fairly-recent merger of etalk and Autonomy. Those of us who tend to be slow on the uptake are still digesting the Concerto takeover of Rockwell FirstPoint Contact back in September. Then, of course, there are rumors about that company that begins with an “S”, has six letters and ends with a sound like “uhl.”

Hand-in-hand with, or maybe as a result of, the mergers of companies offering complementary call center software is the debut of “workforce optimization,” a mélange of workforce management, e-learning, call recording and monitoring, performance management, quality management and customer feedback systems. Some of these mergers have organically caused the rise of workforce optimization.

Maybe this “merger fever” sounds familiar. It should. Here’s an article written by Rich Tehrani back in 1998 called “Merger Fever: For Better Or Worse”. In that article, Rich wondered whether the circa 1998 mergers of smaller companies into larger companies were good for the marketplace. Product interoperability at that time was practically non-existent, so when companies combined products, this was either a good thing (if you were interested in using both products) or a bad thing (if you wanted only one of the products).

Nowadays, most call center software products seem to be touted as working well with all other call center products. (In reality, this seamless interoperability may be a tad more imperfect than the brochures lead us to believe.)

The lesson we can take from reading Rich’s 1998 article is that we’ve been in this position before. You don’t have to go very far backwards in time to remember when there were no complete call-center-in-a-box products. Everything was free-standing: your ACD, your IVR, your dialer, your e-mail management, your multiple databases. “Interoperability” meant that it took less than 18 months to integrate — sort of — any two of these products together.

At the same time as these more traditional companies are merging their functionalities together, we’re seeing the rise in much more flexible call center processes…hosted and even open-source solutions. These kinds of products have been a godsend to the SMB market…small call center organizations that could never hope to be able to purchase from Siebel, PeopleSoft or any of the other behemoths. Incidentally, the SMB market (which can be defined as anything under 100 seats, or even under 50 seats, depending on whom you talk to) is growing fast…at faster rates than the huge enterprise customer contact organizations.

So does it make sense to create more behemoths?

Let’s hope that today’s behemoths are a different breed of giant company. Product modularity seems to be the norm nowadays, allowing companies to pick and choose which component they want, delivered however they want: premise-based, hosted, or some combination in-between. As always new products and product categories will emerge, expanding the call center software market back outward again, only to have it contract again within another five to seven years.

‘Tis the way of the universe.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Disabled Staffers Check Customer Service

- from

It was late 1999 when Mike Schrider of Shamong thought up a way to combine his experience as an executive for a call-center company with the needs he saw as a volunteer for a state disability facility.

A company that put these physically disabled people to work and filled a growing need in the ever-expanding customer service industry would also satisfy his recurring yearning to start a new business.

"Before, the call centers were monitoring their own calls and it was sort of like the fox watching the hen house," Schrider said. "So this was like putting two and two together. Rather than sending these kinds of jobs to Canada and India, we can give these other folks a job right here in the U.S."

By early 2000, Schrider had scrounged together hundreds of thousands of dollars and founded the company J.Lodge - named after a paralyzed patient he'd encountered in the hospital. He got an office in Hammonton and set up shop with just him and his wife.

J.Lodge's initial mission was twofold: Provide customer service for corporations and also check the quality of that service internally. The fuel to run the business would be a largely untapped labor pool, the disabled. Their business, which centered on outsourcing basic call-center services, would span industries and countries.... Read the full story

Return from the fourth of july...

Vacation is over and soon we'll be publishing more call center experiences and stories. As expected, web traffic decreased dramatically, and I'm sure that's parallel with call center activities.

In the meanwhile, if anyone is looking for a high end, wireless ready, widescreen, powerful centrino notebook computer, check out the Vayabook. "Vaya" is spanish for "Go". It's what this blog is typed on, and usually from a variety of locations: the office, Panera Bread, my bedroom, etc...

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