Microsoft, Aspect Partner on Contact Center

Microsoft will draw Aspect Software closer than many other partners, taking an equity stake in the company.

Microsoft on March 18 at VoiceCon announced yet another strategic partner for its Unified Communications drive, with the addition of contact center provider Aspect Software to its growing roster.

Microsoft will draw Aspect Software closer than many other partners, however, by taking an equity stake in the company to help fund its efforts to integrate Aspect's contact center offerings with Microsoft's Office Communications Server 2007. Microsoft officials would not disclose how much it is investing in Aspect.

The five-year agreement calls for Aspect to "integrate its existing Aspect contact center solution with...the software-powered voice engine from Microsoft," said Jim Foy, CEO of Aspect Software.

The aim of the integration is to provide contact center agents with fast access to experts when they don't have the information necessary to answer a customer's question or resolve an issue.

Although Aspect has been using instant messaging in its offerings to help address that issue, many calls still require extra steps, Foy said.

"In 10 percent of all contacts to a contact center, 10 percent out of 1 billion calls are not resolved within the contact center. That's 100 million of them," said Foy during Microsoft's keynote address at VoiceCon. "It provides instant access to experts while preserving the context of the call to greatly improve efficiency," Foy added.

Aspect will promote OCS as the primary call processing option for existing and new customers, and it plans to expand its professional services to help customers deploy the joint offerings.

Microsoft also broadened its multi-faceted Unified Communications drive on video conferencing side by adding Tandberg to its interoperability to do list. Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsoft corporate vice president of UC announced that it in addition to Polycom, Microsoft will work to insure OCS interoperates with Tandberg video conferencing products, including its High Definition and Telepresence video conferencing systems.

Microsoft demonstrated initial interoperability during Pall's keynote, showing a one-click call within Microsoft Office Communicator to a Tandberg HD video conferencing system.

Pall also said that Tandberg is working to bring HD to the masses by developing a video camera for $300. It is due next year, he said.