The Call of IP?
Cisco has been heavily pushing AVVID (Architecture for Voice, Video, and Integrated Data), a completely IP-powered call center, as the proper nexus of a CTI-linked CRM operation. Yet Certive brushed off the IP contact center pitch, favoring proven voice hardware in its contact center design.
John Gallagher, Certives technical operations manager, didnt hear a compelling case for an all-IP contact center while making technology decisions in late 2000. "While Cisco could demonstrate that they could place calls via IP, they couldnt demonstrate queuing and ACD (automatic call distribution) functions at the time, and we had an existing Avaya system that could do that," he says. The Avaya PBX controls the master queues at Certive, because Ciscos ICM (Intelligent Contact Manager) product "was originally written to understand what queues are doing, but not a specific agent," and so could not provide pinpoint-precise routing to Certives liking, says Gallagher.
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young senior manager Liz Duenas says that while Gallaghers assessment was correct, Cisco has since improved matters. "When you use ICM, you can queue down to a specific agent group, not down to a specific agenthowever, when you use IPCC and you use Cisco CallManager instead of a traditional PBX, one of the capabilities is to be able to route down to a specific agent."
An irresistible lure for IP contact center architectures has been slow to materialize, however. While Cisco and CGE&Y point out the potential cost savings from cutting managed cable mileage in half by eliminating POTS copper from the call center equation, the rest of the argument is based on next-generation software to leverage the reduced barriers between voice and data, little of which has appeared yet. "Its more from the ongoing benefits that IP outweighs a traditional environment," says Duenas. Yet CGE&Y was at a loss to name hypothetical applications made possible or easier in the IP contact center (IPCC) world.
Cisco product marketing manager Ross Daniels asserts that some traditional routing hardware cant manage the multitasking call center of the future. "When you start to bring in other media, like e-mail or web collaboration, it wants to treat it like telephone calls," he says, that could become a problem with contacts that lend themselves to multiple conversation streams such as text chatting. "In real-life call centers, managers want [the agent to] be in multiple chat sessions at one time...in the traditional world, you cant do that, because the agent is tagged for one task item at a time."
CGE&Ys Robert Filby doesnt equate the IPCC with a traditional telephony solution. "Dont spend a lot of time trying to make IPCC look like a traditional PBX, think of the things that are possible and feasible with converged infrastructure." Let the brainstorming begin.